A year ago, I tragically lost my dear dad, Paul Gervais, while he was skiing. It has been the hardest and most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced, and I hope I never go through anything so traumatic again. Nonetheless, as with all of life’s obstacles, there are lessons and there are opportunities for strength.
Tune in to this very raw, honest and personal episode on my reflections on the “gift of grief” a year after suddenly losing my best friend. You’ll find this episode relatable if you’ve experienced any trauma or sudden change (a breakup, a layoff, etc), especially if you’re trying to find the strength to overcome it, and even transform into a better person because of it.
In this episode, I will share the three “gifts” I’ve found from my grief. I’m also sharing my favorite story of my dad, the one that I hope continues to live on forever. I hope you enjoy this episode.
Replay of Facebook Live of Episode
Transcription of the Episode Dedicated to Paul Gervais
Hey, thank you guys for tuning in. I hope that you are all excited for the week. So thank you guys for coming. My name is Leah, I am the founder of Urban 20 Something. This is the “Your Biggest Vision” show. Today is a show that is very near to my heart. It’s going to be very vulnerable and not talking about entrepreneurship like I usually do, but more talking about what to do when something happens in your life that prevents you from feeling like you can’t move forward with whatever goal or dream you’re working toward. Very specifically, I want to share how I have tried to overcome grief in my own life.
So I’m a little bit nervous about this episode. I’ll just be really honest. Usually I love coming on live, I love talking to you guys. But because this one is so near to my heart, it is bit more nerve wracking. However, it’s a really important message to me. It’s something that I almost feel required to share. It’s something that I would have wanted to know if I would have known this, looking back. So just to be clear, and you know, upfront a year ago, yesterday, I suddenly lost my Dad, while he was skiing. It was very sudden and very unexpected and very shocking. In a lot of ways, I still feel shock, some of the time I still don’t fully believe it, some of the time. I feel like even when I can come to believing what happened, really believing and understanding what it means for my life overall, is something I’m still definitely grappling with. So that’s, you know, one of the reasons why it’s a little bit more nerve wracking to talk about. I really tried to bring people on this show and talk about things that I feel like I’ve learned and this is something I’m definitely still learning it is not something I’m through. It is not something I’ve seen the other side of… So I want to be upfront with that.
However, it’s been a year now. There’s so much that I have wanted to share about what I did this year, what I learned this year, and what I’m trying to, you know, share with what happens. So what I want to talk about today are three “gifts”. I put them in quotes, because it’s really hard to call it a gift. But three gifts I’ve tried to find out of the grief that I’ve experienced, and the grief that I’m still experiencing. So that is what we have in store for you today I want to talk about these three “gifts”. But before we do, I just want to share a quick story about my Dad because I think that it will really illustrate the kind of person he is if you’re watching this and you don’t know them all that well or didn’t know him. Or even if you’re kind of new to me, then you might be really wondering why I feel the need to talk about this on my public platform. I think that this story might illustrate this Instagram I’m sorry, I’m so dark.
All I want to talk about is how grateful my Dad was as a person and how he always saw the the light, over the darkness and always saw the glass half full. He always had a half hour every day that he set aside for what he called gratitude time. He would actually do it at 4:00 pm his time. But he was an accountant, you have a an accounting firm, and every day at four, he would put all these alarms on his iPad and phone and all the other things he had going and stop working so that he could focus on what he was grateful for, for a whole half hour and he was very disciplined about it. No matter how busy he got, or, you know, whatever he had going on, he still managed to do this and I loved that about him. And I loved learning that from him and seeing him do that, especially he started really doing that bit later in his life. When I was in college, I would say about 10 years ago. When I was when I was in college, I studied abroad in Costa Rica for a semester, and I remember having about 30 people in this program with me.
We were all very close and relatively early on in the program I shared this, this practice with them that my Dad did, that he had his half hour of gratitude time every day, and that he had it at four o’clock every day. And he would just really think about everything he had been blessed with, for half an hour every day and made him such a happier person. It made him more of a giving person and made him more of a joyous person. By the end of my time in Costa Rica, everyone in my program, all of them had integrated half an hour of gratitude time in their life. I love sharing that story in case this resonates with you, and you want to integrate some sort of gratitude time in your life as well. But I think it just goes to show the kind of person he was and what he did and the way he lived. His life was so influential to others while he was alive, and of course, still is now.
Because he had this gratitude piece to him and because he was always able to see you know the good in people and the good in situations, I wanted to channel that with him and share with you what I have tried to find to be the good out of this situation of losing him. So the three gifts that I found of grief.
The first gift that I consider from my grief has been a gift of purpose. When you go through something traumatic, I didn’t realize how much of an urge I would have to turn it into something meaningful. I realized that my dad’s passing was the beginning of a story as is any unexpected experience or any challenge. You know, even when you get fired from something. If you have a breakup if you don’t get into a school, I really hope that these resonate with you given any sort of challenge you might be going through. I knew that this was going to be a new story or a new chapter in my life. But I didn’t realize that I had the power to finish the story that would be written and that’s something I really stepped into when he passed away and something I almost you know, it was the only thing that kept me going was feeling powerful about how I could control the outcome of this story. Because I felt so helpless in so many other ways. I felt so distraught that I had lost him. But this was a story that I got to write the ending to. And I took a lot of pride in that I took, you know that very seriously. So to be clear, there was nothing easy about this and there still isn’t.
At the time I felt physically wounded, and probably still was. Basic tasks like waking up in the morning, brushing my teeth, showering, sometimes felt like I was moving through glass just to get those things done every day. Everything was emotionally and physically exhausting. So the idea of suddenly injecting my life with a new superman like quality was impossible some of the time. It seemed like something I would never actually be able to do and truthfully a lot of people go through the motions their entire life like that. Not really pausing and breaking up the status quo to ponder their bigger purpose and act on it. The idea of taking something like that on is already scary to try to do something you know, big and dramatic with your life. It requires massive action and usually a lot of risk. So it would have been scary to take this on even if my dad hadn’t passed away at the time. You can only imagine how much more daunting it was from that state of shock and trauma. But still, I felt like I didn’t have a choice. In other words, the alternative was to continue going through the days as I always had going through the motions, going to my job going through my social life in the same way, but now with this huge hole in my life. And that was not an option. I felt that continuing on without giving my story a new element of purpose from this event could have put my dad’s passing in vain and that was not an option to me.
Looking back, I probably put a bit too much pressure on myself to make something profound happen during a time in which I was hugely wounded and probably couldn’t have managed to do much, but I’m not here to judge myself. I just wanted to share with you today honestly how this impacted me. Back then, and still to this day, I view that urge of purpose I felt as a gift because there were plenty of days when life did seem purposeless after my Dad was gone. So having the urge to fill the storyline with purpose kept me going. If you think of a challenge, traumatic experience, or obstacle, that this relates, you probably have felt this in your moments of strength to make something better of yourself because of it.
Perhaps a difficult breakup left you broken, but sometimes, sometimes wanting to reinvent yourself as a woman in the aftermath feels empowering. Maybe you were laid off from a job and that seemed completely catastrophic at the time, but you find yourself occasionally inspired to start your own business or something like that. Whatever the obstacle may be, I believe that any obstacle you may be experiencing can also leave you with a sense of purpose to make something, not even just as good as it was before, but even better. I believe you have that power within you right now. For me, this meant I needed to go all in at what the time was my side hustle what had been my side hustle for about two years and realized that this was no longer going to be my side hustle. I was no longer going to let myself play small or settle with it. At that point, I had already decided that I was going to eventually give my business a full time go. But I hadn’t planned on making the leap for another year, at least. When my dad passed away, I realized I was playing small and my own potential and not honoring him as his daughter.
So that was not serving him in the way I wanted to. I decided six months after he passed away, I would leave my nine to five job and that’s exactly what I did. I’m so grateful for the purpose I found in my business. If you’re listening to this, and you feel the desire to create something purposeful, but you don’t know what it is. Here are some of the tips I have for you. I do want to say that I do feel lucky that I kind of had this going already. I could see how it would feel very difficult to want to find purpose in something but not really know where to begin. So my tips are to focus less on what you do want, and focus more on who you want to be. That compass has never steered me wrong and I still think about that often, more who I want to be than what I want to have.
My other tip is to zoom out. What do you think you’d look back in 5, 10 or even 15 years of and be proud to have done right now, even if you can’t see the whole thing about how it would play out? Then the final tip is to remember that you don’t need the roadmap to go to your new venture ever. You just need to start it.
Alright so that was one, which was focus.
Gift number two that I have found from grief is bravery. When you go through something hugely traumatic and life altering it comes as no surprise that day to day stresses or fears seemed to disappear without any work. Nothing seems worth complaining about anymore. At first this gift was not a gift for me. The way this effect showed up was that I would get annoyed with anyone who would complain about anything. I felt that because they weren’t going through something as traumatic as suddenly losing a parent, their problems weren’t worth stressing over, or being afraid of. This is of course, not true and not fair. Everyone’s stress and issues come from their own perspective and experience. And I did not want to come out of this grief with a hardened heart. If anything, I wanted to be more empathetic. So I had to re-channel this new perspective by using it within my own life, not how I perceived others. I started censoring myself about the things I was stressing about, or scared of, and asking myself if they were worth being stressed or scared of or not.
This constant reminder that life can be taken from us at any instant, coupled with the belief that there was no longer any obstacle I could not overcome, because nothing would be as challenging as losing my father, gave me a new sense of fearlessness. And let me tell you, I don’t think anything helped my business grow faster than this mental switch right here.
Let me give you some examples. I used to be afraid of spending money. I was afraid of spending money on Facebook ads, for example, because I wasn’t sure of the return on their investment. I was afraid of joining entrepreneurship or coaching programs because I was afraid they wouldn’t be worth the money. I was afraid of running out of money. All classic fears many people have about money. But when I applied my newfound bravery, about how short life is, how good God is, and how much of the potential any of us have, do you think I held myself back from business opportunities that could change my life because a fear of spending a few thousand dollars on my own dang business? Heck no. And those investments have paid off time and time and time again, I honestly would not be where I am today. If I didn’t switch the way I thought about this fear of spending money. I used to be afraid of what I post on Instagram. It’s true. I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid people will from high school would see what I was trying to do and judge me. I was afraid of being laughed at.
Maybe you can relate to this. After I applied my lens of “life is short, only worry about real problems” to this. I couldn’t have cared less about what people think of me. This allowed my business to grow so much, too, because I put myself out there so much more. I stopped overthinking what I was saying or doing. And I was able to be more authentically myself, which of course, people connected to more, which of course, helps my brand grow. These fears no longer seemed worth my energy, and guess what? I was right. They weren’t worth it to begin with and they’re still not. I mean, honestly, I was not going to get to my deathbed and think wow, thank goodness I didn’t put myself out there on social media. I could be embarrassed right now.
As you can see, having that new sense of bravery, understanding what’s worth actually stressing about so many of my fears faded away, whether you have experienced trauma or not. I hope that from this you can take away that believing in a higher power or even just being a positive person, means that you believe there’s more good than bad in the world, more grace than harm. Where are your decisions, perhaps reflecting otherwise? Where are you banking on the worst case scenario instead of the best?
I also hope you can take away that spending time considering the person you want to be will probably bring up that you want to be brave and bold. How can you be braver and pursue of your goals? So that is my second gift bravery.
Alright. The third and final gift I want to outline from my grief has been perspective. This goes off of bravery, but it’s worth pointing out on its own as well. Developing on the former gift, I was also gifted with a whole new perspective. This mostly showed in my point beforehand, and that I became more brave because I had a different perspective about what stresses actually mattered and what didn’t. Small stresses like spending money, where you can of course, always make money, putting myself out there trying something new, even quitting my nine to five job did, not seem like anything I couldn’t handle after experiencing this. But overall, the perspective was not just about things that didn’t matter and stresses I shouldn’t have.
I think that having the perspective of how short life is has made me a better person, daughter, friend, and now fiance. It helped me let go of the little fears, but also helped me let go of little annoyances. I stopped picking fights about things that didn’t matter. I stopped getting my feelings hurt over things that had nothing to do with me. I stopped dwelling on growing pains. I am able to let go of the little things easier because they now no longer feel like they matter.
On the flip side, this has also given me the perspective of how truly precious and delicate life is. So I’ve been able to absorb the small things that do matter. We all instinctively know this to be true. But be shown close up just how quickly life can be taken away puts a new lens in your life with everything you do. Small things that bring you joy seem to matter a lot more to me these days. An exercise class, a sunny day, a fun time with friends, a delicious cocktail. Their things I switch the focus that used to be absorbed with small stressful things I am now able to channel towards these.
And don’t even get me started on the new joy if I wouldn’t going for my dreams. I have always been a dreamer and been driven but now working my business, planning my wedding, building a six figure business at 26 years old. It has brought an entire new sense of meaning to my life. It stinks that my Dad is not here, but my Dad is here.
So thank you guys for tuning into the “gifts” that I found from grief. I hope that no matter what obstacle you might be facing, or maybe you faced in the past, or that you might face at some point, you can find the gifts out of them too. I had a drink with a very good friend of mine last night. He and I talked about how we learned that not everything happens for a reason. But there is a reason in everything that you can find that happens to you. So I wanted to share my reasons and the tips I had in finding those and I hope that you can resonate with these as well.
Thank you guys. Thank you so much for your sweet comments and I hope you guys have a great week. If you ever, you know, go through anything, even if it’s small, and it seems like you might not be able to move forward, or seems like a roadblock, or it seems like you can’t do it, just know that you can, you can do it. You have more power within you right now than you could ever even believe. One of my favorite quotes from Marianne Williamson is about really learning how you have the power of God within you and you really are a child of the most creative, powerful force out there. When you really understand this, then it seems like even moving mountains would be a small feat and I’ve really come to believe that after this year, so thanks, guys for tuning in. This one is for my Dad and everything he taught me and is continuing to thank you guys. Oh, your comments are so nice things. And I love you too. I hope you guys have a great week.
We have really great interviews coming up on the show. Let me know if you guys liked this and if you ever want to hear more things about this and personal experience, because I do think that it’s useful to share stories and I always like to hear your guys’s feedback and what is helpful to you and what is not. But no matter what I hope you have an amazing day and I hope that this supports you in pursuit of your biggest vision, I’ll talk to you guys later. Have a great week.
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