In April 2019, my life turned upside down through one phone call. We had tragically and unexpectedly lost my cousin; a lost soul who never quite found her way. Through grief, I found the determination to make my life more meaningful in her honour.
What challenge does this story focus on?
The mental and physical impact of grief, and how truly nothing can ever prepare you for it. It spun my world on its head until I was not quite sure what way was up and what way was down. Because grief is total and utter lack of control. It's fighting for air. It's guilt. Sadness. Confusion. Losing my cousin in such a traumatic way felt like being thrown from a ship and straight into tumultuous waters. But, as time went on, those waves grew further and further apart.
How has this challenge affected you?
How I thought I was supposed to live my life no longer made sense. Sticking to a path of safety suddenly felt selfish... I felt I was wasting my life when hers was so cruelly snatched from her. In an instant, my entire perspective changed. Sitting still and waiting for "something good" to happen felt impossible. I knew that it was my duty to make an epic change and set myself down a scary (but exciting) path. Life is too short. I now understand that.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
My big change was stepping into the world of self employment. I built a business crafted entirely around my values and passion and threw myself headfirst into it. As soon as I did this, I quickly found my "new tribe"; other small business owners who understood my journey and would support me through its highs and lows. From the start I was honest with them about my experience and trauma, and so they welcomed me into their world with open arms. I also could not have gone through this period if it were not for my long-term therapist and my incredible family. My support network - every single corner of it - has saved me.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
That nothing in life is guaranteed. I have been given one life - one precious life - and if I am not living it to my happiest, most fulfilled potential... well, what am I doing? I have also learnt that I am strong. Stronger than I ever imagined. During the immediate aftermath I was dedicated to being the figure in the family that kept everything afloat. I took charge so that my Auntie and other cousins could have the space to open fully up to their emotions.Finally? I learnt that it's okay to not be okay. People understand. People care. It is so important to actually ask for help - to let the world know when I am vulnerable - otherwise I am left to face the storm alone. And even when the pain feels too strong, I know I need to step outside of my isolated bubble, sharing will always lessen the pressure.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I am 100% open with my struggles. I will never hide them again. I will never be ashamed of them.Life is far from easy for many of us and I need to connect and support with others to get through difficult times. I will always do what I can to be that helping hand.I have learnt to take risks and do what feels right. That means cutting negativity out of my life and focusing only on the people that bring me sunshine. I understand that life isn't picnics and rainbows; that isn't something that can simply be curated. But I can take charge of many things. There are plenty of areas I can drive forward with positivity and determination.My business is built around authenticity and honesty. I treat my clients like family, and in return I get the same. I cannot control my anxiety and panic attacks (both of which I suffer greatly) but I can create a business that feels like home.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets." - This is one of my favourite song lyrics and quotes of all time. Whether through grief, or heart ache, or insecurities, or job pressures... anything... there is beauty and comfort in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You never have to take the pain wholly on your shoulders. There will always be someone out there - either in real life or virtual - to take some of the weight too. You just have to trust yourself to reach out to them.The darkness does fade. One day the sun will rise again.