it’s been 20 years since I lost my father – here’s my story and how I continue to manage my grief

We all have pain. Maybe it’s from losing someone we love, going through a break up or experiencing some other type of trauma. Either way, it’s important to deal with your pain, but beyond that it’s really HARD.

Full disclosure – this post might be kind of sad or triggering and i’m selfishly writing it because this is my outlet, a safe place to share whatever I’m going through, and I want you to feel like you can share with me, too. So here goes!

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before but my dad died when I was 7. It was really sudden and really awful. I’m the youngest of two children (my brother is 3 years older than me) so my mom raised us on her own (she’s amazing and she worked her ass off to make us feel like life was still normal) and it wasn’t easy.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my family. This was taken at my cousins birthday party, I’m guessing a year or two before he passed. From top left to bottom right: my dad, my cousin, my mom, me, and mybrother.

I didn’t really feel it until much later…

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know that the days following are typically filled with loved ones, funeral services, etc. There’s lots of people around, LOTS of distraction. All of that distraction doesn’t really give you the time to process WTH is actually happening. The days after my fathers death feel like a blur to me. I remember spending a lot of time with my family and being really happy about it because we didn’t usually see them so much during the week. At my father’s viewing (or funeral service – whatever you call it) I skipped around, I saw him laying there in his casket, but somehow it hadn’t hit me.

The day he was buried was similar to the wake (at least for me). I hadn’t processed it and even though everyone around me was somber and in tears, I still hadn’t come to the realization that this was the last time I’d ever see my fathers physical body.

the days following were weird

After everything was over, we had a few family members stay with us for a couple of weeks. My cousins wanted us to know that we weren’t alone and they wanted to be there to help my mom. I loved having them there. The house felt full and fun because my favorite people were there everyday – what could be better?!

Then the time came for them to leave, go back to their normal lives. Which meant we had to do the same. It was time to go back to school and for my mom to go back to work – I didn’t like this part. Suddenly my father wasn’t picking me up from school anymore. My teachers looked at me differently and some of the kids made fun of me because I had a “dead dad”. It was really weird. I’m not using the word painful because at this point, I still didn’t understand. I would get home after school and I would wait for him.

and then one day I realized I would be waiting forever..

I remember this part the most because that’s when my pain finally set in. I started to realize that I wasn’t going to see him again and I vividly remember trying to process the thought of never talking to my dad again and it HURT. It wasn’t until about two or three weeks after his funeral that I cried.

It was the first time I experienced that feeling you get in your chest when you’re really sad. I suppose it was heartbreak. I didn’t want to believe it and I couldn’t understand it. All of a sudden this man I saw every single day, who taught me how to ride a bike, blow my nose, made me love Titanic (it was one of his favorites), and a million other things, was just gone. Never to be seen again.

and it still effects me deeply as an adult..

You would think that nearly twenty years later, I would have dealt with all of my pain and fear of losing people. Turns out, I haven’t. I have nights where I can’t stop crying over it. Sometimes it feels like it’s happening all over again. I have this giant fear of losing the people closest to me. In fact, as a kid, I would make myself imagine people dying so that I could somehow prepare myself for the pain. And I still do this when I’m really anxious. I go into full-on panic mode; thinking about what I would do if I lost someone else I loved that much.

which is why I think it’s so important to deal with your pain…

I’ve been through therapy and I’m all about talking through your feelings and fears. It isn’t until recently that I realized how deep my pain goes or how much anger I feel about it sometimes. Sometimes we carry our pain around and become so used to the weight of it on our backs that we forget it’s even there. We don’t realize that our perspectives, attitudes, and interactions with others are all affected by it.

I continue to grieve as an adult. Lately it feels like I’ve been grieving for the little girl in me. I think a lot about the feeling of realizing I’d never see my father again and how deeply I felt it in my chest. I used to think about grief and loss as something you went through for a little while. I always believed that eventually it would just go away, but I’m learning that it doesn’t work like that. Feelings have to be dealt with because when they are buried or ignored, they sneak up on you, often at the worst times and in destructive ways.

I hope sharing this helped someone and that if you just lost someone recently, years ago, or even if you’ve gone through a traumatic break up that felt like a death, you know that you aren’t alone. It’s been helpful for me to get it off my chest and be honest about the pain.

with love & gratitude,

steph

Follow:

relationships are hard: how to argue + keep it moving

If you’ve been here before, you know I’m a happily married, 27 year old, dog mom. My husband, Greg, and I relocated to Columbus just under a year ago and have ridden the relocation roller coaster ever since. The greatest thing to come out of this move is the realization that if we did it once, we could do it again and we can concur rough times TOGETHER.

Anyway, I’ve said this before, but major changes in a relationship like getting married, moving across state lines, moving in together, getting a pet (yes, thats a big relationship move to me) can be hard and they really show you what you and your relationship are made of.

So, this may or may not come as a surprise to some of you, but Greg and I disagree sometimes (crazy, right?!). We’re pretty different and have had completely different life experiences and upbringings. I was raised by a single mother (props to you, ma, you’re the greatest) and Greg grew up in a two-parent house hold (props to my in-laws because they’re literally two of the most fun, loving people you’ll ever meet).

I think our differences are what have actually kept us as connected as we are. We’ve learned a lot from each other. We’ve talked about the kind of parents we do or don’t want to be, the kind of life we want to live, and how we want to treat each other. That all sounds wonderful, right? but, honestly, like most things, it’s not perfect. We’re not always on the same page because well, we’re human.

So what’s the key?

I’m sure in your relationship, you want to be the best you. You want that Will and Jada, your happiness is yours and mine is mine and then we bring it together and we’re a whole big pot of happiness, kind of relationship. SAME!

Great, so what’s the key to being on the right page and navigating through rough waters together?

Patience!

(ask my long time friends about how patient I am… they’ll laugh)

It seems so simple; just be patient with your partner and yourself and your garden of love and happiness will be in full bloom in no time! It’s not, it’s hard work, but you got this!

After I get into any kind of disagreement with anyone (not just Greg) I reflect on a few things…

Let’s try something:

Think about the last argument you had with your partner….

  1. Think about what you were upset about, how you expressed your frustration, and what the outcome of the argument was (or did you even come to a resolution)?
  2. Think about how you could have done any of that better. Were you upset about something they said? or something they did that you’ve pointed out before that they just keep doing?
  3. Did you express yourself from a compassionate, understanding, and loving place? or did you say something passive and try to hit them where it hurts?

Finally, what happened in the end? Did you talk about the problem, come up with a way to keep it from happening again, and move on? THIS is the most important part. The resolution. I’ve seen and done the whole ‘argue and sweep it under the rug thing’ and TRUST ME that is NOT a resolution. That’s a “we’re good for right now, but that dirt will be back later and it’ll bring friends-olution”.

In any disagreement or argument, remember that everyone involved is just a person. A normal person who has feelings, makes mistakes, has different life experiences, different perspectives, etc and TRY to be understanding. Try to reach a point where both sides understand what happened and want to make it right. if you can’t do this, you’re arguing with the wrong people because anybody who gives a poop about you will make an effort to make sure your relationship or friendship is in good standing.

Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts with me in the comments.Dont be afraid to add something to the conversation (your personal experience, your own struggles, etc), I REALLY want to learn about you too!

with love & gratitude,

stef

Follow:

opinions: everybody has them

True story. Sorry for the foul language in the title there. It’s true, though. Think about all of the things or “gossip” people have told you over the years, how much of it came from COLD HARD FACTS? How much of it wasn’t just their BS take on someone else’s life?

We’re surrounded by opinions, judgements, and criticism. Sometimes they can be really helpful. They can lead us toward the right decisions or help us see things from a different perspective. And other times, well, other times they could just be someone else projecting their stuff onto you. It’s important to know the difference.

Full disclosure, I’ve completely been that person. The person who says “you should do it this way because of X,Y,Z”. Instead of asking, “What do you feel is the right thing to do?” or “Let’s talk about the different options here and what feels right to you” OR the person who says things based on what I heard from someone else, from someone else, from someone else. That person SUCKS, guys! And in my opinion, that person isn’t coming from a supportive place. They’re coming from a: I’ve been through more-I know more-you’re young-you’re inexperienced-you’re emotional-you’re blah blah blah-place. And maybe you are a couple of those things, but you still have the right to make your own decisions and talk about your life with the people closest to you without being judged, right?

So here’s what I think/do when people pull this stuff on me. I think about it, really, really think about it. We are all living our lives and inexperienced in some way, at something. There isn’t one person who just knows it all and has it all figured out. So when people give me their thoughts, or opinions, or share some random gossip with me, I remind myself of that. This person is completely equal to me. There is something I know that they don’t, there is something I have more experience in than they do. And most importantly, only you know you (only you know what you truly want deep down inside/what’s true about you).

It certainly isn’t easy, but letting the opinions of others control everything you do and all of the decisions you make is not the way to live a fulfilled, happy, life. I really believe you have to make your own decisions and maybe even fail a couple of times to survive. Sure, other people may be around to help make the ride less bumpy, but don’t let those people dictate your life because when they’re gone or when they stop wanting to make all of your decisions for you (because that HAS to be exhausting, too) what will you do? You’ll be that person who was so worried about everyone’s opinion, did everything everyone else expected of them/thought was right, and now has no idea how to make decisions/form opinions for themselves.

As always, I’m just speaking my truth/from my own experiences. I don’t know everything now and I won’t when I’m 100 🙂

With love & gratitude,

stef

Follow:

WEIGHT

Apple Cider Donuts at Demarest Farms in NJ are my favorite!

Yep, we all struggle with this. I’ve had the weight loss conversation one too many times in my life. With my friends, my husband, family, etc. Growing up in a Hispanic family meant that if I hadn’t seen an aunt or uncle in awhile and I put on a few pounds, they would definitely be commenting on it. Sometimes the most subtle of comments like “oh, you’re a little thicker”. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! Do you mean thick like the good thick or do you mean thick as in I’ve gained too much weight and shouldn’t be wearing this outfit!? (LOL). It sucks. But I think we all do it, no matter what size we are.

****BY THE WAY, your weight is actually no ones business. Lose 30 pounds, gain 10 pounds, it’s YOUR business (and your doctor’s if you want it to be). People (family, friends, whoever) don’t have the right to tell you you’ve gained too much weight and they don’t have the right to tell you you’ve lost too much weight. It’s your damn business.

Sometimes I let myself believe that if I could just get down to a size 2, I’ll be happy. Then I remind myself that the moment I zipped that size 2 dress, I’d start working towards something else like a six pack or thinner thighs or thinner arms, the list goes on and on.

Do I think it’s important to live a healthy life and be mindful of what you put in your body? of course! there’s nothing like eating well for a few weeks and noticing the positive changes in your body and your skin. At the same time, I think we all get a little too obsessed (sometimes) with looking a certain way or even being perceived by others a certain way. I’ll admit it, a few times I’ve found myself actually thinking “oh great! I haven’t seen this person in awhile, I hope they think I’m thin” I mean… crazy or what?! but I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Am I?!

the famous crop top…
linked here if you’re interested

So what am I doing to stop this crappy way of thinking? I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Two years ago I would go on and on about how I’d never been caught dead in a crop top. I thought I didn’t have the body type for it (I weighed the same weight that I am right now). Guess what? I currently own TWO! Do I actually show my midriff? No, I’m 27 and haven’t gotten past thinking I’m too old for that BUT I do wear them and that’s a big deal for me! I know that’s crazy because pretty much everyone my age and under wears crop tops, but a milestone for me nonetheless.

here it is again

In a world full of self-love and body positivity, you’d think it’d be easy to get past all of this stuff and just “love the skin you’re in”. Unfortunately it’s not that simple (for me at least). I think no matter what weight we’re at we tend to tell ourselves it’s not good enough and we compare ourselves to others no matter how hard we’re working. If you don’t love every little thing about yourself right now, it’s okay and honestly I think it’s pretty normal, but at the very least, be grateful for the body you have and don’t make others feel badly about theirs!

What’s your take on weight loss, health, or struggle? Tell me in the comments!

with love & gratitude,

stef

** This is my personal experience with my weight. As always, I’m speaking from my heart and sharing how I’m dealing with this. We’re all on our own journey!

Follow:

What Therapy Did For Me

To put it simply, therapy changed my life. I’ll start off by saying that I don’t currently see a therapist. I did for awhile about 4 years ago and it was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

I initially began going to therapy because I felt off. I stopped wanting to get out of bed, stopped wanting to be around people, started pushing my friends away, and was pretty much consumed by my depression. I wasn’t right, but I wanted to be and I knew I needed help. I needed someone to help me see things more clearly and I needed a new perspective.

1. sometimes optimism isn’t enough

Before you say: “well, you just have to be positive and optimistic. That’s all it is!” No, it’s not. Trust me, I’ve had certified therapists and psychiatrist tell me that it’s not. Therapy isn’t just for people who have gone through something traumatic. It’s for everyone. Everyone dealing with stress or anxiety. If you ask me, anyone breathing right now deals with stress and anxiety and being positive doesn’t somehow just make all of that go away. Are you high strung? Do you always need to be in control? Do you dislike confrontation? Do you feel like you’re usually right and other people need to do things your way? Are you sad for no reason sometimes? Do you feel hopeless? Do you get really angry over small things? Do you have trouble expressing yourself without offending people? Do you feel uncomfortable when you’re not in the drivers seat? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might benefit from speaking to a therapist!

outfit linked in ‘shop’ tab

My point is that no matter where you are in life, therapy can be super helpful and you don’t need to have a severe mental health condition to benefit from it.

Now, what did therapy do for me?

2. try to understand where people are coming from

well, it completely changed the way I see things. Before, I jumped to conclusions and I assumed things. I assumed I knew what other people felt and I assumed they were just being jerks when they acted out or said something offensive. Now, rather than jumping to conclusions and getting really angry I try to stop my thoughts and understand why a person is choosing to respond to me the way they are. Could there be something else happening in their lives stressing them out? How can I put myself in their shoes and try to understand what they’re dealing with? Is there a way for me to respond and try to help them understand where I’m coming from?

Maybe all of that makes me sound like I’m full of shit. I promise, I’m not. I’m big on telling people how I feel. Ask anyone, I’m extremely passionate, sometimes overwhelmingly so. I can harp on something for hours if you let me. Want to talk about inequality or racism? I will literally sit there and debate about it for a day (although it’s not a debate, that stuff is wrong and stupid and if you can’t see that, then BYE). ANYWAY, that’s me sometimes. I recognize that many people are uncomfortable with it. I work on my approach everyday and I’ve learned that well, some people just won’t understand me. Some people just don’t want to put themselves in my shoes or concern themselves with how their actions make me feel and that’s okay.

3. don’t apologize for feeling

I’ll never apologize for how I feel because it’s something I can’t control. Therapy helped me see that. I learned that: no I can’t control how I’m feeling, but I CAN control how I deal with my feelings. I CAN control how I approach people who hurt me. I CAN wait until my anger subsides and have a civil conversation. THIS has kept me from being overly emotional, from crying and getting upset with people instead of telling them how I feel.

Something else I learned? A LOT of people are uncomfortable with feelings. There are people who act as though expressing how they make you feel is a weakness or dramatic. Guess what? they should probably be in therapy and figure that shit out (lol).

There’s nothing wrong with telling people how you feel. Just, you know, try not be a jerk when you’re doing it. And most importantly, remember that when you express your feelings, you can’t go into it expecting a specific response and you can’t get angry when you don’t get the response you want. Express your feelings for your own sake, to get them off your chest. Not to hurt others or to try to make them feel badly. My goal is always to let the person know how I feel and when/if they’re ready to acknowledge my feelings they will and should they respond negatively, that’s on them.

4. be nice

Last but no least, I learned how important and EASY it is to be nice. Try to understand where other people are coming from. We all have a different experience, we come into each others lives and we make an impact, we change each others perspectives, help each other grow, etc. Be cool with it. Try to release control (it feels really good). Most importantly, be nice to yourself. Be mindful of who you allow into your life and who you let fill up your headspace. Sometimes even the people closest to you aren’t the nicest people. Too often do we allow family members and friends to put their fears onto us or let their opinions or remarks affect how we feel about ourselves. In times like that, remember to not only be kind to them, but remove yourself from a situation that doesn’t make you feel good and hope that eventually they’ll understand why you did it (after you’ve tried to explain why of course, don’t just drop people like flies…that ain’t cool).

P.S. I’m not perfect (a total work in progress). Also, I’m not a professional, this is just my personal experience as is everything else in this blog!

with love & gratitude,

stef

Follow: