Ripping up a spin class as I do most evenings, striving to top the leader-board and prove to myself that I could still be a bad-ass, I didn’t think I would ever end a class in tears. But that is just what happened.

Maybe it was all the hearts around the room, to celebrate our Valentine’s Day ride? Perhaps it was the cool down Whitney Houston song “I Have Nothing” from her Bodyguard movie.

And remembrance, of course. I hadn’t sent a note to the Brotherhood group all day, knowing that Valentine’s Day is one of those trigger inducing traditions. What the heck could I send to make them feel any better, when I wasn’t in a great place myself.

After the class, I shared my tear-filled spin experience in a text, and the group, not feeling much differently, chimed in. John – “I have a tough time during these festivities. Too many memories. The food, The music, Everything, Killer”, he responded. He confessed to his own cry-fest, with his dinner date, a wonderful woman whose own husband passed away two years ago. Thankfully, she understood.

Chris recounted for the group in a text. “For my first year, most special days were difficult, and I cried quietly in bed many nights. I would remember the good times and fun times and feel better. I also would usually plan something with my family that was a fun memory”, he said. Chris leveraged his faith on this day to make it through.

Steve, having lost his wife only a month prior, was away and surrounded with special friends out West. He replied with only two words: “Bad Day”.

For Joey, he responded how emotional of a day it was for him, expressing gratitude in being surrounded with the love of family and friends, but also recounting that “nothing replaces the hole in my heart”. Joey “celebrated” Valentines by attending his first grief counseling group, and certainly not how he thought he would be celebrating even just a year ago.

Joey attended, but was really unsure about sharing his story with strangers. And so was another man in his group, who was sorrow filled and not open to sharing at all. So as others shared their grief stories, Joey shared as well.

After the group session, the quiet gentleman came up to Joey and thanked him for telling his story. Joey’s heartfelt words made the gentleman feel like he was not alone, and Joey realized that by sharing his grief and love, he was able to help others, even if it was just this one person.

Joey was able to turn this ultra sad first Valentine’s day without his beloved from a day of deep sadness into one of reverberation and healing. Being open, transparent and vulnerable, he was able to help another man understand that he was not alone. A purposeful shared experience, transcending loneliness.

And so, the widowers brotherhood gathered a few days later, thankfully, as this was a week the five of us really needed each other with the post V-day grief hangover. Feeding on the experiences each of us had this week, holding hands with my brothers, I opened our meal in prayer:

“Lord, thank you for bringing us together tonight. Admittedly, it has been a rough time for this group and our families. We thank you for the strength to make it through, and the lessons you would like us to take away from our sorrows, struggles and experiences this past week.

In growing from our grief I thank you for bringing a quote to my attention that I would like to share with the group. From the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how’.”

We were sure of our “Why” in the past: Loving husband to our wives and partner parent to our beautiful children. But no longer. Our loss of identity and meaning is as big as the hole in our hearts.

We look to you Lord, to guide us to our new “Why” . To not forget where we have been, but to use our grieving experiences as a new foundation and source of strength. Knowing that in finding our new “Why”, our new meaning, our new identity, that we will be renewed.

We pray that you reveal the new Purpose you have for our lives, and deliver the perseverance needed to accomplish what you have planned.


Finding Purpose from your Pain

Why has this tragedy befallen me?
The center of my universe, around revolved

My identity, defining life, gone

I search for meaning in this life without you
What is to come from my missing you?

My grief becomes a garden from which to grow 

My misery becomes my mission
My affliction becomes my assignment
My pain becomes my purpose