We regularly interview people who have experienced loss or burnout. Everyone experiences and responds to hardships in different ways, there is no right way or wrong way to grieve or handle stress. We share these stories in hopes that their experiences will support you in your journey – which ever side you are on – working through the process or supporting a loved one. If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out via our home page.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am 26 years old and just moved to NYC from California in June! I am a dancer and was a performer at the Disneyland Resort for 6 years before heading to the East Coast. I work at Lululemon and enjoy taking fitness and dance classes with my team. Exploring the city and hunting for the best food and coffee has become a favorite hobby of mine. I love to travel and experience different cultures, which has become more accessible being out here.
Who in your life has passed away? When did this happen?
I lost my mom almost 11 years ago when I was 16 years old. My mom passed away from Melanoma. It started with a mole on her leg and quickly spread. My mom and I were very close. We shared so many memories and loves, it was absolutely devastating lose her and completely changed my life. It was so hard to see this superwoman in our family and community lost the battle for her life.
In 3-5 words, describe your life during this time.
Different, lonely, heartbreaking, confusing, exhausting
What helped guide you through the grieving process?
It honestly took me a few years to even face my grief and try to tackle it in my life. My friends were my biggest support and distraction right after my mom passed away, which I will always be incredibly thankful for. But there came a time, when I was about 20, that all of the problems I thought I could just ignore really caught up to me.
I realized that I had some major depression and anxiety that I needed to sort through. Once I accepted that, I sought out seeing a therapist that I could be open and honest with. She really helped me look deeper into my fears and issues and gave me things to do daily that will help me get through it.
Dancing and performing was always a huge part of my relationship with my mom. So when she passed away, I really put that passion on the back burner because it was too painful. However, once I embraced that dancing again would help me feel more connected to my mom instead of sad about my mom, talking class and performing became the best therapy for me.
I also got connected with a non-profit called Comfort Zone, that holds free bereavement camps for kids ages 7-17 that have lost a parent or a sibling. I started to volunteer at camps as a big buddy. I would be matched with a kid and spend the entire camp weekend with them. I also became a member of the volunteer council, which would help with fundraisers and volunteer events. Connecting with a community of people that understand what you are going through and actively letting you know it is OK to remember, OK to heal, and are not alone truly changed my life.
What advice would you provide others dealing with loss?
> Allow yourself to meet yourself where you're at. Don't force yourself to feel or act a certain way. If you are angry, let yourself be angry, if you are sad, let yourself be sad, and if you are happy about fun memories, let yourself embrace and laugh about them. Try not to ignore your feelings, they are all valid and all OK.
> Understand that you are never alone, and never need to be alone. If you let people you love know what you need in your grief journey, they will most likely be happy to help you in any way you need.
> Find a couple healthy things that help you grieve/remember, and make those things a priority for yourself to do.
> Never feel embarrassed, never feel alone, and never feel like you need to be "over it".
> Grief comes in waves, it never ends, you go through highs and lows, it is a journey and that is OK.
What advice would you provide those who want to comfort those dealing with loss?
> Similar to what I shared above, meet that person where they are at. Allow them to feel what they need, say what they need, and feel safe to do so.
> Don't try to compare what they are going through with anything in your life. Allow their journey to be unique, because it is.
> Most of the time I have found that people just want someone to talk to, so be OK with just listening. You don't always need to respond. Just love them, and be supportive of the ups and downs of their grief journey, because it will last a lifetime and that is not easy.
In honor of Mother's Day, what is the best advice your mom ever gave you?
My mom lived life BIG. She was never embarrassed to sing and dance everywhere and anywhere, prioritized family and making memories, and always stood up for herself and what she believed in. She showed love and understanding to everyone, keeping her heart open all the time. She showed me that if you want something and work hard, you can do it. It isn't necessarily advice, but I think about these qualities in her and make sure I live my life that everyday. Her life was a gift, and I want to make sure I treat mine like one too.