I had been married for 62 days when I had to give my husband CPR.
When the paramedic arrived, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me to stop.
It was as if someone had pulled a rug out from underneath me.
There were times when I prayed to God and asked “why me?” I never got an answer, but now I’m beginning to see what the plan was.
Losing Chris is just one of many experiences that brought me to where I am today. They’re the reason I do what I do, and the lessons I learned from them inform how I live my life every day.
Today, I’d like to share my why, and allow you a window into who I am as a result of the experiences I’ve been through and the deep faith that helped me to weather the storms.
The experiences that made me
I think it’s fair to say that I have had a varied and vast corporate experience.
My working life was corporate-based until around 4 years ago. It involved lots of travel, and I was very fortunate to be able to work with lots of companies and lots of different people.
I enjoyed fast living and high living, and it was fantastic.
Alongside that, I was very fortunate to have a child. My daughter’s arrival into the world was not without its fair share of surprises!
As I sat in the hospital ward looking into her brown eyes, I knew that my life had been changed forever. The events of that day made me.
But I believe the biggest turning point in my life was losing Chris.
Chris was my first husband; we were married on the 18th October 2013. We were happy and content with our life together, but he died suddenly on the 19th December 2013.
It was as if someone had pulled a rug out from underneath me. I was suddenly falling into a deep black hole. I went on autopilot for a number of weeks because the reality was too hard to open my eyes to.
It’s true to say that while losing Chris was a tragedy, it was also a life-changing event as well. As I grieved, I changed in equal measure, and that’s been the story of my life.
In that time, I made some very big decisions that have shaped my life.
I knew very quickly that the only way I was going to be Mum to a 12-year-old who had just lost her Dad, was to put one foot in front of the other.
I had to do the day-to-day living, to go through the motions. I had to show up and continue to be the mum, the daughter, the co-worker, and the bread-winner. But suddenly, I had a new label attached to me: widow.
I don’t think I was ready to accept that label – in fact, I know I was not ready to accept that label!
So I set out and made the decision not to conform to what society, what my church at the time, and what some of my friends thought that I should do. I wasn’t ready to be put in a box.
Doing it my way
Just as there’s no instruction manual for bringing up children, there is no instruction manual for losing a husband.
There is no instruction manual for dealing with grief.
There is no instruction manual for what to do next.
So I set out on a path of doing things authentically ‘Stacey’.
I wasn’t going to compromise who I was, and I wasn’t going to compromise my feelings, my thoughts, to try and fit inside somebody else’s box. I burnt some bridges, I upset some people, and I moved through a period of huge grief for the first 6 months after losing Chris.
And it was needed! It was challenging, it was cathartic, it was painful, it was joyous… the number of emotions I could list are endless.
When I woke up each morning, in that split second before I was really awake, nothing had changed. I often describe this time as a twilight zone, where everything is rosy: he’s still here, and we’re still married.
But every single day, I also had that moment when I came to and remembered what had happened, and the life I had been dealt. I had to make the conscious decision, every day, to put one foot in front of the other – the decision I still make every morning.
What happened next
That motto of taking just one step forward every day has been my motto ever since.
I have been in such a fortunate position that since losing Chris, my life has changed dramatically. If you had asked me 8 years ago where I would be today, the picture I now have would not be anywhere within my wildest dreams.
Something like that changes you, but it changes you on such a fundamental level that you essentially throw out the old and you make a new.
I’ve been so fortunate over the years to be able to share that story and to share some of the steps that I took, with other people who have been in that situation.
I have had the opportunity to talk about it with other people who have lost husbands, other people who have been bereaved, other people who are grieving. I’ve been able to draw alongside them and say “I can understand the feeling”.
I can never say “I know what you’re feeling” because I have never walked in another’s shoes, and neither has anybody walked in my shoes. But my unique experience has given me an insight into a part of life that not many people have.
Storytelling and grief
I believe this insight has helped me draw out stories in my own life, and it’s helped me draw out stories for other people. I’m massively passionate about telling those stories.
There is a lot of research and thinking that’s been done about bottling up emotions. Whilst I’m no expert on any of that research or theory, I can certainly concur that if you can talk about the person that you’ve lost, if you can name them and remember them, if you can regale the stories, then there is some part of the process that becomes easier.
Even in the darkest days, I knew that I would never get left in the bottom of the pit, I always knew that there would be light.
The light was coming from within. It might have been dark everywhere I looked, but there was a certain light that glowed within me that I clung onto.
For me, this light was my faith, and it kept me going through those dark days.
It doesn’t matter what your story is. It doesn’t matter what life has thrown at you, or what curve balls you’ve been dealt. Whether you have sunk or swam.
What matters is that you are still here today to tell that tale.
And there’s a certain amount of honesty, vulnerability, and cathartic healing that happens when you tell that story.
I am setting out on a mission to really lean into the story of my faith.
There were times when I prayed to God and said “why me?” I never got an answer, but now I’m beginning to see what the plan was.
The plan was always to have this experience to share with other people.
Every time I tell this story to anybody, I always say: If one person can take one grain of comfort from my words, that’s my purpose.
Within my whole storytelling career and the business I now run, I bang on about purpose. What is the purpose behind your story, and your communications?
I believe that we all have a purpose.
That might be to lead somebody to a point of sale, it might be to lead somebody to a coaching arrangement, it might be to lead somebody in order to offer them the product that you have.
Whatever it might be, if you communicate with purpose, then there is real meaning behind it and I believe it’s the meaning behind the purpose that connects us one to another. When you connect with somebody, there’s a certain magic there.
My whole business is built around being open and honest and vulnerable, so that other people can learn, be inspired, be motivated, take comfort from what I’ve been through.
This is the story of why I do what I do, why I give people space and the opportunity to open up.
Because I fundamentally believe it’s healing. It could be healing from something that you don’t even know about yet, but when you start to piece together the story that you’ve got, that has been building year on year, day on day, you bring humanity to the table.
Even if you don’t think you have anything to say (and when I talk to just about anybody, they tell me they don’t!), when you begin piecing it together, you find the story.
People buy from people, but I’m not in this business for people to buy from me. I’m here to help people because everybody deserves to be heard.
We’re told by society not to share personal details, to put a lid on our feelings, to hide behind our masks, but I think: no! Rip the mask away and tear up the rulebook!
Instead, be authentically you: the wounds, the warts, the broken bits, the bent bits, all of that together, because that makes you who you are today.
When you open up a little bit, you allow people to see that vulnerability, and that connects us as people on a very human level. We are connected to one another by shared experiences, and that is the fundamental starting point for everything that I do.
What’s your why?
If you’ve been affected by this story and would like to talk about it in more depth, or if you’ve been inspired to share your own story, I would love to be a listening ear for you.
You can contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.