What I Owe: How I Grew Through Crisis

In the Chinese language the symbol for crisis has a dual meaning, both danger, but also critical-point, perhaps a turning point or opportunity. Indeed, crisis is often a dangerous opportunity. I have certainly found that to be true in my own life. For it is in the midst of despair, fear, loss, or a difficult transition that I am stretched and where my habitual ways of thinking and doing can come undone. It is in this undoing that growth can take place.

For the next few weeks I will be sharing some of the dangerous opportunities that have shaped who I am. I will speak about each with gratitude, because I see these experiences, which on their face, seem negative, as gifts, gifts that continue to provide great meaning and purpose. I owe them a lot.

So here goes.

What I Owe my Mother’s Death

This June 20th it will be 28 years since my mom died.

When she passed I inherited a certain amount of wealth. I wasn’t wealthy, but she left me enough so I could make choices I never would have been able to make if I had been struggling financially. So, one of the most obvious things I owe to her death, and to her success and generosity while she was living, is freedom, freedom to choose, freedom to make mistakes, freedom to find an avocation instead of just a vocation.

For example, when I went to college I took a wide variety of classes simply because I loved learning. I volunteered for organizations I cared about, traveled with my children and was able to give them an enriching childhood, filled with plays and concerts, museums, piano lessons and sports. Freedom has shaped my life. I am filled with gratitude for all of the choices I have had.

The second gift, one even more profound, was an abiding awareness of the fragility of life and of how quickly it can come to an end. This knowing has informed many of my decisions and priorities. People and moments have always been and continue to be the most important. I like beautiful things, but without people to share them with, they are meaningless.

My mother’s death also gave me an understanding of grief and the ability to be with others who are grieving, without fear. Though I understand that my experience will not always mirror another’s, going through my own protracted grieving process made me interested in books on grief, on processes for mourning and remembrance. It made me willing to be trained as a group facilitator for Winterspring, (an organization focused on helping people heal from grief and loss) and gave me the honor of witnessing the grief process of many, many people throughout the years.

Her death prompted a long period of spiritual searching and helped me become familiar with many different religions and philosophies. I have drawn strength from some, rejected others, but it was in the searching that I found acceptance of the mystery. Today, I can usually be with all that I don’t know or understand.

My mother’s death, though one of the great tragedies of my life and still painful nearly 30 years later, has been a dangerous opportunity. It has given me meaning, freedom, compassion, reverence for life and comfort with the uncomfortable reality of our mysterious existence. I am grateful.

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  • About The Author

    Lois Schlegel

    Lois Schlegel, MFA, MS, mental health therapist at Life in Bloom Counseling in Medford and Ashland, has 20 years of experience providing services to individuals and families. She has taught parent education and life skills classes to adults and ... Full Profile
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