I remember the joy I felt when I thought of my beautiful little girl turning two just before the new baby joined our family for Christmas. We were creating our dream of a house full of children and it was a very happy time for me.
But disaster struck in my fourth month of pregnancy.
My husband had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. I wished, hoped, and prayed that he would get better. As days turned into weeks, then into months - with no change in my husband’s condition - I began to fear that our dream might not turn out exactly as we had planned.
Our son’s birth was a bittersweet moment for me. The doctors thought the birth of his child might help my husband so they sedated him and off we went to the hospital.
Those glorious words, “It’s a boy!” were thrilling and exciting but so very sad because I knew at that moment my husband was not going to get better. Though he was there for the baby’s birth, his mind was somewhere far, far away.
The months that followed were difficult as I struggled to balance being a single parent and a caregiver. Seven months after our son was born and just five weeks before our daughter’s third birthday, my husband committed suicide. I was devastated.
When he died, I felt like he took all my hopes and dreams with him. I was grieving, I was angry, and I was scared.
How could I possibly raise two babies when I could hardly breath from the crushing pain in my chest? At first, the pain was overwhelming. But as days turned into weeks, then into months, the pain became slightly less unbearable.
Then I made a decision. I decided I was going to be happy again. Despite the pain that was my constant companion, I began doing things that made me happy in the days before my husband’s illness.
I started taking guitar lessons. I reacquainted myself with my favorite beach and I began to talk to friends, not about how I was doing, but about life in general.
My family was thrilled! When I asked my mom why she was so insistent I join my friends for our weekly fire and sing-along on the beach, she gave me a sad smile and said, “Don’t you realize how long it’s been since we heard you laugh? We thought we had lost you too.”
How tragic it would have been if I had remained the empty shell of a human being that I was for so long - moving on autopilot, just trying to get through a moment. My beloved children would have lost both of their parents.
When I recognized this, I began to search for the blessings in my life. The more I searched, the more apparent it became that they were there all along. My children were healthy and happy, I had a loving and supportive family and I had some really great friends. I began to enjoy and appreciate life again.
Then I met my husband-to-be. We had an instant connection unlike any I have ever experienced. He lost his father to cancer the same week I lost my husband and I suspect our shared determination to be happy drew us together. That was almost two years ago and we are still blissfully happy. Our blended family of six is the large family of my dreams. We are a team in every possible way and I have never enjoyed life more than I do right now.
When I was drowning in despair, I reached out to the Universe and the Universe threw me a lifeline. The very moment I decided to be happy, the road to happiness was shown. That is a lesson I hold close to my heart:
You can’t always choose your circumstances, but if you seek good, even in your darkest hours, you will be sure to find it.
I cannot explain why some things happen in life. I wish I had a magic wand that would wipe away the setbacks and sorrows people face. However, I do know there is always hope and there is always good. You just need to make the decision to find it.
Life can be tough sometimes, but each obstacle you overcome makes you stronger and more alive. Always look for the good, especially in the face of adversity. Search for, find, and appreciate the good in life and you will surely be rewarded for your effort.
Jennifer Vokey is a mother of two, and author of the wonderful new book Managing Mothering: Simple Shifts to Help You Become the Best Mom on the Planet. I recommend it enthusiastically, and strongly encourage you to visit her Managing Mothering website for more information: www.managingmothering.com