UPDATE: Listen to Melanie’s chat with Sabrina Marandola about grief on CBC Listen with Sabrina Marandola

March 1 is an important milestone and will forever be a day of transformation for me.

It is the day I lost my husband, Vince, and I became a young widow. Frankly, it’s a grim club membership that I do not wish upon anyone. Naturally, I am deep in thought and exploring a raw process that I need to share.

Celebrate milestones with self-reflection

The importance of embracing reflection is to promote self-growth and actualization. It’s about how to take yourself from a place of fear and uncertainty, and giving yourself the opportunity to thrive in a different environment.

What does this environment look like? For me, it looks like redefining my support system, actively searching for a change of scenery, and being more open to risk. For you, it can manifest differently. But the point here is to leave fear and uncertainty behind so that you can provide some space for your own success.

Vince taking in rays of the sun at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The importance of failure

Vince’s death felt like my ultimate failure. I was not able to protect him or save him. In unpacking the feelings associated with failure, I discovered that widowhood has made me less fearful of failure. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already failed in the worst way and nothing could match it. There is no failure greater than the one I have already experienced. So now, I give everything my all.

Embrace change and thrive

While keeping an open mind, I found many open doors. Opportunities started to show themselves to me and I somehow found the strength to say “yes.” This attitude that nurtured my evolution led me to successfully launched my life coaching business and meet new clients.

I can help a diverse group of people, including widows, people with relationship issues and clients who are generally unsatisfied with their careers and home life, and clients who think they are stuck in toxic work and home environments. These are all mindsets I have overcome. To share that knowledge and coach others to a happier tomorrow is a real privilege.

As I embrace this calling, I continue to grow Eximius exponentially with the help of my support system and experienced professionals. My part-time Marketing Director and new recruiters that have joined my team keep me grounded and motivated, while the encouragement of my family fills my personal cup.

Vince with his beloved Pastene, where he loved working.

Re-evaluate your support system

There is a saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Widowhood has shown me exactly who was going to stand by me beyond the season, and it is one of the most valuable life lessons I have learned.

My inner circle has changed. I struggled with the disappointment and hurt over the loss of who I thought were ‘lifetime’ friends. Many people fell short – some didn’t show up to the funeral or talked to me since his death. I felt abandoned.

I decided to not cling to this isolation and take a fresh look around. With gratitude, I celebrate the friends that have remained, and the new ones who emerged. Focusing on these beautiful people has been a major mindset shift.

Letting go of expectations

My definition of family, and who I considered family, was challenged. Like many people, there are certain expectations we have of family and their behaviour, especially in our times of need. When members of the family fall short, there is a depth to that hurt that I can not possibly describe. The words that come to mind include shame, betrayal, pain, disappointment and anger.

In order to move away from this negative mindset that ate away at me, I had to let go of the expectations I had harbored and even change my definition. In reality, this milestone is marked by those friends who became family. The friends who stepped up and filled that dark hole with love and light are the ones who inform my new expectations of family.

Vince enjoying food and drink outdoors.

A change of scenery

In the last year I discovered the many benefits of spending time outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. Although status was always important to me, my new perspectives have taken me down a different path. I need to carve out time to focus on myself, and I do this best out of the city.

I finally made the big leap to get an apartment in the city close to Little Italy, and invest in a home in the Laurentians so I can satisfy my polar opposite need for the serenity of the country. This time is so important because I reflect, I process, I unpack and I re-focus on the important things every single time I find myself in a car headed out of the city.  

Once you realize that life can literally change overnight, you realize how precious our limited time is on this earth. In short, you no longer have room for drama and bullshit. I still don’t know what the future holds for me. But I do know that I want more love, laughter, joy, and to be of value; to hold the hands of those who are in pain. My life is lived at my own pace where I make my own decisions without judgment. I want to focus on what is truly important – and celebrate the milestones that comes with it.

If you need someone to talk to about your life and career challenges, get in touch with me. I’m happy to help in any way I can.