My cousin died on a subway train two days ago.

When his sister called to share the news, she did so in a small, weak voice. For a second I had no idea who she was talking about so I asked, “Who?” And she said, “My brother!” At moments like these, words are inadequate to express the mix of emotions that arise. With the mention of his name came a flood of memories. In my mind’s eye I could see him—vibrant, full of life, with a huge smile on his face. He laughed like no one I have ever known. I remember it as a kind of roar that was so infectious, anyone within range of it couldn’t help but burst into side-splitting laughter. Whenever he entered a room, he brought a joie de vivre—he was larger than life. Though we didn’t see each other often, I always enjoyed being around him!

Since the news of his passing, I’ve been in a bit of a daze; in fact, our whole family has. I’ve been tearful and I’ve experienced a range of emotions from shock to sadness to disbelief to deep compassion for his children and siblings to being hopeful that he was treated with kindness by the strangers who were in the subway car that was his ride home that final night of his 65 years.

As I allowed myself to feel each emotion without judgment, I was reminded of Tia’s story from the book I co-authored, The Freedom Zone: Your Gateway to Love, Liberty and Happiness. Tia had experienced a series of unspeakable losses in close succession and she shared how she was able to deal with the loss of Freedom that inevitably arises when she thinks of the family she has buried.

I feel I have a choice about how I approach each moment, since that’s all I have anyway. I’ve always enjoyed my family, made time for them and appreciated them while they lived. And I was always aware that nothing lasts forever. Death is a natural part of life, so I made it my business to deal with things as they came up.

When my sons died, I missed them terribly and still do. When I think of them, I allow myself to feel whatever emotion is there. Sometimes it’s sadness and tears. Other times it might be feeling happy when I think of some funny moments. Whatever it is, I get in touch with those feelings right then and there. I don’t suppress, repress or resist them in any way and I’m never embarrassed to show these feelings when they occur. I find this is quite liberating.

Then I choose not to dwell there, and focus on the things I appreciate about my life and living now. I see life as an adventure, filled with wonder and a chance to learn new things. So whatever shows up, I go with it, as I am always curious about what life will bring and what I’ll learn next. This makes me feel alive. And then finally, the fact is, I’m still alive so I might as well be happy in the process.

I will keep this in mind in the days, weeks, months and years to come, when I experience the grief of losing my beloved cousin.

Thank you, Tia, for sharing your Freedom practice in the face of the ultimate loss!