21 Lessons I Learned From the Worst Year of My Life


By Nicole Bandes

Founder, CEO of Virtual A Team

Read more by Nicole

As everyone else is celebrating the birth of our nation. I and my family will be mourning the loss of a loved one. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the day my bonus* son was killed in a head on car crash just 3 weeks shy of his 18th birthday. Earlier in the year, I had to endure the amputation of my favorite dog's leg after having watched her being hit by a truck. While that experience didn't compare, it seemed to set the tone for 2013. 2013 was the worst year of my life.

But I made it through. My family has made it through. In some ways, we are stronger for the experiences. In others, there is still a large piece of us that is missing and it always will be.

For a couple of weeks, I've been thinking of ways I could honor Brad on the day everyone else is enjoying fireworks. I still don't know what is the right way to do that.  What I do know, is that I've learned a lot over the last 18 months. I've learned a lot about others and even more about myself.  And, if I can do nothing else, I can share some of what I've learned in an attempt to continue to seek meaning and purpose from these experiences because our time is short. Sometimes too short.

Lessons I've learned in the past year.

  1. Never wonder how it could get any worse. It can. (See #4).
  2. It's OK to ask for help when you really need it. In fact, people really want to know how they can help.
  3. Being a "step" mom doesn't make it hurt any less.
  4. People will sometimes say the dumbest things but they almost always mean well.
  5. Never take for granted that you know someone. You often don't know the most important things until they are gone.
  6. Saying, "I don't know what to say," is better than not saying anything.
  7. It's OK to be vulnerable.
  8. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just breathe. The moment will pass. It might take a month and it might come back, but it will pass.
  9. No one's experience is quite like yours. Don't assume they are the same or that one is any better or worse than the other.
  10. When you have a purpose, it makes things easier. Sometimes you won't know what that purpose is until you've unwrapped the ugly paper.
  11. The world goes on, with or without you.
  12. It's OK to laugh and it's OK to cry and you don't have to say you are sorry.
  13. Life is easier when you are with loved ones.
  14. I have some amazing gifts to give.
  15. You can't just CHOOSE to be OK, you have to let yourself feel what you feel.
  16. I'm going to be OK. 

I'm sad. I will continue to be. But I'm OK. I only sometimes break down in tears and the most random of moments any more. Usually, it's when I'm sharing my story and hoping it helps someone else. I know that it isn't any good to hope that no one ever has to go through the pain we have experienced. Instead, I will hope that I can be there for them when they need me and that I can help others to be there for their loved ones when they are most needed. I hope that I can help people to never risk regret. That kind of regret that says "I coulda, I shoulda, I woulda if only there had been more time." There's never enough time. All we can do is make the most of the time we have right now.

So here's my biggest lesson I learned from the worst year of my life.


It would truly be an honor if you would consider sharing this post with someone.
Maybe my experience can be helpful to them.

*Bonus Son - I've never liked the term stepson so I have always called my husband's son my bonus. However,   I no longer call him my bonus son. He was my son in every sense of the word except that I did not give birth to him.

P.S. - This post originally appeared on another blog of mine. It is, however, one of my most popular so I have chosen to reshare it here in hopes of having more people experience it.