Grief stays with us, but so does love.

This is your 12th birthday in heaven, somewhere over the rainbows. Just like every birthday since your first one in heaven, I baked you something special to celebrate. Something sweet, to remember your sweet soul by.

Your doll, loving you forever.

Grief doesn’t come with a handbook or a set of instructions. There’s no guaranteed way out of grief or a right way to grieve. Some of us mourn longer than others and find a way to move forward, some of us simply live in denial, some of us ache in the silent void. While we all deal with it in different ways, grief stays with you.

My dad’s birthday is one of those many occasions where I feel the tears but I also feel the sun shining down on me.

12 years on, the sadness of losing my father still consumes me. There are days when I feel sad but mostly okay. There are also days when my heart aches with longing. Every now and then, the loss feels so heavy in the room. But then again, so does his presence. In those moments, his memory is reassuring. Our memories together are comforting. While the grief feels endless, our love is eternal.

This joyful day is a reminder that grief stays with us, but so does love.

Through my own lived experience, grief is born out of love. We grieve because we love with all our heart and soul. It is the love we so deeply feel and want to share but cannot. The way I see it, grief…is love. Love that presents itself in different forms – the loss of a loved one, heartbreak, loss of a job, loss of good health. Loss that stems from love – for a person, for our passion, for our life. It is all this love we have to give, that hurts most.

It’s okay to hold on to this grief and love and take it with you wherever you may go. For it moulds you and helps you grow. The loss hurts but love heals. It took me a long time to grow in grief and understand its impact on the self and life. To understand that love wins over grief. And that the light does find us after the loss.

I didn’t understand it at first. I was angry, I was hurting, I was in pain. But when the sun finally rises again the next day, and then again the day after that, I rose too. It hurt at first but eventually, it felt okay. It didn’t feel great, it never does but I felt okay. And okay is a good place to be.

If you’re grieving, no matter the loss, know that the light will find you. Know that the love still stays with you. Even as you experience grief in the best way you know how, we are all with you.

May we grow in grief and may the love live within us. May it strengthen us, may it hold us, may it heal us.

Twenty twenty, lead the way

Turn your existential crisis into an existential celebration.

We’re a month into 2020 but I can’t help reflecting on the year gone by. I think back to who I was last year and I see someone unsure and disconnected. I see someone lost for purpose. I walked into 2019 with the promise of change and growth, I often found myself in devastating lows. I found myself constatly wanting to “get there”, with no idea of where “there” was. Was it finding a job? Was it finding security in my relationship? Was it finding a permanent home? It was a bit of everything, layered in confusion and fear.

A year later, I see myself answering those questions and feeling renewed with a sense of purpose. 2019 may have started with a lot of questions but it ended with beautiful highs and in chasing joy. It was a year of lessons – for the mind, body and soul. It was a year that made me dig deep and wide, and explore myself in ways I didn’t think possible. It was a year that peeled my layers closer to the version of me I would like to be. 

In 2019, I got real. I got real with my expectations of the world and those of me. I got real with what I was seeking. I got real with how to stand up for myself. More importantly, I got real with how to stand up to myself.

It is incredible to see how you can grow when you ride the wave instead of succumbing to fear. Whether that’s fear of change or failure, it’s equally stifling. Letting go of that fear is just as liberating. I found I was still cautious and worried and sometimes lost and lonely but it was incredible and exhilarating, to do the things that helped me grow. I allowed myself to be more open to experiences and people’s criticisms and compliments. And with me at the heart of these experiences, I found myself loving myself more. There was less judgement and more compassion. I found myself living with an open mind and an open heart – ready for love and oppourtunities. Opportunities to build lasting friendships, to learn new skills, to travel to new places, to let go of toxicity, to discover stories, to thrive.

Life felt ambiguous in the first half of the year. I was wrapping up my Master’s, hoping to get a job and just do the things you in your mid-to-late twenties. I was listing and scratching out goals and to-do lists. Some days, I would wake up just to get on with the day and move on the next. I felt isolated, like I didn’t belong – not here or there. I would send out job applications that were constantly met with rejections. I had calls that gave me hope that eventually led to nothing. I felt like I was disappointing people in my life by not checking off boxes and dreams. I started living for others more than I did for myself. It is so easy to go down that rabit hole where we’re held to a high standard that noone knows who sets. We’re expected to fit moulds and make people proud. How do you do that without making yourself proud?

I learned that people’s moral compasses were different, and that our values were a result of our generation, education and journeys. I learned to choose patience and love over my ego. I learned to not walk away from a conversation. I learned that no one perspective is right or wrong but that infact, we’re constantly evolving. I learned to be accepting of constant criticism because they didn’t know. They didn’t know the path I walked or the struggles I endured. They knew standards and expectations that were far from my reality. I prayed to stay strong and on course, to be true to myself without being disrespectful. I prayed to be good – to others and myself and to walk in the light of God.

I learned to be here in a getting there world. I embraced moments where my feet were planted and enjoyed every day life until it started to shift more positively. I got a job that I actually like, met people that have empowered me, read books that widen my horizons, I put in the hard work for love and got real with my expectations.

I turned my existential crisis into an existential celebration.

As it drew to an end and we turned to December, there was a shift. These last few months have been some of the best of my life so far. Despite feeling stuck at times, I found light in being vulnerable. I found resilience in rejections. I found strength in my faith and in the wake of hardships. I found lessons in experiences (the greatest teacher of all). I woke up and persevered with my responsibilites in the best way I knew. I wrote my heart out on a cover letter, I cried to my boyfriend, I fought it out with my mother, soaked my pillow in tears on numerous nights, I cursed myself and prayed to God. Finally, when the sun sets and you’re on your own, you owe it to yourself to give life your best shot. It is hard and you can and will fall short but you’ve got to try. If today’s my last day on earth, I want it to end knowing I tried. Your capabilites and potential are your responsibility and you’ve got to find a way to use that to make your world and the one we live in a better place.

2019 was truly rewarding. It was a life lesson in itself. It pushed me to test my limits. It taught me to be present. Whether that was in the kitchen, on a tractor, in the ER or at work. It truly was a personal year – a year of moving goalposts and challenging notions. A year of meaning and love.

I’ll leave you with this – Even after the darkest night, the sun will always rise again. It is not lost on me, the hardships around the world, the loss and the trauma, the fights people are fighting for us. It is not lost on me that even though we are our worst enemies, we’re also our greatest hope and I am holding onto that hope.

I am so excited for this in 2020 and life ahead. 2020, lead the way.

Photo by Se Nuno on Unsplash