It’s been a few months since I have taken the time to write.
A few insanely busy, incredibly fulfilling, beautiful months.
I cannot believe I am about to document my thoughts and feelings after having been on the Island for a year.
How quickly things can change.
Today, whilst waiting at the airport to travel back to Ontario, I watched a Ted Talk on grief. I feel so grateful to be in a season in which I am not dealing with imminent grief; however, the premise of the Ted Talk was on the idea that one cannot “move on” from grief -- we shouldn’t expect someone to, and should not be expected to. It feels like the timing was **perfect**, and I will intertwine this concept throughout this reflection.
Ten years ago, on this very weekend, my beautiful Grammy Anne died. That weekend, my life was changed forever. I had experienced deep trauma, anxiety and sadness before, but for the first time, I truly experienced grief. My Grammy was absolutely the finest woman. She was posh, without being over the top; she was the most fun, without trying too hard (actually without trying, period); she was incredibly brilliant, super sporty, musical, great in the kitchen, filled with love and joy – the true matriarch of our family, and the QUEEN of traditions. She was a support system, cheerleader, mentor….what was I going to do without her?! And, how could I, as the eldest child/grandchild, support my Mom, her siblings, my siblings, and my cousins?! Hence, grief.
That same year, I finished my first year of university, experienced adult life in a new light, and I had fallen in love for the first time.
Having freshly turned 20, my world spun. How could I move forward without my Grammy? Even though I felt confident in other facets of life, at the time I experienced shock. I felt anger -- anger at cancer, anger at the cycle of life. I felt deep despair, I felt people’s support, but then…I felt sadness…. loneliness. I was one of the first in my peer group to lose a grandparent they were close to. After a month or two, no one was checking in. I was in the thick of my feelings. I was also trying to keep tabs on my Mom’s heart and family dynamics, but I was hurting. This is where the question of “moving on” pops up. It often feels like it is an expectation to move on from loss.
I argue differently, and here is why.
One year ago, at this exact moment, I was feeling incredible loss again. I had said “goodbye” to everything and everyone but my immediate family, and I was about to embark on the first flight to Victoria, BC.
I felt like a mess. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the love and support and encouragement, just as one does after losing a loved one, but I was fearful of the journey ahead of me. The journey I had to navigate all on my own.
I was grieving. Grieving the end of my career at two schools I loved. Grieving the end of close contact with colleagues I adored. Grieving that my Mom would not be a 40min bus ride away. Grieving the lack of geographical closeness to my beautiful friends. Grieving the end of my nine-year relationship. Grieving the vision I had for my life. The vision that had clearly been shattered. The vision that was no more. I felt like I had lost. I had worked hard, at everything, and had failed, at everything.
Simultaneously, I knew I was taking the right path. I knew I was getting on the flight that would set me up for incredible happiness, fulfillment, and success! The flight that would allow me to write a new chapter in my story! :)
It has done just that, I have never felt so aligned. So at peace. I have made moves forward in my career, I have friends I adore, and I am falling in love.
But, it is unfair to deny that the grief was real.
The grief is still real.
I am incredibly happy, so shouldn’t I have “moved on” from the pain involved with life-altering change? Absolutely not.
The first 29 years of my life are still a part of me. The last 10 years in particular, since my Grammy died, are a fundamental part of the woman I am today. I literally cannot “move on” from that. But I can move forward. This idea was the main theme of the Ted Talk.
To this day, I still hear Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” and feel my Grammy around me. It is a song that has a hysterically funny connection to her – a memory from a cottage day in which she belted out the song and danced her heart during an afternoon on the boat. The first time I heard that song after she passed, I balled my eyes out, now…it reminds me of her and I smile. I can see her, I can feel her around me, I can smell her and hear her laugh…. I have moved forward but I haven’t moved on.
Similarly, I have moved on from the feelings of sadness, and loss, and failure. The grief of losing the vivid picture within which I had designed my life. The grief of broken dreams….BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Instead, I moved forward. I used my experiences, my intrinsic strength and resilience — my roots — and focused on the love and opportunities around me. I opened my mind to something new!
Life is brilliant. And I am grateful to continue to move forward each and every day – as we ALL should, and hope to do.
At this time, a year later, life looks a lot different, and the “story” continues to develop. On the surface I have moved on; I have a new apartment, a new job, a new Driver’s License, a new Premier, and so on. I am wildly happy, and as I mentioned, I am even in the process of falling in love again. I have some deep and authentic friendships being established, I have new responsibilities, new expectations for myself and of others, new stresses. I am living in the present.
Yet, I miss the laughter of my 4/5 class at Howlett Academy and going to The Madison with my colleagues to celebrate the end of a busy month. I hold dear the girls and colleagues from Trafalgar, where my career began, as they taught me what it meant to be a working professional, a role model, and a life long learner. I still treasure happy moments and lessons learnt from my past relationship. I am reminded of fun events and adventures with my girlfriends when certain songs come on, and I miss family time most weekends, as there is always something fun going on. I have moved forward, but I cannot pretend these people and these memories are not a part of my fabric, just as much as my hazel eyes and Celiac Disease.
All in all – this Ted Talk came at a great time. It is about moving forward, with grace and enthusiasm, and I love the journey I am on! Embracing forward motion is how we level up our lives, but acknowledging the reality of grief and how it manifests is critical to being fair to ourselves, our own needs, and the needs of those around us.
Thanks for the endless support!! I am so grateful to be able to connect with youth and not only teach them curriculum, but use my experience to help them become healthy and happy young adults.