This week, on WITH WHIT, Ryan Manion joined me to discuss her inspiring journey with grief. Losing a family member or someone you love is the most devastating thing that can happen to a person. You are left with grief that you have absolutely no control over.
I grieve for my dad every single day and think about him constantly. It is a pain I know I will have for the rest of my life. When you lose someone you love, your life changes immediately. Ryan Manion is helping others navigate their new lives of grief. She has dedicated her life to supporting our nation’s military, veterans, and families of fallen heroes. She is inspired by the character, leadership, and sacrifice of her brother 1st Lt. Travis Manion, USMC, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Al Anbar province of Iraq while drawing fire away from his wounded comrades on April 29th, 2007. She honors his life and sacrifice with The Travis Manion Foundation. TMF strives to unite and strengthen communities by training, developing, and highlighting the role models that lead them. They develop programs, training opportunities, and events designed to empower veterans and families of the fallen, and then inspire them to pass on their values to the next generation and the community at large. Additionally, she (along with Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan) released a book titled “The Knock at the Door: Three Gold Star Families Bonded by Grief and Purpose.” See below for more information on this inspiring book! I was so moved and comforted by our conversation. I hope you are too. To listen to the full episode, see one of the links below! Everyone grieves differently, but we all need strong support and love to move forward.
Listen to the episode at one of the links below:
A Note From Ryan Manion
It’s a moment that time seems to stand still. If we live long enough and love hard enough will all have to answer a ‘knock at the door.’ That knock could be the loss of a loved one, a medical diagnosis, the loss of a job, betrayal of a spouse, a tragic accident, the effects of a natural disaster or anything that creates a void that feels insurmountable. But we distinguish ourselves by how we respond to that knock and what we choose to do next.
Dealing with grief is a battle we all will likely fight at some point in our lives, and we will come to a moment when we determine what kind of person we will be moving forward: the kind who is broken by tragedy, the kind who is defined by it, or the kind who is strengthened by it. You never stop grieving, but that feeling eventually changes. The key is to try being the best version of yourself as a way to grow from that tragedy.
For me, it was a literal knock at the door that was like a gut punch to my family on April 29th, 2007, when we were informed that my brother, Marine 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion had been killed while on his second deployment to Iraq. Over the past 12 years since losing Travis, I’ve had highs and lows, and have been able to learn so much about myself throughout this journey. I now wake up every day with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the time I have in this world. My co-authors have had similar experiences, and each channeled their grief in different ways, like humor and service.
We all will struggle at some point in this life. Our challenge is to struggle well. None of us know how to do grief right, or believe that there is only one right way to do it. We certainly know how to do it wrong though, having felt anger and depression, leaned on unhealthy coping mechanisms, or abandoned friendships when we probably needed them the most. Sharing the lessons we’ve learned through our grief journeys is something that we feel is not exclusive to military families who’ve lost a loved one in service but for anyone who has had to deal with major adversity.
EMBRACE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
While it may feel like all you want to do is isolate yourself from the world, it is our family, friends, and loved ones that can help us navigate through our darkest times, but we need to let them. You are only one person and don’t need to fight this battle alone. Embrace those who stand by your side because they will help you take those first steps forward in your new direction.
I admittedly had no idea how strong and resilient I could be. I’m not the same woman I was when my brother was still here, and he would be so proud of who I’ve become. But I regret that it took losing my brother for me to become the best version of myself. We all have a limited time on this earth, so dream big, and then go after it with everything you’ve got. You owe that to yourself, and to all those who are part of your support system that want to see you maximize your potential and be the best version of yourself starting today.
FAILURE IS A BRUISE, NOT A TATTOO
Failure is a crushing feeling. You’re left thinking you’re worthless, no good, or undeserving. But our failures do not define us, they are simply part of the process of becoming the best version of ourselves. We learn from failures, improve ourselves, and then become better prepared to overcome adversity when it arises. We then realize that with each failure, we’re closer to our next success and reaching that light at the end of the tunnel.
IF NOT ME, THEN WHO
Loss can have a staggering impact on our lives. It can push us to be cold, distant, and fearful, forever asking why this happened and blaming the world for being unfair. Loss can also turn us outward towards our friends, loved ones, and community, enriching our relationships and gratitude while opening our eyes to opportunities we never knew existed. By channeling grief into service, the tragedy we experienced can eventually become our biggest triumph. It can reveal our true character and the best versions of ourselves by inspiring us to find a new sense of purpose. Being part of something bigger than yourself gives you that sense of belonging, the feeling that you are inspiring others, and serving the greater good.
“The Knock at the Door” is not about loss, but more focused on how we deal with grief and use it to move forward in our lives. While my knock at the door was literal, I learned that it did not define me. Through the tragedy of losing my brother Travis, I was not without my own struggles. However, honoring Travis gave me a sense of purpose. I learned there was fight left in me. Whatever your knock at the door is, I hope you can find comfort, growth, and inspiration in knowing that you will respond imperfectly. And by allowing yourself to be vulnerable in that moment, you’ll find the untapped strength and courage you never knew you had.
More Amazing Quotes From The Knock At The Door
- What you don’t know can’t hurt you. Sometimes, being naive can be a blessing. If we allow fear and self-doubt to constantly overcome us, we will never know our own strength and what we are capable of.
- Embrace your support system. Our relationships with family, friends, and loved ones are They protect us, support us and lift us up. Don’t go through life’s moments alone. Lean on your support system.
- Don’t wait. Don’t wait to challenge yourself. Don’t wait to be bold and fearless. Use your support system to face those challenges, or chase your dreams and goals. This can open the door to finding the best version of yourself.
- Don’t use a jackhammer when a chisel will do. Some problems are not best addressed by running directly at it like a jackhammer. Instead, let intention be the chisel to help you face problems that arise.
- It’s not “either/or.” It’s “both/and.” Intention does not replace goals and ambitions. When we commit to a goal, it is fueled by discipline and focus, but that goal is nourished by intention.
- Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo. Failure can be crushing, if we let it. Or, we can accept our failures as a stage in the process. We can learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves. Our next success is never too far off in the distance.
- Don’t confuse empathy with pity. Those who have experienced the loss of a loved one do not want pity. Take an opportunity to learn their stories and the stories of their loved ones.
- Choose courage. We have this one life and we are going to get knocked down. We have to stand back up. Take each victory and push forward. Have the courage and confidence to try something new, even though you may fail.
- Building a new present does not whitewash your past. We will always carry scars from our past, but we can find joy in the present. We can accept the difficulties of our past; not forget them.
- You never know what you’re being prepared for; so be present and have faith. We must trust that life is preparing us for something we need and will benefit from. When life does send us a challenge, or even a recurring challenge, try to be present in your current situation and think about what you are meant to learn.
- Your dream may be taken away from you tomorrow. Dream anyway. It hurts like hell when a dream is ripped away, but the joyful anticipation a dream can bring is half the fun.
- Be patient with yourself. You are a work in progress. Each day is a new day and there are days we all fall short of the person we want to be. It is okay for us to show some mercy towards ourselves.
- Do one thing-today- to set yourself up for success tomorrow. We are on this earth to live, not to just endure. If we can all find one small thing each day to remind us that we are alive our lives will be richer and we can discover joy.
- If you expect to see the good or you expect to see the bad, you will. We all know that reminders of sad times can be found anywhere, but so can the happy times…we just need to be intentional in looking for them.
- Have a sense of humor. Humor can be a powerful lifeline throughout dark times, and laughter is always more fun than crying.
- Choose your friends and your role models carefully. You’ll begin to see yourself reflected in them. Think about the principles that you find the most valuable, and find people who live by them.