A loss like mine has many layers, not all of them obvious. I was married to David Beynon Pena for almost twenty years, nearly half my life. I lost my beloved husband to terminal cancer after fighting for his life for eleven months. Cancer is everywhere.
ONE – The first layer of my loss was David’s death, after twenty-five years of emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially loving me and having my back. We dreamed of growing old together and I will grow old without him now. We saw ourselves thriving in our work, egging each other on, laughing together, sometimes fighting – not perfect but ours. For anyone who suffers loss of a person to death, divorce or separation, a pet, a job or business, health or home, the depth of our grief is not just for that person or experience, it’s also for the death of a deeply desired and imagined future, lost too. Even when a person we love lives and survives the cancer, we see them both as they were sick and as they are now. The fear never leaves and so there is loss mixed with relief. Unavoidably.
TWO – The second layer of my loss was myself. I was single and dating until my early 30s, a wife and married into my mid-50s, and now a widow. I was a 24/7 caregiver for the last eleven months of David’s life and he was so fragile by the end that I was afraid to hold him tight for fear of breaking bones. I could sit on his lap for only a minute before my weight hurt him. We both actively fought to stay whole and multi-faceted. I spoke on three stages and sang in four cabaret shows. David kept painting landscapes, cityscapes, portraits and nudes, doing wedding, bar and bat mitz’vah event paintings and ushering at Wicked. We lived to the very last day. Deliberately.
Naturally, when two people love each other, they give up some of the edges of themselves which make it harder to get along. Some matter, the ‘must have’ ones and I didn’t even notice until they slipped away. I love to travel globally and go to Maine but, once David started ushering as a ‘day’ job, he worked six days a week and we lost that. When David and I stopped going to Maine every summer, the landscapes dried up because that’s a place he painted three or four, daily. I went to France recently, stayed at La Peetch, Julia Child’s summer place, in May 2017, and my love for travel came rushing back. I am noticing who I am without him these days and taking myself back. For example, singing and travel are mandatory self-care for me. I am more playful, passionate and determined to grow my business than before. I am wild and spiritual, loving and loved, committed to family, friends, clients, colleagues and myself. I am unwilling to back down on my truth and finally going for what I have always wanted, fearlessly. That means Affluence Code and Bad Widow speaking, consulting and writing – NOW. When David took his last four breaths in my arms, I knew I had no more time to waste being afraid I won’t be enough, can’t survive alone, won’t be able to make the difference I desire. I have failed in the past and allowed those failures to define me. It’s my time to see what I can accomplish when I bring ALL of me to this game called life.
THREE – The third layer of my loss was community. I am fortunate in having rich, robust and supportive communities of family, friends, colleagues and clients. Because I am an uber-connector, Charity lens first in my Affluence Code work, while there are some I have leaned on harder than others, I have had many people I could count on. Still, there were some who fell away, unable to cope with the huge, endless waves of my grief, frustrated not to know what to do for me, telling me what to do or rather, what they would do in my place. As a widow, people sometimes feel awkward around me. I am not sure who and how to ask for company when I don’t know how I will be day-by-day. I am unwilling to be responsible for their feelings and don’t want to be around people who can’t own their own uneasiness. Stay away, please. My capacity for community is more limited, in time and who I choose to be around. My biz networking is necessary but challenging because my patience for “How are you and what do you do?” is limited. I have learned how to set boundaries in advance, how to spread my presence across my community so the weight falls on more people and how to design the supportive community of my dreams.
Solutions for these three layers of loss, which I have been exploring, are found in my 3 Pillars to Affluence 1-on-1 consulting program. Pillar 1 is knowing and leveraging your affluence code. Pillar 2 is getting clear on your wants, needs and desires in the five areas of affluence. Pillar 3 is designing the supportive community you long for by design, including boundaries against hurtful advice. If this resonates with you and you are curious to learn about how I can support you 1-on-1, let’s talk about it – 20-minute complimentary call
Wow! Really powerful. Congratulations on crafting a message that I think will resonate with a lot of people who have suffered a loss, either recent or many years ago, but may not have worked through the three layers of loss.
I’d also be interested in your thoughts on how people’s affluence code influences how they deal with loss: Stuff it and move on? Anger — why me? Self-protection — guarding against loving again? What else? Obviously, such strategies interfere with the ability to create a new, vibrant, satisfying life. And I assume that there would be different solutions based on each individual’s affluence code.
Good stuff. Thanks for sharing your work through blog posts, consulting, speaking, and any other communication tool that works.
I just found out that David passed away.
I had been away for most of 2016.
what a great loss I feel. I was fortunate to know David from the ASL and then the Salmagundi shows and had a studio across the park from his on Union Square back in the 1990’s and early 2000s.
David was so full of talent, fun and enthusiasm. He had a big generous personality and that tremendous sensitivity. He was full of mishcheif and even with all that, one sensed that the private soul inside him was tender. He always made me feel happy, every time I was lucky enough to see him.
I will always remember David Pena, the tall looming figure with the beautiful smile and the kindness he always showed me. The classic dapper artists artist.
Heaven got an angel back and I will miss him.
I am deeply sorry for your loss and ours.
Loss, like life, is complicated and complex. Negotiating its layers is a superhuman task, and a human one. You speak of your journey with eloquence. Know that you are guiding others, that you are our model for ways to live and survive and flourish — not with perfection, but with reality.
Thank you, Yosi. I always appreciate your comments so much.