How my widowhood journey at 28 helped me to become a successful entrepreneur. Picture yourself at twenty-eight. You were young, full of life, excitement about the future around every corner, building your career, married, settling down and either already well into motherhood or gearing up for it….pretty close? On top of all of that, you probably had a bit of an ego, just a bit. Enough of an ego so that you thought that your tool box of life skills was plumb full and you could handle anything that life threw at you.
Yeah me too…well, almost anyway.
On March 1st, 2006 my 30 year old husband of not quite 3 years, Trevor, died suddenly and unexpectedly.
My fairytale life came crashing down around me faster than a screaming rollercoaster. Not only was the love of my life gone from this earth in the blink of an eye, so was the future I thought I was going to have along with the financial security that his ‘bread winning’ career brought to our life. Our ongoing joke was that he paid more in taxes in a year than I made in the Travel Industry.
If you’re an Entrepreneur, you will agree with me that we are a gritty bunch. We HAVE to have grit and tenacity to be successful, business will chew us up and spit us out if not.
I am the person I am today because of his death, my grief and the asshole ‘friends’ that weren’t there for me when I needed them most. By now, maybe you’re drawing your own conclusions about how these two are related and I’m guessing it goes a little like this…”You’re SO strong”.
Am I close?
Well just hold on there sister, I’m going to share with you the real reasons of how being widowed at the ripe age of twenty eight taught me to be a fierce, compassionate, committed, humble Entrepreneur. You will likely be surprised to see how the lessons from his death are actually common lessons that most people can relate to their own lives.
Ya ya ya…call it a cliche all you want!! I am fully aware of how much this word gets thrown around these days…everyone is ‘so blessed’ and ‘so grateful’ all over social media but when you get down to it and actually practice Daily Gratitude, your entire life changes.
You see when I started focusing on finding reasons to express my gratitude and consistently appreciating the small things in life, it was nearly impossible to take those small things, and subsequently, the big things for granted.
I took my marriage and my husband and my perfectly planned future for granted and then one day it was all gone, just like that. Can you imagine what that feels like? If you’ve ever lost someone very close to you that meant a lot to you, you’ll understand that gut wrenching feeling of ‘why didn’t I say I love you one more time?’ and ‘why were we too lazy to do something special on Valentine’s Day?’.
So, yeah, Gratitude is a real thing, not just an Insta hashtag in my world. When I started really paying attention to where my gratitude was being expressed, something crazy started happening in my business; it started to grow and started to feel easier. As if that wasn’t enough, I started to like myself more and feel like there was so much more to life.
This has been a more recent development and realization in my life. It actually came to me through the lyrics of one of my favourite singers, P!nk and it nearly knocked me off my feet!
“I’ve already seen the bottom so there’s nothing left to fear”
Yup, I’ve definitely seen and even lived on the bottom. The day Trevor died, I got a call at work from a Social Worker at the hospital asking me to come down because my husband had been brought in by ambulance. The entire drive over to the hospital, I had no fear at all. When I was led into ‘that’ little room in the back, I still had no fear. When the doctor leaned across the table and said “I’m so sorry, we weren’t able to save him, your husband has died”, I still had no fear. I planned a funeral, submitted life insurance claims and picked up his ashes and I had no fear.
In my business I allowed the fear of rejection to hold me back, to stop me. I allowed the fear of judgement to hold me back. I even allowed my fear of success to stop me in my tracks more than I care to admit.
HOW was this possible? In all honesty, I can’t tell you, I just don’t know. What P!nk’s lyrics reminded me was that I have absolutely nothing left to fear, I’ve already experienced the worst life had to offer me so it was time for me to let go of the fear and embrace the adventure of entrepreneurship.
As an Entrepreneur, I know that I have become POWERFUL in my pursuit of success and growth because I have no reason to fear the unknown. The unknown is the most exciting part of the adventure!
What Is My Legacy?
Have you ever written a eulogy? Most people will probably answer that with a strong NO…fair enough. I insisted on writing Trevor’s eulogy and insisted on sharing it at his memorial. You might ask yourself “why would she do that?” and even more mind boggling is ‘how’…that is a whole other story! The WHY is significant.
Trevor was only thirty years old when he left this earth but he was a special guy. We actually ended up holding two memorial services in different cities and there were hundreds of people at each. One of his Trade School instructors from more than ten years earlier arrived unannounced and spoke at one of the services. What’s the significance of this story? He left a legacy. Someone else that spoke at one of the services said this:
“He lived so loud, his echo will never fade”
The fact that this guy that I married and loved and lost had left such a stamp on the world, inspires me daily to build my own legacy. I know now that my legacy is not what I’m leaving for people, it is what I’m leaving in people. Widowhood gave me a deep understanding of this and because my husband left such a strong legacy of love, joy, adventure and knowledge, I strive daily in my business to touch people’s lives in the same way.
Living my life and running my business with this desire of building a legacy is like having the North Star to follow on a dark night. It is the brightness on darker days, it’s the happy song after a string of ballads, it’s like a second piece of chocolate cake without a belly ache! Knowing and feeling that my actions everyday are going to impact somebody else in a positive way fills me up and drives me to do more of that. The saying: “We Rise by Lifting Others” is relevant in everyday life as well as in my business. I’ve learned through my quest to leave a legacy like Trevor’s that when I keep my focus on lifting others up, I get to rise with them.
How My Widowhood Journey at 28 Helped Me To Become A Successful Entrepreneur
So that leads me back to How My Widowhood Journey at 28 Helped Me To Become A Successful Entrepreneur. In short, I’ve grown into a deeper, more humble, more appreciative, less selfish person and business owner because my husband died. I have experienced this growth, not because I set out to become a better person but because I had to grow through the pain and anguish if I wanted my life to move forward and at twenty eight…I wanted my life to move forward!
All of these lessons, and dozens more have brought me to the place I am now almost thirteen years later. My compassion has grown but my tolerance for excuses has not…excuses from myself or from my clients. I have learned that it is possible to hold people up and walk with them while Coaching them on their health journey but I can still hold them accountable to themselves and their goals. The journey through widowhood led me to my career and lessons I continue to learn because of it are what have helped me be successful in that career. I’m not grateful that I became a widow at such a young age, but I’m grateful that I was open enough to learn the lessons and experience the growth that I have because of it.
Robyn Ostlund lives in Kimberley, BC Canada with her ‘Chapter 2’ husband, Kevin and their fur baby Miss Harley, the Jack Russel. Mountain life is pretty much what you would expect – daily skiing in the winter, mountain biking, running and time on the lake during the summer. Working online and through her social medial channels has allowed Robyn to live the active lifestyle that sets her soul on fire! Alongside being a Wellness Coach, she is also a passionate Personal Trainer and Mentor to other female entrepreneurs building businesses through the world of social media.
To connect with Robyn you can find her here: