Have You ever been on a Journey that Led you Down an Unexpected Path?
Maybe at first, you were unsure of your destination and then you set clear goals and were truly excited about your goals and intentions for the coming months. The journey would be a challenge and would test your stamina and force you out of your comfort zone. But the potential for growth and new experiences were just too exciting to pass up.
Then, one event changed the trajectory of your path and you saw a totally new perspective with different priorities and goals.
This was me not so long ago. Let me share a bit of my personal story and how it played out.
Since last summer I had been looking for a way to revive the “connection” with my husband of over 40 years. We were losing our ability to come together and work on the barriers in our relationship that blocked us from expressing our true emotions, concerns, and thoughts.
As a family and in our marriage, we had experienced a lot of turmoil over the past few years. Speaking only for me, I was tired and living day-to-day. We had become emotionally, verbally, and physically distant, but somehow were still very much in love and committed.
Sometimes this happens as relationships progress over time and as couples people stop reinvesting in the things that once generated connection and emotions. Some, recognize it and take action early to reinvest in each other. They may seek the help of others through; friends, peers, coaches, spiritual guidance, or counseling.
Whatever helps to reconnect the spark and get the relationship back on track.
Sometimes, it is a life-altering event that makes us realize what we want, need, and have.
A Share of My Personal Journey Down that Unexpected Path, and the Discoveries I Made
On January 14th my husband came to me with visual symptoms that led to an emergency room visit and transfer to a large trauma hospital because he had a completely blocked carotid artery. The initial treatment was to treat the blockage until it was safe to surgically remove it.
But on January 19th time was up, and he started showing signs of a stroke and he was rushed to the OR. We were given all the worst-case scenarios, including death. But hopes of clearing the vessel to stop further damage and stroke progression was the goal. It took two attempts and a double STENT and mission accomplished, the artery was pumping blood to his brain again, but the damage had already been done.
Five days in ICU, two surgeries, and the secondary discovery that my hardy farmer husband at some point had a heart attack, that left a large clot in his left ventricle. The stroke left him totally weak on the right side and void of speech.
All of my nursing and coaching skills did not prepare me for this kind of fear and the potential realities of our future. Nor did I ever consider never again hearing my husband say, "I Love You".
Striving for Stamina
I worked to remember my resilience tools and Prayerful affirmations, relying on my family and friends who were great and so supportive. I worked on taking breaks so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. At times Bob, seeing my fatigue and stress, even kicked me out of the room to get dinner or take a break. Family and friends made sure I got meals and breaks whenever they visited as well.
Pondering Intention and Purpose?
I believed in my core there was a purpose in this and that God would turn it for good in the end. I even thought of how God may use Bob somehow for His message. We discussed this and prayed daily for healing and guidance. Our values and faith were a stronghold for both of us.
Every day, during rehab time there were new things to celebrate. Admittedly, I sometimes sat and thought about, "What does this look like, for us, for me, long-term?"My selfish thoughts swirled around the fact that I had a business I had just started to launch and committed to building and growing this year. A non-profit I start but had done nothing with. This just isn’t fair. When will the hits stop coming?
We never planned for early retirement, to be honest, he avoided retirement conversations anytime I brought it up. There were so many new variables to consider, ponder and worry over, but I kept them hidden and to myself. I worried about upsetting Bob, the kids, and others seeing me break down (out of pride). Bob, wasn’t much different. He often just stared at the TV blankly. But I could see he was tense, as he sat scowling with his shoulders hunched up. He was holding back too.
Came in the last days of rehab. We were anticipating discharge at the end of the week. I’d been busy preparing the house, arranging therapy appointments, family help, etc. But Bob and I had avoided discussing what "we" would be like as a couple now, at home. A topic neither of us wanted to start or knew how to delicately approach.
While at our last Speech therapy and a NeuroPsychology appointment, we had major releases of emotions and honest conversations about our fears and frustrations regarding the situation and what was ahead of us. We even had a SCREAMING session 😱with the Music therapist to release anger and pent-up stress we had been holding back "for each other's sake". Tears flowed, and we laughed, but most of all we understood and connected again with how each other and saw our challenges, fears, and concerns together.
Twenty days in the hospital and nine days of acute rehab. His quick Physical Therapy quick recovery for leg and arm strength, and walking endurance limited his eligibility for inpatient rehab. Bob’s speech and right hand were taking longer but were progressing.
So we came home to continue outpatient rehab on February 3rd.
The New Normal
Is that we have a very busy outpatient therapy and Specialty Doctor’s schedule. Bob and I diligently work on his program at home to optimize his recovery. We are adapting to the temporary and permanent limitations that he will have. We celebrate each new win as a life milestone that he regains.
I have reprioritized goals, activities, and my work schedule for the year. I canceled programs I had planned this year for my business that would require extensive hours of dedicated office time. I limit office time, and for the first month I did no coaching work at all and just dedicated the time to “normalizing”.
After several weeks of being home, I am finally getting my work/Life/Me schedule into a FLOW.
The Us of it
We have been forced to look at and listen to each other more intently for meaning and understanding. To be honest, before his stroke, our relationship was struggling in the area of communication. We were the couple who sat on the couch watching TV at night and never said much. We were friends who loved each other.
I get a lump in my throat when I think about this. I can't help but think that God intended for us to rediscover our love and connection to each other through this event.
This person, who occupied a home, shared meals with me and has shared 45 years of my life. Before that day, I felt indifference, and disconnection toward, and even wondered if there was still love between us.
But in God’s time, my feelings went through an evolution of;
What I could lose; my best friend, the love of my life, the father of my children, the man who is my helper in life and only companion who I can share my deepest thoughts with.
The Flood of Emotions; came with Fear of loss of “us”. Who will we be as a couple? Will he survive? Anger, we had just discussed exciting plans for this year and once again we had another hit. Despite my long-held faith I still allowed the comparison mindset to set in, along with the frustrations and asking God, “Why”? Even though I know He has a plan for us and will bring good out of this situation in the end.
Just as quickly as I allowed the frustration to rise while being at Bob’s bedside trying to capture his next word, expression, or need. As I looked intently into his face, really “seeing him” once again, the emotion, and connection that felt arose was Love.
Now, at home once again working as a team we are more committed and connected. We communicate better than we have in five years. I know our journey is far from over and we will have bumps along the way. We are more attuned to the signs and triggers that block our way. I realize our story is not that of every stroke couple.
Most importantly we say, "I Love You" several times a day, and never take those words for granted, after almost losing them forever. 💗
The Lesson Along the Journey?
When experiencing a Life-altering event:
Seek God’s Strength and Rest in Him - He is always with you
Pay attention through your Prayers and actions to what Emotions are coming forward and allow yourself to FEEL them.
The Emotions that come arise from your Core Truth and feelings.
Watch, Look, and Seek the Lesson that will come from it. It may not be right away but it will be made clear, in God’s time
Allow Yourself the Time to Grieve the Loss of the life, situation, person, etc. that “was” before. That situation will never be the same. The Path was Broken when the “event” occurred, and a new one is forming as you move through the grief and healing.
Terry Wardle- “Every Loss in life requires an appropriate Season of Grieving, Whether you’ve lost your favorite person or your Favorite Pen.”
Most people understand the cliched statements of, “Tomorrow is not promised” and “Your life can change at a moment’s notice”. But have they LIVED it? The reality is I have lived it so many times in my life that I now believe the reason behind the outcomes of those events; was for me to be here and now today as a coach with the life experiences and resources to offer others.
Recently, I’ve had a Season of Learning as I have experienced and cared for 3 family members with brain injuries. I’ve worked through acute care, rehab, and home care with them.
I know… Your struggle is as real as theirs
If this Blog or Any of My Other Shares Strikes a Cord with You and You Want More..
If you have a loved one or family member with a brain injury or trauma, and you are struggling to manage life at home.
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