What my Dad’s death taught me about Life, Love and Marriage

August 26 marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of my lovely dad.
It seems like both a lifetime ago, and no time at all, since he left us.

I still miss him and think about him every day.

He was a gentle, kind soul and a great teacher, in his own way. He understood, intuitively, that happiness doesn’t come from outside of us.

So he never chased it, or looked for it in the wrong places.

He was a man of simple needs who knew what was most important.

My dad’s death became a huge catalyst for change in my own life. Losing the first of my parents made me acutely aware, for the first time, of my own mortality.

It led me to take a very honest look at my life, and to question my choices.

Less than a year later, I had left my marriage of 22 years, and my corporate career of the same length.

I didn’t make those life-altering choices lightly.

The decision to leave my marriage impacted the people I loved and cared about the most, my kids.

And yet, once made, I knew with absolute certainty, it was the right one.

Death and Life

Death has a way of putting life into perspective.

It’s so final.

There are no more second chances.

No more goodbyes.

As sad and painful as my dad’s death was, it ignited my own re-birth.

It forced me to reflect, with laser-like focus, on what was truly important to me.

And to realise we spend so much of our lives focused on stuff that doesn’t actually matter.

Such as worrying about what other people think of us, and the choices we make.

And shaping our lives so they look good on the outside, regardless of what’s really going on.

As if that’s the most important thing.

What Really Matters

Death teaches us that all that really matters, in the end, is our relationships.

The people we love.

The people who love us.

And the relationship we have with ourselves.

Nurturing those relationships.

That’s our work to do.

Mine. Yours.

Love.

Loving ourselves.

That is all.

The rest is simply noise and distraction.

Reflections of the Past

So much has changed in my life in the past ten years.

I barely recognise the woman I was back then.

The woman, who, in the midst of mourning my dad, was so full of confusion, fear, guilt, unhappiness and longing.

Longing. Yearning for a life I couldn’t yet imagine.

I wanted more.

But I had no idea what more even looked like, let alone how to create it.

My decision to upend my life was a huge leap of faith.

Somewhere, beneath the bottomless pit of fear and uncertainty that engulfed me, was an inner knowing.

A still, sure voice that whispered to me, when my mind was quiet enough to hear it.

Trust. Trust yourself. Trust life.

It was a voice that told me I deserved to live a happy, fulfilling life.

One that gave me permission, for the first time, to prioritise my happiness and emotional wellbeing over my husband’s.

It was the voice that said I finally valued myself enough to know I deserved better than the behaviour I was tolerating.

Trust.

That I could survive outside of my marriage and corporate career.

That I could figure out what my life was supposed to become, one small step at a time.

I’m so glad I listened.

Ten Years On..

Today, my life is entirely different to the one I was living back then.

I barely recognise that woman, though I have great compassion for her.

Today, I’m living true to myself.

It’s the key, I’ve learned, to real happiness.

I stand by the decisions I made almost a decade ago, and I make no apology for them.

I’m no longer pretend happy.

This time, it’s for real.

Today, I’m in a happy, healthy relationship.

A relationship that’s built on mutual love and respect.

And laughter.

Today, my work is helping brilliant, compassionate women who feel like I once did, to make empowered choices in their lives and marriages.

Choices that allow them to live true to themselves, without apology.

It’s not about whether they stay in their marriages or leave.

It’s about them taking their power back.

Becoming the women they were always meant to be.

Creating their right lives and marriages – on purpose.

It’s an honour and a privilege to support them.

Today, I’m so thankful to my younger self for the brave choices she made.

Advice to my Younger Self

If I could go back and talk to my 40-something younger self, I would put my arms around her and tell her everything was going to be okay.

I’d tell her to trust that still small voice, because it’s her inner wisdom speaking to her.

Here’s what else I’d tell her:

  • Cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself first. It’s essential before you can have a healthy relationship with anyone else
  • Learn to fulfil your own needs. We can’t get from another person anything we’re not giving to ourselves first, including love and respect
  • We teach other people how to treat us by the behaviours we tolerate. Set strong healthy boundaries for yourself and be willing to uphold them
  • Your happiness is your job, and yours alone – it was never your husband’s job to make you happy
  • We cannot change another person, no matter how hard we try, or how much we want it for them – it’s the recipe for heartache and suffering. Learning this lesson will set you free
  • The only person we can ever change is ourselves.. and changing ourselves can change everything

I’d finish by telling her this:

It won’t always be an easy journey to become who you want to be and where you want to be.

But it will be absolutely worth it.

You are capable of so much more than you know.

You are already the woman you dream of being – you just don’t know it yet.

You can and will create the happiness and fulfilment you crave. It’s yours.

Keep trusting.

Keep moving forward, one baby step at at time.

That’s all you ever have to do.

The best is yet to come, my darling.

I love you.

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