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After the heart-breaking losses in May 2023, which I have written about, my husband and I finally took a proper vacation in January 2024.
We visited warm, sunny, and breezy Aruba—an island of friendly people and fresh food. Not too far away from the United States but enough distance to feel a cultural and temperature change that makes you want to disconnect from work.
To be honest, it’s not that we stayed home after suddenly losing my father and father-in-law within two days of each other. It’s not like we didn’t travel after my aunt died right after Thanksgiving. Grief took us through alleys of denial, anger, shock, unanswered questions, loneliness, confusion, and abandonment. But as adults, we all do what we are expected to do. You show up to work, life, holidays, bills, responsibilities, relationships, wellness, and travel.
But Aruba was different. I had just completed my doctoral program in Ayurveda and found out that I passed. Officially a Doctor of Ayurveda now. I had also successfully graduated from my business course, and the graduation ceremony was scheduled for after I would reach New York City in the third week of January. The final manuscript for my upcoming book, The Loss That Binds Us, was with the publisher, and the book designer finished designing a beautiful cover.
Aruba was a real vacation and not another trip where I was juggling family or friends along with grief, home, and deadlines. That was most of my summer when I was working all week, attending school on Saturday (sometimes also Sunday), while hosting condolence visitors on weeknights and Sundays. In May 2023, the day we completed Dad’s “Chautha” (fourth day rituals in Hinduism after someone dies), it was also Mom’s ninth death anniversary and we cremated my father-in-law that evening. Two cities. Two funerals. Two families. I caught a flight to JFK the next morning because I couldn’t miss another weekend of school if I wanted to complete the course in time.
Aruba offered me the opportunity to pause, rest, rejuvenate, reset, and unapologetically take the time to acknowledge: My grief had motivated me.
It’s strange to think that grief can have any kind of positive outcome. But it offered me the opportunity to find my purpose, feel inspired, and stay focused. I believe there are two ways out of every situation. Will you be Icarus and burn down to the ground or will you allow the pain in every cell to help you soar slowly? I chose the latter.
I took rest, and there were days I was curled up on the couch. But despite all that…I managed to complete a doctoral program, business course, wrote a new book, and grew my company while grieving and making sense of my new world.
I didn’t allow fears of loss to impact my mental health. I didn’t hide behind work to avoid my grief. As someone who likes to deal with emotions head-on, I held space for all stages of grief. No pretensions and only authenticity. I am quite the external processor, so I wrote about my journey and connected with beautiful souls sailing in the same boat.
I am also self-motivated and know that no one can help us unless we take the initiative. I didn’t rely on mood or motivation to meet my deadlines or to move forward. What needed to be done got done. Both my father and father-in-law were excited about me becoming an Ayurvedic Doctor. My dad’s dying wish was to attend my graduation ceremony in-person. Somewhere, I remembered their wishes too.
I was close to my father. I visited him in India a few times a year. He was my rock, my strength, my safe space, and connection to India. We discussed social issues, world politics, idiotic relatives, funny movies, good literature, places-to-see, and much more. I wrote my upcoming book, The Loss That Binds Us, as a grief manual because I felt lost after his untimely passing and grief was so complicated. Grief motivated me to keep Dad’s legacy alive.
It’s not just in terms of work and career; here are some other ways in which grief has motivated me:
1. It has made my relationships more intentional and connections deeper.
2. It’s encouraged me to focus on my personal financial wellness.
3. It has forced me to work on my self-healing.
4. It’s taught me that we learn to survive, no matter what.
5. It showed me who and how to prioritize.
6. It’s allowed me to healthily detach from what is no longer serving me.
7. It reminded me to not sweat the small stuff.
8. It’s made me more spiritual and open-minded.
9. It has instilled in me to not believe everything we think.
I know from experience how difficult it is to paddle through the grief process. But in your own time, reflect on how grief has altered your life in the not-so-obvious ways. Nothing will bring back the person, job, relationship, or whatever else you might have lost. Grief changes you forever, but it also transforms you and your desires as a person.
“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” ~ Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever