We continue our month long series highlighting the grief and healing journeys of women in the GGH community. This weeks piece is written by Alison.
"Sometimes I create a 'beautiful sadness' as I call it and am extra kind to myself in my moments of grief."
I am daughter, a partner, a sister, friend, and an entrepreneur.
Who have you lost/ what life altering event have you experienced?
When I was 16 I lost my father to cancer. He was sick for almost 7 years of my life before he passed.
How long has it been since?
This December it will be 8 years since his passing.
Did you experience any significant life changes or impacts following?
That was the most significant event that happened. It took me a couple of years to finally deal with the grief that followed his death. I remember that being a really difficult time in my life.
Can you talk a bit about the day of/days leading up to your loss/these life changing events?
My father was sick for almost 7 years and that caused me to live in constant anxiety. I was always stressed about not being there when he passed. Although I wouldn’t identify as someone who is religious, I prayed. I prayed so hard that I wouldn’t miss his passing. When it came down to his last few days I didn’t leave his side.
The morning that he passed I was laying on the couch beside his bed. I remember getting up to go to the bathroom and when I came back, the nurse asked me if I wanted a moment alone with him. I spent that last few moments with him and it was just the two of us. It was a bitter sweet moment that really shows the bond we had together.
How did you cope in the month that followed?
He passed away the week before Christmas, so Christmas is always a little bit of a hard time for my family. I remember being a little bit numb as to what was really going on. We had some amazing family and friends who were around supporting us during that time. The biggest challenge for me was going back to school after the break and living life without my dad. The house just didn’t feel the same. Life wasn’t the same. I didn’t know how to cope with that and really struggled. I was lucky enough to have some amazing resources and people around me that helped me out of a bad time.
Spotlight on your loved one
My dad was and still is my best friend. My dad was an entrepreneur, just like his dad. And always would tell me as a kid the importance of leadership. He would affirm to me how proud he was of me and remind me to always work towards my dreams. I think he would be really proud that I am a young successful woman entrepreneur. I wish he was here with me to celebrate my milestones, but I know he would be beaming with pride.
Before my dad passed away he bought a red corvette. He loved it. It was his dream car. We would go on rides together when I was just learning how to drive because he would want to “go for a ride” and couldn’t drive any longer. It was our special time together. We often would end up grabbing an ice cream because he loved his treats! Every time I have significant decisions I have to make or need guidance a red corvette appears to me. I always have signs he is around and I love that.
How do you cope now when you miss them or when you think back to that time in your life?
Nobody ever teaches you how to cope with anything in healthy ways let alone a loss. I used to avoid coping, I’d actually shut down until I would have emotional breakdowns or I would cope in unhealthy ways. I realized shortly after his passing after working with a coach that I wasn’t coping well. Since then I’ve been learning about emotional education tools and skills that help me and my clients release emotions in healthy ways.
I obviously still have my sad moments, and I realized the most important thing I can do is just to allow it to come out. I used to bottle them up because I thought emotions were a weakness, but they are normal and need to be released. Sometimes I create a “beautiful sadness” as I call it and am extra kind to myself in my moments of grief.
How does this loss impact you today?
I think about my dad everyday. I believe that there are always layers to healing and now I have the tools to address it when stuff comes up. I used to have trust issues because I was so afraid of getting my heart broken, so afraid of having another loss just like my dad was. I have done an immense amount of work and I am happy to say I just celebrated my 4 year anniversary with the most amazing man. I still have my moments but he is so supportive and we really make the most amazing team. I wish my dad could have met him, they would have had so much fun together.
I don’t think I would be in the career I am in today if I didn’t experience the loss of my dad at that young age. I am in the coaching industry and studied psychology and other psychotherapy trainings. I became so invested in my personal healing from my loss that I wanted to help others do the same and I’ve been doing this professionally for the past few years.
What were some of the most pivotal healing moments in your journey?
I remember in my rock bottom moment after my dad passed having a convo with God in my mind saying things like “why did you have to take my dad, why do I have to live on without him.” The truth is, I didn’t want to live without my dad, I wasn’t suicidal, I just loved him so much that to think about living without him and moving on with my life was so hard.
I remember sitting in my room, painting, because that’s what I used to do, and I remember having the realization that just because my dad died, didn’t mean I had to too metaphorically. I remember realizing how I hadn’t been being an active participant in my life, that I just was watching life pass me by. It was in that moment when I decided that I would make his death mean something good. I never looked back, I kept working on myself and was getting help, and I started to enjoy life again.
What do you wish you would’ve known then that you know now? What would you tell yourself then if you could go back to those most painful moments after your loss? ….
I would tell myself that it is okay to feel. That emotions are not a weakness, that vulnerability is a strength. I would tell myself how powerful and beautiful I am and to trust myself. That everything falls into place and that I have strength I never knew was possible.
Girls gotta heal because … they are worthy and deserving of an amazing life.
To follow Alison's journey and the work she is doing you can find her @alisonfoy on Instagram and at www.alisonfoy.com