Grief Completely Sucks. Look For the Collateral Beauty to Find Hope Again

This weekend my daughter and I re-watched Will Smith’s movie, Collateral Beauty. It's about the grief and the devastation that loss leaves in its path. I know, it doesn't sound very uplifting, but in many ways it is. If you haven’t seen this film, please do…Smith is amazing in his role. You’ll find it reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol,” but who doesn’t love that old classic?

The first time I saw it, I really didn’t give much thought to the movie's name, or the statement made by a key character in reference to losing a loved one: “Make sure to notice the collateral beauty.” Beauty resulting from a painful loss? Can there be such a thing? One might initially be incensed by such a suggestion, but in healing there is beauty. And yes, we might even find the beauty in the otherwise heart-breaking consequences of loss.

I’ve experienced a number of seemingly insurmountable losses, as many of us have. While drowning in the darkness and isolation in the months that followed, I made a commitment to myself, and to the beloved person who was no longer at my side. I refused to allow the pain associated with their death to become the main focus, rather than the impact they’d had on my life. I would, in some way, honor them and the time we had together. I would find what I can now see as collateral beauty.

When my husband died only 3 weeks after our twin daughters turned 8 years old, I began journaling. Putting words to my feelings, fears, and loneliness helped me experience my grief in a healing way, rather than continually wallow in it. Journaling led to a practice of gratitude–and eventually the study of spirituality and metaphysics. Over the years I evolved into a stronger, more intentional, and peaceful individual. I noticed the beauty in things I’d never seen before. I saw life in variations of color, instead of black or white. And, after a 10-year study of life, mindset mastery, and spirituality (one that will never end) I became a coach who would help people through challenges of their own.

Prior to my husband’s death, I did what people do: work, parent, love, and hope. After his death, I learned to live through my heart, speak from my wisdom, and rely on my unshakable faith. Eventually, I would help others do the same.

We all must grieve in our own way, on our own timeline. No one can tell us what will happen in the months and years to come, but we get to make some healing choices when we’re ready.

Don't neglect your grief but also journal about the good things: memories, forced changes that may be good for you, self-growth, greater connection to yourself and a higher power (if you believe), and the paths that are now available to you.

Take long walks in nature and open your eyes to notice things you may not have seen before. It helped me to seek out things that were larger than my life. It filled my heart with wonder, giving me a brief respite from my grief. I'd never seen the world in this way, so for me, this was one aspect of the collateral beauty.

Do something meaningful to honor your loved ones. I, unfortunately, had a horrible series of experiences at the hospital while I was at my husband's side. I had a friend who was a hospital social worker and she arranged several speaking engagements attended by medical professionals. I talked about the significance of their actions and how they can make a difference in someone's life. That difference can create tragic memories or great comfort–their choice. There was never a dry eye in the house when I spoke of our journey through the medical system. This empowered me and pulled me out of an aspect of grief that felt uncontrollable to me. My husband's death provided me with the opportunity to perhaps save other families from unnecessary pain.

There is collateral beauty in loss and grief, and perhaps simply knowing that can bring us through those moments of excruciating pain. It can give us something to hold on to, beyond memories of the past—because, it’s the future that brings hope and new beginnings.