This story could be the catalyst for your second chance.
I used to volunteer at a children’s camp for kids who had lost a loved one ( a Mom, a Dad, or Brother or Sister) and one thing that struck me about these kids was the fact that many of them had just lost hope. I wanted to sit down with each one and let them know there was hope, but that was not possible- I could only do that with the kid I was working with that weekend.
When I wrote my book about grief and loss, called The Sun Still Rises, I felt a very strong compulsion to reach out to anyone who was grieving to let them know there was something they could latch on to and know based on my experience – that there is hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Here is an excerpt of that chapter. Please share it with anyone you know who is suffering the painful sting of grief and loss.
I wrote this book to help people who are grieving, but I also wrote this book to help people grieving to know that there is hope for a brighter future! There really is a light at the end of this tunnel you are in. Yes, you can have a new life and if you so choose—you can possibly find love again.
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter I had in-depth discussions with my best friend Dave about dating, and in late August of 2013, I decided to be brave and dive into the dating pool.
I decided the best approach for me was online dating. Besides, where does someone my age meet women who are my age and available? At first I found the world of online dating to be confusing; after all, there were so many choices with websites like match.com, ourtime.com, seniorpeoplemeet.com and eHarmony.com. Which one was the best for me? I really didn’t know. After doing research for a couple of weeks, I determined that the two that were probably best suited for me were eHarmony and seniorpeoplemeet.com, because as much as I hated to admit it I was 54 years old so I qualified in the category of senior (I don’t like that label).
So I went on both sites, filled out my profiles, posted my pictures, and nervously pushed the right buttons (I hoped). The thing I was most surprised by was the rapid speed in which the systems worked. Within a few days I started getting notifications saying that I had matches on seniorpeoplemeet.com and I had matches on eHarmony. It was an odd feeling every morning to get up and realize that there were five or six women on each site—either I had been matched to on eHarmony or who were especially interested in me on Senior People Meet. So I started reviewing each of my matches because I was extremely curious to see who and what type of person I would be attracted to and what those ladies were like.
Some of my experiences bordered on hilarious. One woman who said that she was interested in me sent an e-mail and I e-mailed her back and we started an e-mail discussion on Senior People Meet. She seemed like a nice woman in my age range and was attractive. She seemed to be fairly successful. We then set up a phone call for the following weekend. On our phone call—she complained nonstop for the first 45 minutes of the call about how terrible her weekend had been and said she had the “worst weekend ever”. She then described herself as an optimist and a successful person who had been married several times.
After 50 minutes, she finally asked me to tell her a little bit about myself. To me she seemed totally self-absorbed and a very negative person. At the end of the phone call she said “well Shawn, what do you think?” I asked her what she meant. She said “what do you think about us going out?” I asked her what she thought and she said “I would love to go out with you!” I then told her that I never made any snap decisions and needed to give it some thought overnight. I was new to this online dating thing, and I did not want to hurt her feelings.
The next night I called her back and told her I’d given it serious consideration, and to me, it felt like for lots of reasons we were just not a fit. When she asked me why I told her that I thought she just had too much drama going on in her life (not her fault), and I was looking for someone whose life was a little calmer at that point. She got a little irritated with me then said she appreciated that. It took guts to call her back to turn her down. She also told me she saw several “red flags” about me too. When I asked what they were she said I was a “new widower”. I told her I understood that being a legitimate concern. So that was my weird and disappointing start to my online dating experience.
I was matched with a beautiful woman on eHarmony named Rachael, and I sent her an e-mail saying hello. Unfortunately, I did not get a response, and based on her picture and profile—I was a little disappointed. As luck would have it, about two months later I got a response from Rachael saying that she would love to exchange information on eHarmony. She had been really busy and had not had time to be on the website for a few months.
This woman, Rachael, had really gotten my attention in every way, so I thought I would check out where she lived in terms of geographic location. I noticed her profile said East Greenville Pennsylvania. Disturbingly, when I googled Greenville, Pennsylvania, it listed Greenville as being five hours from where I live. I then sent Rachael a very kind e-mail saying that unfortunately that e harmony had made a big mistake that were she lived was five hours away from my home and I really was not interested in dating somebody who live so far away. Rachael kindly e-mailed me back and told me that indeed Greenville, Pennsylvania was five hours away, but she was listing a location of East Greenville, Pennsylvania which was only about an hour from my house. Besides, that was her work location, and she actually lived in the same county as me, Chester County Pennsylvania. Wow.
So the confusion about her location actually led to several funny e-mails back and forth, which really broke the ice. Rachael said she was not a big huge fan of e-mail and would rather talk on the phone, and we ended up having our first phone conversation on November 23, 2012. She was a real charmer. She was funny, she was articulate, and she was a great conversationalist. Toward the end of the conversation, I looked at my watch and realized that we’d been speaking for two hours. I was so shocked. I said “Oh my gosh Rachael—I can’t believe it—we have been talking on the phone now for almost two hours!” She blurted out “I could talk to you forever!” The funny thing was I felt the same way and I said so. From that point forward we ended up talking on the phone every single day until our first date about a week and a half later.
The great thing about our first date was that I felt like our conversations and e-mails had helped me to already know a lot about who she was, and boy oh boy—this woman really floored me! She was amazing. She met me at a restaurant on Friday night, and I got there early and waited for her arrival nervously pacing in front of the restaurant. She was running a little late because she came straight from work and called me to tell me. I told her to relax and take her time. I watched every car as they pulled up to the restaurant. When I finally saw her pull up and she walked towards the door, I knew immediately from her picture that it was her.
My heart started pounding and my pulse rate went up as I met her at the front door of the restaurant, and she immediately gave me the best hug of my life. I had never been hugged like that—she hugged like she meant it! Our dinner was wonderful. We had an amazing conversation with each other, and we had a lot of fun. In person, she was even more beautiful than her online pictures and had a high level of charisma and energy. She was charming sweet and funny.
After having our romantic dinner at the café we then decided to go to Barnes & Noble to look around because we both love reading. So we drove a couple blocks down the street to the bookstore. When we arrived at Barnes & Noble, I suggested that we go upstairs because there were quieter places to talk upstairs. As we were looking for a table where we could sit down, we walked down the motivational book aisle. As we were walking down that aisle, Rachael stopped and said “oh look, here is one of your books.” One of my motivational books was sitting on the shelf with the cover facing outward—and that was a very unusual circumstance because usually books on bookshelves are stacked so that the spines are facing outward, making them much harder to see. But these books were stacked covers out so they were much more obvious as you went by. Rachael was obviously impressed to see one of my books in stock at Barnes and Noble. It was funny—because it seemed like such a set up that maybe that’s where I took all of my dates so that they could see my books! (not true!)
We sat in the bookstore talking and talking until it closed, and it seemed like we were in the bookstore for only a few minutes. We then drove back to the restaurant and sat in my car talking until 2:00 in the morning. Each hour Rachael would say “well I should probably go—its 11:00—probably past your bedtime.” I would say “would you like to talk a little longer?” She would say, “yes.” Finally, at 2:00 am I thought I should let her go—but only because I thought she would think I was a crazy man if I suggested we talk any longer. I drove home that night thinking and knowing that something amazing had happened. I was falling in love with Rachael. I just knew she was “the one”.
On Memorial Day weekend of 2013, Rachael and I went and visited my parents and the rest of my family in Virginia. She met them for the first time. They had the same reaction to her as I did—they fell madly in love with her too. We left my Mom and Dad’s house in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia and I told Rachael I wanted her to see the famous Mill Mountain Star in Roanoke on the way out. It is the world’s largest man made illuminated star and sits on top of the mountain overlooking Roanoke, Virginia, and lights up at night. It has been there a long time and is an icon of the star city.
We stopped at the star on top of Mill Mountain, and the weather was beautiful, sunny, and about 78 degrees. It was a gorgeous day, the kind of day the chamber of commerce would order if they could. We took in the view and walked a few of the trails. When we came back to the area with the famous star, I told her I wanted to take another picture with the star behind her. As she stood where she would be posing, she turned to get the camera to hand it to me. When she turned around, I was on one knee with a ring box in my hand and said “Rachael, I have a question for you—will you marry me?” For some reason she said yes! Three times!!!
As I was asking the big question, I didn’t realize that about 15 feet away several people were sitting on a bench quietly watching the whole scene play out. We became the afternoon’s star attraction. A lovely senior couple from Louisville, Kentucky, came over and said they wanted to introduce themselves and be “the first to congratulate us.” They had been married for over 45 years and hoped we would be as happy as they were.
It made that special moment even more special and poignant; they were such a very sweet couple. We had someone take a picture of us with them and Rachael sent them a nice note with a print of the picture. Many others came over to congratulate us and they were all so very excited for us. So the day of our engagement we will never forget and whenever we drive up to the Roanoke Virginia area we will always see “our” star, which marks a very important day in our lives. I told Rachael I wanted to ask her somewhere very special, a one of a kind place, and besides she was my star.
We will be getting married on February 28, 2014. I am so honored to have her as my wife. I feel so very blessed.
So why do I share this story with you? To let you know that you can live again, breathe again, play again, have joy again, have love again, laugh again, and be happy again after any loss. I am proof of that. In order to do that, you have to have courage—the courage to take risks and the courage to be willing to feel again and the courage to honor the past but embrace the future, the courage to move forward without knowing what will happen. Take a risk and roll the dice. You have to have initiative and be willing to take action. You have to be proactive. Join a gym, join a dating site online, join a singles group, join a league, get a matchmaker, join a social club, join the golf club, join a support group, but just do something. Life is too short to sit around and be miserable, sad, and alone. At the end of your life—I don’t want you to regret the steps you could have taken. Do it now not later.
I have met many people who have said after hearing my story that they “could never do online dating” or “I am just too shy” or “why would I want to meet a stranger online?” Well, everyone you have ever known was a stranger before you knew them!
The story I just related is about finding a new love interest, but don’t miss the point of the story—it is about hope and new beginnings. That could apply if you lost a child as well, or a friend, or a family member.
Every day the sun still rises and you can either turn and face it or hide in the dark. The sun is better for you, trust me.
So how do you get started? It’s just like taking a walk—just take the first step. Here are some quick tips to help you get going:
Make a list– Make a list of some different ways you can get out and meet some people. Take that list and commit to doing one of those things each week.
Practice positive self-talk- Say to yourself- “I am getting better” and “I am going to feel happier” and “I am going to find someone who I can share my life with.”
Have criteria– Decide who the kind of person is you want to meet and describe them on paper. What they look like, what they believe, what they stand for, what their values are.
Be flexible– You don’t know what life will offer you in terms of opportunity. Be open to the possibilities.
Be honest– When people ask your story tell them the truth. If they can’t handle your story then you don’t want to be around them anyway.
Think of it as an adventure– You are going to talk to and meet some really interesting people! You can learn from every one of them. Have fun!
Do something– You will find like I did- that when you start doing things you will start to shake off the stagnation.
Buddy up– If you don’t want to go it alone socially, ask a buddy to go with you for moral support when you go to a party or some other social event. Let them be your crutch at first.
Leave the guilt– Decide to leave the guilt behind—nothing is your fault. There is nothing to feel guilty about at all. Why would you feel guilty when you are not doing anything wrong?
Try new things– Never bowled before? Go try it. Never scuba dived before? Sign up for a class.
There is no real risk– Going out there and starting to live again has no risks except that you may feel a little awkward at first. You may feel odd but no one else will know that—only you.
Do it anyway– You may really not feel like it at first, but do it anyway. You may surprise yourself and enjoy something for a change.
So I want you to imagine I am sitting in your living room, and I want you to look at me and hear this message—you can do this. It crushes my heart when I hear of people who have lost a loved one and are still so sad and struggling getting through their days after eight or nine years! I don’t stand in judgment—my god, what some of us have gone through.
Why does it crush my heart? Because I just feel sad that they have their life in park and are not moving forward, not living—they are just stuck. They have lost the spark of life itself. It doesn’t have to be that way. If life is short—then they have spent a decade grieving. That is such a big chunk of life that has been a blur, a sleep walking existence.
It is not easy, but you can decide to re-create a new life, a new world, a new spirit within you. Because tomorrow the sun still rises, and it always will.