“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”— Louis L’Amour
Life is a journey filled with twists and turns that challenge us in unexpected ways. Sometimes we live through simultaneous seasons of immense joy and pain. I have experienced this in my own life and witnessed it through the stories of many of my patients.
The year 2023 began with a significant milestone for my family — settling into our long-awaited new home in a beautiful new city — which was quickly overshadowed by the profound loss of my father-in-love, and then my grandfather. No matter how closely I’ve work with death, nothing can fully prepare you for when it comes knocking on your family’s door.
Navigating new beginnings and coping with endings can be overwhelming, and yet these are the experiences that can bring us closer to the essence of what life truly is. In this blog post, I’ll explore the connections I’ve learned between new beginnings and endings, and how we can gracefully navigate life’s twists and turns as they arise.
The Biggest Similarity Between Beginnings and Endings
My father-in-love was diagnosed with a serious blood cancer at the same time we had just put our old home up for sale 18 months ago. His diagnosis came just as the chaos of the COVID pandemic was ending and we were finally able to see our families again after spending almost two years apart. And then, just like that, shortly after moving into our new home at the beginning of this year, he passed away.
I used to think beginnings and endings were opposites. Yet, with the more lived experiences I’ve gained I’ve come to realize that they have more in common than most of us realize. They often mark a change in the trajectory of our lives, and I have experienced many of them — whether it be having a baby (or two!), making a career change, losing a loved one, dealing with your own health challenges, or navigating a big move.
Beginnings and endings are both filled with immense uncertainty and possibility at the same time, requiring us to adapt to the new changes in our lives.
And the biggest similarity I’ve learned: They are one and the same. Every beginning has an end, and every end marks a new beginning. And so, I’ve embraced the perspective that regardless of beginning or end, life is always happening for me, not to me.
The Emotional Rollercoaster of Beginnings and Endings
New beginnings and endings bring on a range of emotions — excitement, anticipation, anxiety, sadness, grief, and sometimes a mix of all of the above. Sometimes the endings are intentional. For example, deciding to leave a job or making a big move. Other times, they’re not, like when you lose a loved one.
One important thing to keep in mind is that when you make a decision to intentionally end something in your life, it’s not necessarily the wrong decision just because you feel bad about it. Read that again because it was a hard one for me to understand at first.
These emotions are a natural part of the process of change, intentional or unintentional, and can be harnessed to help us move forward with strength and resilience. But we must first acknowledge them, feel them, and have grace for ourselves for the season of life we are in.
As we approach 2024, I invite you to join me in reflecting on what aspects of your life could benefit from some change. Are there intentional decisions that you need to muster the courage to make, even if they will initially make you feel uncomfortable? And if you make that change, how will it change your life for the better?
The Beauty in End of Life
Even after years of working in palliative care, I can say that my father-in-love’s physical end-of-life journey was one of the most profoundly beautiful experiences I have ever witnessed. Despite the difficulty, it was a testament to the power of love and forgiveness, and the beauty that can be found in embracing this physical life’s final moments.
And I say “physical life” because, through my experience working with people in their final days Earth-side, I’ve been privileged to witness some magical insights into what may be the beginning of a new journey as this physical life ends. And there is a lot of peace in knowing that. And that is a story for another post.
For now, I’ll say that physical endings can be incredibly challenging, especially when we lose someone we love. And still, they can also be beautiful in their own way, especially when we approach them with grace and gratitude. One of the most profound and beautiful experiences in life is witnessing a celebration of a legacy and honoring a life that has been lived. And because of these experiences, I often remind my patients and their families of the importance of fully living in the present moment and cherishing the time that we have, because there is no crystal ball to tell us when our time will be up.
There are several ways to remain present, find healing, and achieve closure throughout the process. Gathering with loved ones, sharing stories, finding moments of laughter and tears, creating memorabilia to honor the legacy, and providing support to one another are all essential components of navigating grief. And if the grief becomes more complicated, then know there is more help for you.
How Beginnings and Endings Shape Us
Beginnings and endings are ultimately not about where we end up but rather who we become in the process. This month, I’ve been reflecting on this past year — I’ve lost some loved ones, gained a new home and a community of beautiful friends, parented solo for multiple days and juggled busy school routines, and I’ve seen so many new opportunities come my way, including the birth of this blog, “Awaken Your Wellness.” And each experience somehow made me grow, learn, and transform into an even more resilient and adaptable person, mother, wife, daughter, and physician.
When I take a moment to reflect on who and where I was 5 or 10 years ago, I can say that each year I have only grown and evolved in ways I never could have imagined. When faced with a new beginning, we can discover parts of ourselves we never knew existed, and when we experience an ending, we can reflect on the lessons we’ve learned and how we’ve grown.
Take a moment to reflect on 2023, what were some of the beginnings and ends in your life? How did they shape you into who you are today?
Life is a journey, full of twists and turns that we call beginnings and endings. They are deeply intertwined with each other and, in my opinion, they are one and the same. Every beginning has an end, and every end marks a new beginning. Although they can make us feel a whirlwind of emotions, they offer opportunities for personal growth and transformation. Embracing the uncertainty and possibility that these phases bring can lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
So, as we navigate this one precious life, let us embrace every turn and cherish every moment, knowing that both new beginnings and endings have something valuable to teach us. Cheers to a beautiful end to 2023 and a new beginning in 2024.