As Lent approached, I considered something I could do for myself that would make me a better person. Growing up in a Polish Catholic family, every year in CCD we were instructed to give up something and I remember it almost always being candy.
My sister died when I was a college student. In the year following Denise’s death, my senior year, I was fortunate to have the support of the Ball State University Catholic community (it was the pastor of the church who pulled me from my Western Civilization class to tell me that my sister had died and the nun who drove me the four-and-a-half hours back to my parents house in suburban Chicago). I also was fortunate to have the support of another priest in the church, Father Dave. I sat in Fr. Dave’s office multiple times discussing everything from what I was going through to the future of Notre Dame football (as Fr. Dave recently joked with me on the phone, the last time we talked the Irish had a winning record). The spring after Denise’s death, as Lent approached, I commented to Fr. Dave that I wasn’t sure what I was going to give up.
His response? “You’ve given up a lot. You can do something good for yourself.”
I’m not sure what I did that Lent but I have taken those words with me. However, this year, rather than something good for myself, I really wanted to do something that would make me a better person. I thought pretty hard about this and what I feel challenged by most in my life. I finally settled on something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember: letting go of things that I can’t control.
What a road it’s been. I can’t say that I am an expert in it now, but I've found over the past few weeks that as I've tried to figure out ways to let go of what I can't control, that aspects of my life have appeared to change in front of me – aspects that I needed to learn to let go of if I want to move forward in my life.
My journey this Lent has been different from what I expected, but the road that unfolded in front of me is the one that truly needed to happen. I can reflect back on the past 40 days and see how much I have evolved in a relatively short time. I still have a long way to go and much of this journey is still unfolding (as it always is) but I have made huge strides in becoming the person I want to be.
I believe the major reason I was able to accomplish what I have in this time period is because I have been open to that change. I want to change. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to materialize the dreams and goals that I manifest. Letting go of what I can’t control is a huge step forward for me. The road will continue to be rocky, but I can see that it is clear ahead. I’m heading where I want to go.
As many people are thinking about bunnies and chocolate this weekend, I’ll be reflecting on where I’ve come from and where I go from here.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.