Webster’s Dictionary defines tragedy as a dramatic, disastrous event, especially one of moral significance. The American Heritage Dictionary says: Any dramatic, disastrous event.
My own tragedy was definitely dramatic, disastrous, and one of moral significance. It was as if the rug was pulled out from under me causing me to fall flat on my back and forcibly knocking the wind out of my lungs. I was left struggling to breathe and the life I had known instantly changed.
April 15, 1999 is the day when my life turned upside down and changed forever. It was the day my husband, William ‘Bill’ Henry Weatherly, was shot and killed in the line-of-duty by a person he was serving a warrant on for failure to appear in court (for beating up his mother). It was undeniably the worst day of my life; one I will never forget for as long as I live.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month
There is a reason I chose to write this blog post during the Month of May. In the United States, the month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I feel the need to raise awareness about how trauma impacts our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
It is really important for me to share with you how I personally struggled with anger, depression, and anxiety during the first few years after Bill’s death. I still struggle to this day. The tragic loss of my first husband will likely impact my mental health for the rest of my life. But, with that said, the struggle gets easier with each passing day.
Finding the silver lining…
Even though I still have days when I find myself feeling lost, uncertain, angry, or sad, I believe in my heart that overall I am happy. Being able to find a silver lining under my dark cloud of tragedy helps my life have meaning.
I know life isn’t perfect, and I know there will always be challenging days, but I am grateful for my life experiences, as they make me who I am today. It’s a hard feeling to explain, but this quote by author Mary Davis sums it up beautifully.
The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.~ Mary Davis
Together for Mental Health
I want to share a great article written by Lisa Tams of Michigan State University’s (MSU) Extension, Food & Health. MSU’s theme for 2020 is “Together for Mental Health” and together, we can support each other’s mental and emotional well-being. (Click on the blue ‘article’ link above to read.) The article focuses on how our mental health impacts our physical health, how we deal with stress, and how it can affect our relationships with others.
Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The pandemic has definitely been a trying time for many of us and I think it is fair to say it has challenged everyone’s overall mental health. The last two plus years have definitely been a real struggle.
Who would have thought this pandemic would still be around after two plus years? Wow! I am an introvert, and to be honest, I really didn’t think staying in my house for this long would bother me, but it has. I miss seeing my friends. I miss getting out to attend art events, and I miss being able to enjoy in-person art classes.
What I have learned…
Over the years, I have learned that mental health is so important to our overall happiness. As I worked through my anger, depression, and anxiety, I always tried to hang on to the one key thing Bill always told me: “Whatever makes you happy!” He always wanted to make sure I was happy. That saying has kept me moving forward in life.
Every day, I make a conscious choice, a decision rather, to be as happy as possible. My life has been a constant search for happiness and a reminder of how important it is to keep a positive mindset, even during the most difficult times.
Three years ago I read “Big Magic” by author Elizabeth Gilbert, and this quotes is my all time favourite of hers and I highly recommend her book:
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel the world looking for it.~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Fast forward 23 years…
I have accomplished many things over the last 23 years, including completing grief counselling and anger management. I even went back to school for a second bachelors degree in studio art. Time well spent early on while working through my grief.
I couldn’t have made it through the last 23 years without my truly amazing family and some pretty great friends. My parents stood by me through thick and thin and really helped me work through the most difficult times after Bill’s death. This is a great time to thank my parents and a wonderful quote by actress and comedian Tina Fey comes to mind:
I want to thank my parents for raising me to have the confidence that is somehow disproportionate with my looks and abilities. Well done. That is what all parents should do.~ Tina Fey
Finding love, again…
I was lucky enough to find love a second time and remarried in 2006 to an amazing guy, Derek Cadzow. He shares my heart with Bill. Out of all of this, not only did I find love again, I gained a beautiful step-daughter Renee, an awesome son-in-law Luke, and two super creative, energetic grandsons. I am so grateful for Derek and the life we have together.
My life with Derek is definitely an adventure, and since our recent move to Nova Scotia, he has started a new blog: Adventures in Nova Scotia. The last 21 years with Derek has had its up and downs, but because of him, a quote by actress Jennifer Morrison comes to mind:
I discovered what is and isn’t important to me. I decided I really wanted to enjoy life with someone fun, who can make the best out of any situation… whatever it is we’re doing.~ Jennifer Morrison
Finding Happiness Along the Way…
Life is all about choices
During our recent visit to see our kids, my son-in-law Luke and I had a conversation about my art business. We were talking about some choices I was struggling with and Luke said to me: “It’s always a choice.”
His comment is now something I keep in the back of my mind. Luke is an amazing leadership coach and his business is called the Leadership Cohort. Luke has also published a book “Trail to Leadership.” Check him out online if you need some leadership coaching! Tell him Jackie sent you.
The above comment from Luke resonates with me because I consciously make the choice to be happy. It’s not the easiest thing to do as I find it can be a challenge some days. I have to look for that silver lining, look for opportunities, and make difficult choices.
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I make a solid effort every day to wake up and say “Yes, I am happy and it is going to be a great day.” For me, it’s a choice to be happy and a choice to find goodness in life. I think it all boils down to mindset — we have to work on building a positive mindset.
I choose happiness and I work daily to improve my mindset. It is a choice, and it’s not always an easy choice. Read more about my greatest life changing decision — to follow my heart.
Life is Good, …if you want it to be.
We are good enough…
My good friend Christine Hager-Braun is a fellow textile artist and an advocate for mental health awareness. Her blog post from October 2021 is entitled ‘We are good enough — not only on World Mental Health Day.’ She talks about the power of a positive mindset and the importance of emotional well-being.
Christine makes beautiful artwork that reflects on some of her own challenges with depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). AND… if you happen to be in North Carolina this summer, Christine has a solo exhibition of her art quilts that will be on display at Central Piedmont Community College. The exhibition, “Embracing Imperfection“, will run from August 15 to October 6, 2022. Select the link to find out more.
One final thought…
I am a child of the 1980’s and one of my absolute favourite songs is by American Jazz Artist Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry Be Happy“. I love this catchy, upbeat song. Be sure to click on the link to enjoy the YouTube video!! You’re welcome! P.S. The best part of that video is seeing the late, great, actor/comedian, Robin Williams dancing with Bobby. It makes me smile.
Thank you for taking this journey with me. If you are interested in following my future topics, please subscribe below and I will send you and email whenever I upload a new blog post. As always, I am interested in hearing your views, please post in the comments.