Leslie McCaddon Mendoza
The Stories We Tell
Oh, how I love to tell a good story. I really do. The more tension the better. The more emotional the punch the more thrilling it is for me to throw it. As a writer, this love of story serves me very, very well.
Outside of my writing endeavors, I've learned that my dramatic story-telling skills are not always as helpful. In fact, they often create unneeded pain in my life.
The facts of my story are very simple.
I was friends with Mike.
I dated Mike.
I married Mike.
We had 3 kids together.
Mike was in the Army.
Mike went to Medical School.
Our oldest survived cancer.
We moved a few times.
Mike died by suicide.
I am a widow.
I am engaged to Rob.
Rob is a widower.
Rob has 4 kids.
I have a coaching practice.
I write fiction and nonfiction and some pieces get published.
You may have felt some things reading those facts. But, the facts alone did not create those feelings in you. Your thoughts about my facts made you feel something. Just like, the thoughts about my facts make me feel things.
When Mike first died by suicide here are some of the thoughts I had, that at the time felt like fact:
It must have been at least partly my fault.
I will never survive without him.
I miss him too much to keep breathing.
My children and I will be irrevocably broken by this.
No one can ever love me when I'm this broken.
Life will never be as good as it was again.
These thoughts created floods of emotions that included guilt, shame, fear, and despair.
As you may already know, when you're drowning in floods of emotion like that, it is hard to do much of anything. And so, the results my life kept reinforcing my thoughts about it.
It turns out that those weren't the only thoughts available to me. Though I still use those thoughts in my writing to evoke emotion in people who have maybe never been acquainted with shame/guilt/despair on those levels (and I want them to really understand my experience), I now choose to think very different thoughts about Mike's suicide.
When people die by suicide, there are many factors. But, ultimately, there is no one to blame.
Mike knew I loved him.
Mike made an impulsive decision that doesn't accurately reflect his love for our family.
I can do beautiful things in my life in his honor.
My children and I are resilient.
Life can be whatever I choose to make it.
I am loveable exactly as I am.
These thoughts create feelings of love, hope, purpose, and ambition. The results of these thoughts and feelings have helped me create have also reinforced these thoughts. I have a fiance. My kids and I are thriving (most of the time). I have my own business. I am writing stories that people love to read--just like I always wanted.
There are plenty of times I still choose to reflect on Mike and our combined 20 years of friendship and marriage with each other and feel the very clean pain of missing him. I just don't make missing him mean the things it used to. I just miss him. And that's okay. I miss him because I love him and I always will. And, that doesn't have to mean anything beyond that.
I'm curious, if you were to tell the story of your loss, what does it look like? Can you see the difference between the facts of your story and your thoughts about them? Feel free to email me. I coach clients all day long how to separate their thoughts from the facts and how to create the kinds of feelings and results they want in their life. Once you get the hang of it, you can't wait to share it with everyone!
(*many of the ideas I've shared here are inspired by one of my teachers, Brooke Castillo. You can learn more about her at The Life Coach School.)