INTERVIEW - RAYRAY'S STORY
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.
Rachel Ricketts (aka RayRay)
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am a wellness + grief coach and founder of loss&found, an organization supporting folks to move through life's challenges and manifest more joy through connection with Self + Spirit. I'm born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Canada and I love donuts, dancing and all things metaphysical (ideally all at the same time)!
Who in your life has passed away? When did this happen?
My mother, Suzette, died on October 27th, 2015. She voluntarily dehydrated and starved herself to death to escape the unfathomable pain and abhorrent quality of life she was subjugated to as a result of primary progressive multiple sclerosis, which she battled for close to twenty years. She was a single parent and I am an only child so it was us against the world. I helped her fulfil her last and final wish, which was to find the solace and freedom only available to her in the after life.
In 3-5 words, describe your life during this time.
Fucking disaster yet totally harmonious.
What helped guide you through the grieving process?
A deep sense of something bigger than myself is what got me through the hardest days, and there were many! Being surrounded by the people, places and things that reminded me that I am fully supported always and in all ways was a lifesaver, as was creating healthy boundaries to stay away from the people, places and situations that didn't support my best and highest good at the time, even if they were people I otherwise loved a lot.
I'm not religious, but I absolutely felt a spiritual connection with my mother and I knew that healing my pain was important for the both of us. It took every last ounce of energy that I had but I committed myself to feeling all the feels, to create space for myself to be sad in a world that doesn't really accept that. And I had to make that commitment again and again and again. Being in nature, carving out time by myself to process my thoughts and feelings, listening to music, writing, sharing a meal with loved ones, all the things that I lose myself in doing, those are the things that helped me survive my dark night of the soul. My partner was an absolute rock for me during that period, as were a handful of friends but the truth is that most of us are ill-equipped to deal with death, dying or grief so it is often an insanely alienating experience.
What advice would you provide others dealing with loss?
Where do I begin? My top tip is to make space for yourself and shower yourself with compassion. Wherever you're at and however the hell you feel, know that it is okay. We live in a grief-averse culture that doesn't acknowledge, let alone honor tough emotions, so the grief experience can be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. We spend so much time getting down on ourselves for being down - as if life is just one, big, happy Instagram feed. But that's bullshit. Do your best not to caught in the lie of "pushing through". Feel your feelings, whether it's sadness, joy, relief, anger, shame, whatever - there are no "bad" or "wrong" emotions, how you feel is how you feel. And know that everything you need to heal yourself is already within you. You may fall apart, but with the right tools, support and guidance you can absolutely put yourself back together again. Trust yourself, don't be afraid to ask for help and call in the support of the people who fill your soul.
What advice would you provide those who want to comfort those dealing with loss?
Don't suck! Hahaha. Ok but really, like, don't. My biggest tip is to show up for the grieving - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Check yourself first and ensure you're actually in a place where you can hold space for someone who is likely going through the toughest time of their lives. If you can, then let them know (and if you can't, also let let them know and let them know why. Have integrity).
Ask the bereaved how you can best support them and if they don't know up from down (and often they will not), then offer up suggestions and continue to check in. "Can I get you groceries?" "Do you want to get some fresh air with me?" "Can I come and sit with you in silence while your cry?" We are so afraid to do or say the wrong thing, but that often results in us doing or saying the wrong thing. There's no one size fits all for this shit, you're going to have to navigate your way through how to support this person just as they are navigating their way through grief. Everyone will do it differently. So, don't make assumptions. Ask. And keep asking.
In honor of Mother's Day, what is the best advice your mom ever gave you?
Ohhh, tearjerker! My mom was an insanely wise woman so there is a lot of great advice to pull from, but what has stuck the most is that she always told me that I could do anything I put my mind to. Anything. As a Black woman I always knew I would have to work a lot harder, but I have a deep faith in my abilities to show up, kick ass and overcome all obstacles and I've realized that many people don't have that. I took it for granted, but I realize that it's a really precious gift and one that I have because she instilled it in me. I hope to do the same for my kids one day.