As one decade comes to an end another begins. Reflecting back on my life over the past 10 years brings back the joy and the sorrow, the peace and the struggle, the love and the grief. In 2010, my son was a newborn and my daughters were 3 and 10 years old at the time. I was building my career as a financial advisor and was becoming aware of the idea that whatever we could imagine for our life was within the realm of possibilities. We were a young family struggling to make ends meet, but we had our sights set on a future that was much brighter than the world around us would’ve led us to believe.
The next year and a half I could feel a shift starting to take place. God was working on something BIG and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was being asked of me. My business model was changing, and while I still prepared people for the inevitable I soon found myself cultivating deeper relationships with clients who were faced with the loss of a loved one. A new passion ignited within me to walk alongside grieving families as I guided them through the financial decisions they were now faced with.
My desire to help people prepare and navigate through this loss immensely grew yet I still had no clue where this new journey was truly taking me. I soon began working with advisors in my area to help them reach more people and in 2011, after planting seeds along the way, found myself being offered a position to assist hundreds of advisors all over the country in preparing financial plans for their clients. Andy and I trusted that if this was God’s plan then we would faithfully follow. It felt so right and if it meant an even better life with better opportunities for our kiddos we were going to follow. Leaving all of our friends behind along with the struggle and pain of the prior decade, we took the next step along our journey which brought our family to Minnesota on January 15, 2012.
Our family and friends helped us get settled in and surrounded us with support as we navigated this domestically foreign land. It was a fresh new start for our beautiful family where we could continue to grow together along with our dreams and in 2014, I was offered another position in corporate that aligned with my passion in an even bigger way. Developing and launching new programs that would allow the advisors to reach more people. As I began traveling for my new job, I found myself connecting, educating, and building relationships with even more people who were making a massive impact in the lives of others.
Meanwhile, Andy had just started working for a welding business in the Spring of 2014. He had his sights set on this place for a couple years, but he ultimately knew one day he would own his own custom car shop (which he had already started in the garage behind our house with all of his own projects). Thus, we eagerly developed a plan, set our financial goals together (for the first time in our life), and with that in place we were on track to pay off our debts, build our emergency reserves, start his custom car business, and purchase my great aunt and uncles home we had been renting since we first moved to Minnesota.
Our dreams were becoming reality and in the fall of 2014 he sold his first project. After paying off a small loan we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the SEMA show in Las Vegas to celebrate our 15th Anniversary a little early to see the hottest cars in the world. Let’s get real here for a minute…A N D Y went to the car show while I explored the strip with a friend during the day. Nevertheless, we took a well deserved break to celebrate and appreciate all that we’d accomplished.
Shortly after on Christmas Eve 2014, Andy got a call he knew one day would come. His father, at the age of 63, had died suddenly. While we intended to stay in Minnesota for the holidays, we took a moment to tell the kids and with heavy hearts we traveled back to Missouri to be with his family during this difficult time. The screen door that once protected our view of the world beyond had slid wide open and we began to see everything more clearly than ever before.
The months that followed left us navigating our own grief while Andy also helped his mother get through the things she needed to in order to process her own. It felt as though only a moment had passed and Summer was here. On July 7, 2015, Andy was playing softball and had asked me to come to one of his games (I know I’ve spoken of this in a previous blog but wanted to recap the story here as well). On the way home, after he had hit not only one but TWO home runs he was bursting with excitement. It reignited our dreams of where we’d be a year from that point based on the huge strides we’d made by tackling our goals. Life was too short and we knew that we needed to experience more of those home run moments each and every day.
The following day, just over halfway through the decade, my life was forever changed and the future ‘we’ once dreamed of shattered into a million pieces right in front of me. I found myself standing there looking at those broken pieces wondering how I’d ever put them all back together again. As a mother as well as a serial emotional avoidance expert at the time, I knew the first best place to start for me was with the kids. Are they going to be okay? What do I do next? Who can I talk to? That began my quest over the last 4 ½ years of the decade to find healing, support, and hope for those around me. Little did I know that this quest would also take me on a personal journey to discovering who I am, what I want, and uncover why life happens exactly as it should.
In 2017, I left my employer who had given me a sense of purpose even when I no longer felt I had one. It became clear, after a year and a half of journaling about how I was feeling nudged to spend more time with my kids, myself, and those closest to me, that my life was about to change. My oldest was 16 and had faced more emotional challenges in the 2 years after Andy died than one child should have to face in a lifetime. The time had come I was ready to take the leap…
Or was I? I had begun to work on myself physically, emotionally, and mentally and certainly it was OKAY not to have a job or live up to the expectations of the rest of the world right? I felt the desire to get widows connected with resources and stumbled across an organization that had just started doing just that, so I felt like they had it covered. I said I would volunteer, but found myself emotionally screaming in the other direction. I’m not sure if I was quite ready yet to tackle the grief that would bubble up from the surface as I started supporting the very community that I was now a part of. It hit a little too close to home.
Sooooo….as 2018 approached, I soon felt an itch to open a business…Andy always wanted one right? I was still making a contribution to the world, right? I was getting a friend out of a terrible work situation, right? I couldn’t have run further from the direction God was calling me if I tried, but I could certainly justify all the reasons I was making a responsible decision at the time. I will spare you all the details (mainly because my attorney says so and it’s irrelevant at this point), but I now know that I learned some valuable life lessons along the way and am forever grateful for that. As the decade came to a close, January 2019 I found myself in a heaping mess of tears wondering how I had gotten to a place where I felt so unsatisfied. My life was out of alignment and I needed a serious adjustment to get back on track so that I could start gaining momentum and moving towards wherever my life’s purpose was taking me, which I had to set out on an exploration to rediscover once again.
I had worked with a life coach previously and was sitting on a ticket to an event of a lifetime. If this event couldn’t shake my soul wide awake than I was doomed. That may sound a little extreme; however, when you’re hopeless and praying for God to give you strength every moment of every single day a ticket to time alone (aka with 15,000 other people in a conference center) was exactly what I needed. That weekend, God flipped me upside down and begun shaking my old thoughts, feelings, and emotions right out of me. It was also in that moment I heard ‘the voice’ say, “Erin – you will make a global impact on the widow community.” … Who, me? … “YES YOU!!” I opened my heart to this divine guidance and the following week I was approached by someone who wanted me to get involved with identifying ways to start connecting young widows in the Twin Cities. If that wasn’t a huge sign I’m not sure what was.
It was also after the event in March, with my new emotional state in check, that led me to getting off the anxiety and depression meds that I had been on for years (WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL). I was fortunate not to have any side effects from that, but closely monitored my progression towards clarity.
In May 2019, I met with a local woman whom I heard speak the month prior at a mother daughter retreat I taken my 12-year-old to. It was in that interaction that she gifted me with the verse from Romans 8:28 in the bible, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I knew I loved Him, what my purpose was, but didn’t know how to get there. She looked at me right in the eyes and said, “Maybe you’re being called into ministry.” I laughed so hard, but as I looked back at her she still had a serious look on her face. I quickly responded with “How will God use ME for ministry?” I left that day with so many more questions than I came with, but set the thought of ministry up on the shelf with all of the other messages I’d been hearing. God knew that clearly I needed something more concrete, a bit direct, no beating around the bush, and about 3 days after that conversation with this woman my pastor at church sends me an email with the following words….
I am curious if you would consider helping me with the grief ministry at grace.
I sat there in shock for a moment then immediately responded with…
When can we meet?
Everything from that point started falling into place, so rather than explain I will just give you a brief synopsis of what continued to unfold in 2019.
June 23, 2019 – I organized a Widow with Kiddo Picnic that approximately 125 people attended along with volunteers
July 11, 2019 – I attended another Tony Robbins Event and brought my 12 year old daughter.
July 12, 2019 – Was the last day I took a sip of alcohol and decided to quit forever.
July 24, 2019 – I began working with my Life Coach again to continue aligning what I was doing with my purpose in life.
July 26, 2019 – I was asked to be a Young Widow Connect Leader for a local organization.
August 20, 2019 – I met with a local grief center to discuss alignment to serve the community of Young Widows with Kiddos.
September 5, 2019 – I was offered a board position at the grief center.
October 22, 2019 – I began leading a 4 week grief group through my church.
November 3, 2019 – I spoke in front of 75 people on the ‘Journey to becoming your best’ and decided that I could make an impact on the lives of so many people and be a life coach as well.
November 15, 2019- We held the first ‘Night to Remember’ at church and almost 40 people were in attendance to honor their loved ones.
December 1, 2019 – Held my first virtual group life coaching call and LOVED it!
December 5-10, 2019 – I attended Tony Robbins’ Date with Destiny and released my childhood trauma and experienced true PEACE for the first time.
Time and time again throughout the year God was showing me how he was going to use me to fulfill my life’s purpose. I realized that all I had to do was trust in His plan and faithfully follow whatever He had next for me. The remainder of the year I spent reflecting on all that I have experienced in life and appreciating those that have been there throughout my journey. As I did so I recalled….
When I was a young girl, beginning at the age of 5, I discovered my love for dance. It made me feel so free as I glided across the floor yet strong and confident as I hit every pose with certainty. By the age of 8, I had begun to dance competitively and traveled the country. The dance company I traveled with became a part of my family and we comforted each other through some of the darkest of times. I felt as though I had an escape from the reality of the world, a protective shield to guard against danger, and the mutual love for an art form far greater than myself. Over the course of that decade, I grew with my dance friends from a little girl into a beautiful young woman. I was grateful to have them by my side for an entire decade as I danced through the happiest moments in life, the pain when people hurt me, and the grief when my grandmother passed away when I was only 14 years old.
I knew the day would come where I would leap (pun intended) out into the world and start a new chapter; however, the dancing would never cease to exist. I would have a new company to surround myself with as I sashayed through my happiness, shuffled through my pain, and pirouetted through my grief. Today, it is an honor to begin this new decade with the company of other young widows that want to experience the joy of dancing through this wild and crazy life together. If you are sitting there feeling alone in all that you are going through, please know that you have the choice right now to make a change. You’ve already auditioned, you’ve made the cut, so just reach out your hand, grab hold of this new life just waiting to unfold, and embrace all that is yet to come… Just know that you’ll be surrounded by the company of those that GET IT and will be there to dance through all of it right alongside you.