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Relationship 'Seasons': How Loss Changes Your Perspective

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It's no surprise that when people experience a loss, particularly a death, they see the world with a different lens. That includes how they view people and their relationships with them. My own mother died when I was nine, and three years later, my father died. From that point on, there was a revolving door of people, including caretakers, in my life.

I think when you experience a trauma like death at young age; you learn quickly that people can be taken from you. They're with you one moment, and gone the next. It makes you mature faster than your peers. To survive, you learn to adapt. Part of that survival is managing the expectation that people may not be in your life for long periods. Managing the expectation and making peace with it, becomes part of your "new normal."

I realized after my parent's death, no one had to be there for me. I realized that the two people, who wanted me on this earth, were gone. I was keenly aware that any time someone reached out a friendly hand -- it wasn't something they had to do. It was a bonus, something I should appreciate, enjoy and grow from, but not to be surprised when that relationship or its "season" came to an end. Fortunately, there are a lot of good people in the world, who are willing to extend their hand.

One special mentor was my Junior High principal, Mr. Treais. One day in the cafeteria he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be famous and leave my mark on the world in a big way. He told me, "you leave your mark every day, in each person you meet; each person you touch. You leave your mark every day here at this school with each of your classmates and each of your teachers and in everyone you come into contact with. You don't have to be famous to leave your mark." That was an "AHA" moment for me. It took the pressure off me to do something grandiose, and focused me instead on touching those in my life every day. A powerful life lesson, I never forgot.

Another mentor for a "season" was Mr. Wright. He was my gym teacher all through Junior High, and high school. After being a cheerleader for five years, with tryouts looming for the next season, he pulled me into his office and told me, "there are cheerleaders who are cheerleaders because there is nothing else they can do. There are cheerleaders who are athletes who are wasting their talents. You are wasting away as a cheerleader. You should be doing something more with your athletic ability." I was taken aback. We had a nice rapport but I didn't know that's what he saw. I thought long and hard about this and actually did not go out for cheerleading but tried out for the tennis team and made varsity. He pushed me in a direction I hadn't thought to take and reminded me of a gift I had but had overlooked. The person I was living with was not paying close attention to me, let alone pushing me to utilize gifts and talents. This was another "AHA". He "dadded" me when I needed it and I was open to listening.

As an adult, a very close friend and neighbor of mine, Nancy, moved away. My first thought was how much I would miss her. My second thought was, "I guess her season here is over." I am still friends although our relationship from long distance will never be quite the same. I am really grateful for her friendship and so glad for the season of my life that I did have with her.

Yes, in today's world with technology and social networking, it is much easier to keep in touch with people. It helps maintain a surface connection but it is nowhere close to an in-person relationship.

What am I trying to say? Many wonderful people (a coach, teacher, best friend's parent, guidance counselor, boss, neighbor, co-worker, etc.) have come into my life and often were for short "seasons." As I moved through different phases in my life, many of these seasons naturally came to an end. Other seasons ended because that person was just there at the right moment, to give me the right message at a time when I really needed it. Whatever the reason -- death, a move, perhaps even fate, most people were not put in my life for the long haul.

I am not morose about this. I truly embraced the gifts that these special relationships brought to me. These wonderful individuals took time out of their lives to give some part of themselves to me. These friends/mentors taught me things whether they "mommed" me with some maternal advice or "dadded" me with some business wisdom. I've always been so grateful for these moments and these people.

I've never been surprised or angry when a "season" was over. I think that's one of the gifts and lessons from loss. Sprinkled with sadness, I felt blessed for the moments I had and the unexpected gifts that they gave. And, I'm always happy when a new special person comes into my life and a new "season" -- whatever the length -- begins.

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