It was the 20th of January 2013 when I received the phone call that changed my life forever. It was a phone call no one wants to receive. I was 28, full of life and ambition, when my mum told me that my dad had passed away 5 minutes ago.
It was so unexpected, I felt numb.
He was gone.
My mind ran. My Dad was not going to be here for my next birthday, my wedding day, my MBA graduation, my next job contract… I had so much to look forward to in life, and he was not going to be there for any of it. This was going to be forever.
In the months following, I lost hope about life and what my future would look like. My father was my main motivator and supporter in life. Who was now going to tell me that I was the most amazing, beautiful and smart girl in the world?
It’s been over two years now. Looking back, I can see that during the past 24 months, I have experienced the most painful moments of my life. Yet whilst my soul seemed lost in the darkness, this time saw me discovering things about myself that I never knew. I have gained a deeper understanding of life – I now truly understand what the important things are. I have gained confidence, courage, self-love, new friends, new experiences, growth, acceptance, humility…and I have learnt to understand that I still have so much to learn and that life is a constant process of developing myself.
Losing my dad and dealing with this grief has helped me to change my mindset on how I rule my life. By dealing with discomfort one time after another, I have learnt and accepted that life is not only about laughter and happiness, but about depth and vulnerability. Through this process, I have realised that the only way of moving forward is by challenging myself more. My grief has helped me to feel more empowered to step out of my comfort zone more often.
And here’s how I did it. Here are the things that have helped me (and I hope they help you!) heal, understand life, accept reality, move on and find happiness again:
- I have stopped feeling sorry for myself: I made a conscious decision to stop thinking how unlucky my life was. I have accepted my reality and decided to move forward despite the past.
- I have stopped comparing myself with others: I understand now that everyone has their own journey. There are no two lives that are the same and no “established rules” of how a life should be.
- I have decided that I am going to be the best version of myself: I can’t change what has happened so I decided to be better every day, to learn from my mistakes, to grow and find happiness in the important things. I decided to re-create myself and take the necessary steps to get where I wanted to be.
- I have allowed every single feeling to hit me, from feeling-on-top-of-the-world happiness to my worst days of sadness: I am not trying to control my emotions anymore. I now allow them to flow when they come, as this is the only way towards healing and self-acceptance.
- I have stopped putting fixed timelines for when things need to happen. It is good to have goals, but setting up unrealistic expectations will lead to disappointments. I am trying now to do the opposite, I am rewarding myself for my achievements and allowing flexibility in my life. I used to think I was getting too old to do new things, but realised there is no getting too old, because there’s no rules on time. “Fixed” times are a societal invention.
- I don’t accept things I don’t like. I have decided that I will not stop looking for what makes me happy – job, places, friends. If it takes you 5 jobs to find the one you like, just keep searching – as there is nothing better in life than doing things you love. I’ll always remember Steve Jobs for this one: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”
- I have decided to surround myself with positive and healthy relationships. By doing this, I have distanced myself from relationships where I did not feel loved or accepted. Now I spend time with people that really love me, lift me up and support me.
- I have done my best to help others. I cannot emphasise this point enough. Helping others is one of the best ways for healing. I joined the Make-A-Wish Foundation, shared moments with amazing kids and have also been part of different campaigns and projects. I have volunteered my time to positive causes that make me feel alive and better. It gives perspective to my own problems. I have learned that we are all humans, we all go through problems and it’s our gift as humans to help in each other’s healing process.
I will never be the same person, but I have learned to accept my reality and still be the best version of myself, which allows me to experience the best that life has to offer. Doing things that I was not used to felt strange and threatening at the beginning, but once I accepted the discomfort and lived with it, I discovered myself stepping ahead. Here, I was able to experience new situations and opportunities that would not have arisen if I was acting in the same old and comfortable ways.