Embracing the Moments When Your Entire Life Changes by Charles George

I recently attended a thought-provoking and insightful Resilience Conference conducted by Bob Dees. What made this conference significant to me is the timing. Four years ago on July 30, 2015, I experienced one of the most devastating days of my life. It was a day when my entire life changed.

Getting Ready for the Storm

Bob shared the three phases of becoming resilient. He calls this the Resilient Life Cycle. The first phase is “Getting Ready and Preparing for the Storm.”

Charles with his son, Thomas.

I recently attended a thought-provoking and insightful Resilience Conference conducted by Bob Dees. What made this conference significant to me is the timing. Four years ago on July 30, 2015, I experienced one of the most devastating days of my life. It was a day when my entire life changed.

Getting Ready for the Storm

Bob shared the three phases of becoming resilient. He calls this the Resilient Life Cycle. The first phase is “Getting Ready and Preparing for the Storm.”

My son, Thomas, was born with congenital heart disease. Because of his complex heart condition, Thomas needed three heart surgeries and two other major life-saving operations. Thomas had his first two heart surgeries and the two major life-saving operations before he turned one year old. During this time, he stayed in the hospital for about 8 months out of the first year of his life.

The stress of watching my son fight for his life each day was unbelievable. Parents who have children with complex medical needs, face so many different challenges. Personally, there is only one other time in my life where I felt more stress and was more challenged emotionally, physically, and mentally than the 1st year of Thomas’ life. This stress and these experiences during this first year were preparing me for the real storm that was about to occur in my life.

 
Holding On and Weathering the Storm

The second phase Bob shared was Holding On and “Weathering The Storm.” Once Thomas was able to come home after his second heart surgery, he was still very sick. To survive, he had an oxygen tank, a pulse ox, a lot of other equipment, and many different drugs. But Thomas slowly recovered and gained strength each day. During the next two years, Thomas recovered, and he began to thrive. He was weaned off the drugs. He could breathe on his own and required very little equipment to function. He was a happy, charming, and engaging boy, full of life and personality. He loved everyone and even got strong enough to run and play with other children. He loved life!

This time, although stressful, was the best two years of my life. There was no greater honor than being Thomas’ Dad. This was the highest calling of my life.

The Approaching Category 5 Hurricane 

On July 13, 2015, Thomas had his third heart surgery. According to the pediatric cardiologists, this was supposed to be the easiest of the three heart surgeries.

On July 29, Thomas was doing extremely well. July 30 was a whole new day. Thomas awoke with a high temperature. Doctors were concerned. About 11: 05 AM, Thomas started struggling to breathe. We quickly notified the doctors who put him on oxygen and then a ventilator. For the next few moments, we thought everything was going to be okay until Thomas’ heart stopped beating.

For the next 48 minutes, the team of doctors and nurses did everything possible to save Thomas’ life. I stayed in the room and watched in hopes that my presence would inspire Thomas to continue to fight. I never gave up hope, and I always believed in him. I still do!

On August 3, three weeks from the day of his third heart surgery, Thomas took his last breath. This was the most devastating day and event of my life.

Bouncing Back

The third stage of resilience is bouncing back.

Bob uses the metaphor of a tennis ball when bouncing back. Often when you bounce a tennis ball, it bounces much higher after the first bounce. The goal of resilience is not to return to the same level you once were but to make your life even better than before. This is difficult to achieve but can be accomplished.

Thomas dying affected me in profound ways.

First, the emotional lows were unbelievably low, and like nothing I have ever experienced. I had to learn to navigate these emotions in a healthy, positive way, and not let self-destructive emotions and behaviors become a reality. This was unbelievably challenging, but I succeeded.

Thomas’ death challenged some of my fundamental thoughts about life.
It challenged my views of success and failure. Plus, I had to rediscover who I am and reaffirm my core skills. I was called to use my marketing skills to help organizations who provide support for families experiencing similar situations. 
 
Again, I succeeded, and these other organizations helped more families.
 
Finally, it made me come to terms with who I am and prepare myself for the next phase of my life.

Accepting and Embracing the Bounce

Even though I didn’t realize at the time, a big part of Bob’s conference, Saturday, was me accepting and embracing the bounce.

Ever since Thomas’ death, I have realized the magnitude and impact of what I was experiencing. A child dying affects the parents for the rest of their lives. 
Some people never do recover. I did not want this for my life.

One of the ways that I have prepared myself for this bounce is reaching out to people with different expertise who could help me. This has included a grief counselor, a pastoral care counselor, a psychologist, several pastors, family and friends, a church family, new people in my life, joining a gym, and most importantly relying on God through scripture and prayer.
 
Moreover, it required, my wife and l had to learn how to connect in new and different ways, so we could support each other, and so we could maintain our marriage. This is what Bob meant about “Guarding Your Primary Relationships.”

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that it is not the events in our life that determines the outcome, but our response to the events is what determines the outcome of our life.

After experiencing almost a decade of trials and tribulations, I’m excited about the bounce and the possibilities of the future. Onward!

This is exciting!

What do YOU think about the life lessons Charles has conveyed?
Do you have a similar life story???
Share with us in COMMENTS below. 

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