Death can come in many forms throughout our life. It is something that we all inevitably experience and pick lessons from at some point. Patrick Veroneau shares his experiences of death in three aspects: physical death, death of a relationship, and death of a career. While loss can bring great despair, Patrick has learned that it also creates an opportunity for growth. In this episode, He opens up about these three losses and shares the invaluable life lessons he’s learned in the process.
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How 3 Deaths Have Continued To Provide Life Lessons
Loss Can Provide The Greatest Lessons To Move Forward If We Are Open To Them.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about the lessons we can learn from loss. I know it’s painful when we’re in it but if we look back, oftentimes those are the areas where we have grown. I’m going to talk to you about three losses or three deaths that have continued to provide learning opportunities for me as I’ve grown. One is the death of my parents at a very young age, one is the death of my first marriage in my late twenties, and the last is the death of my career in my late 30s or just about turning 40. Each one of those is a lesson that has been learned. Let’s get into it.
Physical Death: Loss Of A Loved One
This episode is about the lessons that we learned from loss. Particularly, I’m going to talk about three different losses in my own life or as I’ve come to term them, three different deaths that I’ve experienced that continue to provide me with learning opportunities throughout my life. The first one was the loss of my parents. I was seventeen when my mother passed away of breast cancer. I was a junior in high school. About a year and a half later, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which was in August of 1987. I was on my way to Fordham University for my freshman year. Anybody that knows anything about pancreatic cancer knows how vicious that can be. It was certainly a very short period of time before he passed away to that cancer in December of that year, my freshman year, while I was in New York City.
As I reflect back on that now, there were a couple of things that I learned through that and continue to learn lessons from. One was in regards to loss. That was my first experience with the loss of that magnitude, especially a year and a half apart. It was a very difficult time for me. I reflect back on these things now, even when my mother was passing away. I vividly remember she had been sick for a little over a year and a half. I remember as a sophomore, every night going to bed, on my dresser, there was a record player and the record that I had was George Winston. It was an instrumental record. I remember listening to one particular song, which was Thanksgiving on his album December, and crying every night as I was getting ready to go to sleep, as I was in my room in the dark, thinking about that loss. I never talked about it with anybody or my parents as well. It was never a conversation. It was this thing that I held to myself.Accountability is taking ownership of your actions or lack of actions. Click To Tweet
Going on, losing my mother on St. Patrick’s Day of 1986, was a tough time, and then going only a year and a half later, losing my dad to pancreatic cancer was devastating to me at that time. As I look back on that now, what did I learn from that loss? Certainly, I learned the importance of not taking things for granted in regards to family. I look at that with my own family and certainly with our siblings and I am very conscious of that now. Certainly, I don’t always take advantage of those opportunities. I think sometimes I lose sight of the importance of that but overall, one thing that has been very important to me in my own family is how important are these little things. As many times as we can sit down at the dinner table and eat together when sports or something else doesn’t seem to get in the way. How important is saying grace at dinner and being thankful for the time that we have together.
That was certainly something that’s important to us as a family growing up. We certainly didn’t eat a lot of times together because of all the different directions that people were going in. One thing that I learned from that is to appreciate family. The other thing that I learned through that process, especially after my dad passed away and I was at Fordham University, was how to deal with loneliness. I look back on that now and prior to my dad getting sick, in my senior year in high school, I felt I had the tiger by the tail. I was president of my class. I was captain of the hockey team. I had won numerous awards in regards to my last year playing football in Academic All-State. I had a lot of popularity. I ended up at Fordham partly because of the circumstances I was under.
I had no friends. I had no interactions with a lot of people there. I had a roommate that went home during the weekends and I was alone most of that time. I had a sister that fortunately lived in Bronxville, which was only about twenty minutes away, taking the Metro-North. I would spend much of my time there and she was a great support, her and her husband, Peter, my brother-in-law. I can remember being on campus, and for the first time in my life realizing there was a sense of loneliness. This was not just about being alone. This was a real sense of loneliness of sitting at a lunch table by myself and not having conversations with anybody, which was so contrary to who I was.
What I learned from that was how important it was to get comfortable with Patrick and who I was. That was the first time that I had ever had an opportunity to reflect on who I was. I learned so much from that in terms of being comfortable and reliant on myself, and also being comfortable in my own skin. That was the start of it. It’s continued through then in terms of becoming more comfortable, but that was the beginning of it. It was a recognition of not relying on other people as much, not in a bad way but realizing that for my own happiness and wellbeing, I had to figure this out for myself too. It was very important. Loss and loneliness were the two things that I’ve learned most from the loss of my parents, how to deal with both of those and the importance of how to appreciate what you have.
Relationship Death: Loss Of A Marriage
The next was the death of my first marriage. I had a ten-month-old son, Josh at that time. This was something again that I had never expected. I never saw it even coming. The two things that I learned from that experience and in some regards, the loss of that first marriage at that point in my life was more devastating than the loss of my parents. The reason being was that this was a death that was living still. There was a failure that was recognized from that. What I learned from that loss at that point were two things. One was the importance of listening, a skill that I didn’t do a very good job of in terms of understanding how to listen. I could hear really well as it related to how to make my argument but I didn’t listen well. The other part was around accountability. It’s taking responsibility for my role in the failure of that relationship.
A couple of things come to mind. One, I had been involved in a retreat with a priest named Father Vincent Youngberg. It was shortly before all of this started going down in regards to me realizing that I was going to be getting divorced. He was out in New York City specifically. I remember calling and explaining to him the situation that I was under. I was looking at him to take my side. I will never forget he said, “You’re both at fault for this.” It hit me right in the gut when he said that. I wanted to blame my ex-wife for the problems that we had in going through this divorce that it wasn’t me, but I’d shared in that. I had responsibility for that. That was a beginning for me to understand accountability in a way of taking ownership for my actions or lack of actions. As it relates to listening or understanding how important it is to listen, not just hear but listen to where the other person is. Do I do this all the time?
Am I a perfectionist or an expert at listening? No, I’m human but I know certainly when I’m not really listening, I see the results or lack of positive results that come from that. It gives me an opportunity to realize that I need to do a better job of that. Unfortunately, that’s something that I’ve learned in my relationships. I remember as soon as that conversation happened with Father Vincent Youngberg, I remember getting a book called, His Needs, Her Needs. I’m not even sure who the author was at this point, but that was an opportunity for me to take accountability to say that any relationship I was going to go into next time was not going to look the same way. I was going to take responsibility for creating a positive relationship. That was going to be my goal. That was in my late twenties when I went through that.
As I look back on that now with my wife, Cindy, we’ve been together for many years. I know that because of that first experience that I had, I am certainly a much better husband, partner and teammate than I could have been, had I not gone through that. It was a lesson in a loss that needed to happen for me. I’m happy to say that we’ve been together happily with my oldest son, Josh, and two other siblings, Noah and Grace. Those first two losses, my parents and marriage, have created a much stronger family bond that I have.We create the environment that we’re in, either positively or negatively. Click To Tweet
Career Death: Losing A Job
The last is the death of my career. I came from the biotech industry and I’d been in that industry for almost fifteen years. I was so focused on success and improving my skillset. I would read constantly different studies and different approaches. I would dig deeper than I had to or than I was expected to in regards to understanding disease states, but also understanding behaviors, relationships, communication, and how would we effectively get along with each other in an industry that was very suspicious. Physicians certainly, were not ones that were very trusting of the pharmaceutical industry, yet I managed to maintain very strong relationships that I continue to leverage in my own business. It is because of the skillsets that I learned while I was in the industry in terms of focus.
Losing my job at that point in 2008 during the crash made me focus on control of myself. I had always been in a place of thinking if I do the right things all the time and work hard, I’ll be taken care of at this organization. I realized after that one event that you couldn’t rely on an organization. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t work at an organization and have loyalty to them, it forced me to think much differently about what I wanted for my future and how I want it to grow. I recognized at that point that I had the opportunity, the ability and the resourcefulness to leverage the strengths that I had and go out on my own. That’s what I did.
I learned in that period the power of relationships. That has developed a lot of the models that I use. One is C.A.B.L.E.S that I am continually referencing. That is a model that is certainly backed in research but also, is backed in a lot of personal experiences in regards to the relationships that I’ve developed with clients, my family and my community. Those behaviors that I speak to are ones that I believe are essential and timeless to helping us navigate conflict, to gain agreement, and inspire others to lead.
In the loss as well of that career, I learned about possibilities. My eyes were opened to all of the other things that were out there that I could do to make an impact on. If there’s one thing that I struggle with or disappointed with or saddened by at times is when I see individuals that have so much to offer and they allow themselves to talk themselves out of taking risks. They diminish their own value when they don’t do that. That’s one of the other things that I do in my work. It’s to try and help people to understand how important is their mindset. They create their environment, we all do it. Like it or not, we create the environment that we’re in either positively or negatively.
Certainly, that doesn’t mean that things have always gone my way. As you’ve seen, in my 20s, 30s, 40s, all have had challenges and I’m sure there will be more. The importance of this is that I can look back on these things if I were to equate this to my GPS and know that I’ve dealt with these things before. My past is my power here. I have an opportunity with my internal GPS to recalculate the challenges that will come up in the future, whether they’re relationship challenges with my children, with clients, with my wife. I have the choice of what do I want to happen next. What behaviors will I model to create the environment that I want to see happen within that? That’s about many of those things. Appreciating loss, being comfortable with who I am, being able to listen, holding myself accountable for my actions and responsibility in the situations that I’m in, and recognizing that I have control over this. I might not always feel it at the moment but I do have control over this, and you do too.
I’m sure all of you reading this right now have your own deaths that you’ve experienced in your life. As painful as they are, my challenge to you is to look back on those things and tease out what the lessons are that will help you to navigate forward to create a better environment for yourself and for those around you. I hope you found this episode helpful. I hope there’s a pearl that you were able to pull out of here. If you do know somebody that you think would benefit from this, I would ask, forward this on to them. As always, if you haven’t subscribed, please go on and subscribe. It would mean the world to me as well if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode that I have because that’s how this message continues to get out there. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to lead like no other and you’re able to rise above your best.