On Staying Up: How To Take Inventory of Your Grief and Celebrate Through Your Struggles

BY RACHEL RICKETTS. PHOTOGRAPHY BY BETHANY SCHIEDEL.

We’re living in traumatizing times. Just take a look at the news, the political strife, the inequalities that permeate all facets of our culture. The truth is that most of us are dealing with some form of loss + grief every dang day – death, heartbreak, racism, sexism, natural disasters, loss of identity, financial woes, even marriage and parenthood can be a cause of concern. I define grief as an inherent response to a loss or change of any kind and a natural, normal part of our daily lives. Where there’s challenge there’s grief and these are demanding days.

So how can we stay up through all our struggles? Below are my suggestions for finding cause to celebrate even and especially during tough times:


#1 – Know That You Have A Choice

Contrary to popular belief, we have a choice in how we grieve. We can choose to constrict – to play small, shrink down and succumb to the pain. Or, we can use the hard times as an opportunity to expand. To persevere and learn the underlying lessons for which the struggle landed in our lap. This is by no means an easy task, in fact it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s truly the path of least resistance even and especially when it seems like the opposite.

After my mother died I thought I would completely fall apart. Having battled multiple sclerosis for over twenty years, she starved herself to death as her one-way ticket out of pain, and as the only child of a single mother my entire sense of family passed along with her. I fell into a level of sadness and despair I hadn’t known possible but I realized that the only thing I had control over was how I chose to move through the experience. How I chose to move through life. So, I got to work – doing anything and everything possible to help me find the light.

We are the generation that can truly make the shift out of pain and suffering. We have been bestowed with access to all kinds of practical + spiritual resources (you’re reading one of them!) to break the patterns that no longer serve us or our families and the awareness to sit with our discomfort and make true change. You are on this planet, at this precise time, for a reason. You have the opportunity to transition out of painful patterns not only for yourself but your entire familial line - past, present and future.

Loss and grief in and of themselves will not make you stronger (hell no!), but how you choose to move through them absolutely can. Being able to work towards your joy – baby step by baby step – is a celebration in and of itself.

#2 – Honor Your Resilience

Losing my mother was only one of a myriad of losses I’ve faced in life. The morning after my mom died I attended my godfather’s funeral. Two weeks after that I was in Paris during the Paris Attacks and just over a month later I witnessed a man drown on the beach in front of his entire family. All that while moving through chronic pain from a car accident, identity loss from leaving my legal career, cutting ties with my abusive father and grieving my uncle and father-in-law who died the year prior. And let’s not forget the daily woes of navigating the world as a Black woman! There’s more y’all but I think the point is clear - I was in a hot soup of strife.

In the years that have followed I’ve felt every human emotion possible – relieved, depressed, isolated, joyous, anxious, heartbroken – and proud. Of my ability to overcome. To lean into my pain and celebrate myself despite it all. As should you.

You've been through some ish – big or small - and you've survived. Don't forget to stop and pop a bottle in honour of your ability to get back up after having been knocked down. Likely many, many times. We rarely take a moment to look back and celebrate ourselves for how far we’ve come – especially when we’re almost always focused on how far we feel we have to go. Life ain't always easy and yet, here you are. There may be some serious scars and you may not be exactly where you’d like, but still – you. are. here. Doing what you can with what you have. Mad respect.

#3 - There’s Always an Upside

Loss and grief suck. Still – they are an inescapable part of life and the best gateway for us to find grace. As someone who’s been through a sh*tload of loss and helps others through theirs every day, I know firsthand that we can become better, brighter, bolder beings from our struggles, for example:

(a) My mother’s death entrenched my connection to Spirit, a firm grounding in my own worth and led me to find my purpose as an intuitive grief coach helping others through their dark night of the soul;

(b) The racism and sexism I have and continue to experience has resulted in a deep understanding of power and privilege, more compassion and empathy for others and a commitment to fighting injustice and making this world a better place for all; and

(c) My chronic pain taught me how to honour and take care of my body (physically as well as mentally) and how to best listen and heed to my intuition.

Now, let me get real clear here – I am in no way talking about spiritually bypassing your way through challenge. I don’t believe we can simply sit on a rock and meditate our way from blues into bliss, bypassing the pain. It’s not that easy. But I do believe that struggles come into our lives to help us learn. To assist us in becoming our best and highest selves should we be open to stepping into our fullness. You do not deserve what’s happened to you but it is possible to find the meaning amidst the madness and use your grief as the stanky-smelling fertilizer from which your badass self will rise.

The process of grief is long, painful and exhausting and, if you remain open to the possibility, can be one of the most powerful and positively life-altering experiences you'll ever have. So brush off your shoulders, raise your glass high – and celebrate yourself.

Rachel "RayRay" Ricketts is an intuitive grief coach, writer, death doula, spiritual healer and founder of loss&found - an organization helping folks minimize their pain and move through grief from whatever life's thrown their way. She is particularly passionate about helping other women of colour sur-thrive and overcome centuries of oppression, grief and trauma. Through grief coaching calls, online workshops, events and retreats, Rachel guides people in honouring grief of all forms so they can best show up for themselves and others and live a joyful, fulfilling life. Her self-care practice includes donuts, dancing and everything metaphysical (ideally all at the same time). She resides in her hometown of Vancouver, B.C, Canada. Catch up with her at www.lossandfoundxo.com or on Instagram @lossandfoundxo