“Growing up I was privileged. My life was easy. My biggest concerns were how tan could I get? How little time could I spend at work and where would I party at night? I was surrounded by friends, love, and fun. However, what I didn’t realize was that I would soon feel like the only person in the world.
It was the morning after a late night out when I woke up to a phone call from my brother.
Intrigued by the rarity of him calling at this time of day, I quickly picked up to the sobering sound of, ‘Dad is really sick. He has cancer.’ Time suddenly stood still as I began to grapple with, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ I remember being told, ‘There’s nothing to do right now. We’re all here and we just wanted to let you know.’
Over the next two months my life was a rollercoaster of emotion. I remember some of my dad’s final words, ‘Go back to school, graduate and get a job. I will always be with you – when you walk across the stage at graduation, when you get married, and for everything else in your life.’
So, this is what I did. I went back to school and tried to go about life as normal, only life was far from it. My dad had a terminal illness and I was 3 hours from him not knowing what the future had in store. In one moment I was sitting in class listening to the instructor and present to my studies; the very next moment, I would have flashes of images of my dad: memories of old and scenes of what may or not may not be in the future.
I would try to push my thoughts away as tears welled in my eyes while I sat in my desk. My mind was racing and my emotions started to rise with anxiety, depression, and anger. At this point in my journey I coped by repeating my dad’s words like a mantra, ‘Go back to school, graduate and get a job.’ It was as if I thought that if I did well in school, as he directed, everything would be fine with his health. I followed his direction and did what most college kids my age were doing – studying by day and partying by night (and/or midafternoon).
In less than two months, he passed.
I remember my mom telling me one day that it was time to come home because my dad was being moved to hospice. In my mind I thought, ‘This is great. This is where he will get better because it is a more peaceful environment without the beeping noises of the hospital equipment and people coming in and out to check on him.’
Much to my surprise, I walked into the hospice center and my mom told me he was ‘gone.’ I fell to my knees. A nurse came over to me and asked me to be quiet and go into a room. I felt like I was in a movie, a horror movie. How in the world is this the reaction I am being met with? And someone please go and wake my dad up!
I was angry at the nurse, angry at my family who was all there without me. I kept these feelings to myself, knowing that everyone else was grieving too. I continued to attempt to live this concept of ‘normal’ in the hopes that things would just get better.
Over the next few days we handled the necessary and unsettling to do’s such as, ‘Which casket should we get’ and ‘Should we get the special treatment to ensure the body is preserved?’ I remember looking at my mom like, ‘What the #?$! is wrong with these people?!’
Still thinking that my dad would wake up, I started to feel like I was living in another world. I kept the goal of my mantra, ‘Go back to school, graduate, and get a job…’ as my focus and blocked out the other stuff as much as I could. When I got back to school, I was still distracting myself from my grief and began self-sabotaging and self-medicating. I studied like crazy, worked out, and partied as much as I could. I didn’t want to face reality.
I began to realize I needed help and so began my journey of discovery – of myself and of life. I embarked on my first international travel to Nicaragua where I would spend the week focused on me. I started to see that it wasn’t my parents, siblings, boyfriend, or even God that I was angry with about my dad’s passing. I was just sad. Plain and simple. Real and raw. I was in the midst of a breakdown that was giving me space to BREAK THROUGH into my life today.
I gained the tools through the book and program, ‘Yoga and Life Empowerment’ by Sid McNairy that led me to see myself and move through my feelings of depression and anger. I remember the moment of becoming accountable for me being angry. It took me back to the moment of walking into the hospice center and hearing the news that my dad was gone. The anger I felt was not because of what the nurse said or the fact that my siblings and mom were already there. I was angry because my dad was gone. I was angry with God. I was sad and I missed him. I transformed in order to access gratitude for what and who was in my life and let go of focusing on who and what was not. I have found a deeper level of faith through the passing of my father, seeing his level of peace at the very end.
I graduated from college the December after my father passed and began working in retail management. Feeling purposeful but lacking passion, I began my Master’s in School Counseling and found a greater sense of purpose I was longing for.
However, it was my practice of yoga with my now husband, Sid McNairy, that transformed my level of healing and my desire to share that level with others. Through a meditation I completed with Sid, I visualized my perfect day. I wrote up every detail from beginning to end. At the end of the exercise I read it aloud. Come to find out that Sid’s perfect day was written practically identical to mine. This gave way to knowing that we would spend the rest of our lives together, creating our perfect day.
I have since obtained my 500-hour yoga teacher training and my LGPC to support me in connecting with people to look deeper than their circumstances to discover hope, establish peace, and empower themselves.
It has been two months since Sid and I sold just about everything in our home and embarked on our Peace Across America Tour, teaching and sharing our stories with people all over the United States and beyond.
Our lifestyle has brought concern to others who have shared thoughts like, ‘What do you mean you are selling everything?,’ ‘How are you going to live?’ and ‘What about your careers?’ These are legitimate questions.
Today we are at our retreat center, Nahi Sanctuary, in the Dominican Republic. Recently the news has announced several stories of tourists from the United States in this country falling ill and some even mysteriously passing. We have heard from family, friends, and students, ‘Be careful!,’ ‘Are you sure now is a good time to travel there?’
At first, I felt defensive with these questions, as if I had something to prove. However, knowing that I myself was uneasy, allowed me to see that it was not the words of family and friends that had me feeling defensive. My defensiveness came from my foundational emotion of unease.
I checked my emotions and THEN had clear conversations with people around the facts. ‘Yes, we have sold a lot and we have what we need,’ ‘Our careers are at an all-time high as we elevate through our passion to help others in the way that we have been helped’ and ‘In terms of the Dominican Republic, I feel safe here.’
These conversations around the truth are what transformed defensiveness into understanding and criticism into feedback.
I know that I am responsible for my reality. If something is off in what I am hearing or what I am seeing, it is up to me to make the shift. If I can shift my thoughts and get free from my emotional pain, so can you. To truly love what matters is to devote your life and energy into all things love. That doesn’t mean that you ignore the ‘bad.’ It means that you learn to fall in love with your pain. You become so rich in your faith that no matter what comes your way, you are in a state of acceptance to continue to flow through life with grace and an understanding that you are taken care of. We aim to help others realize where they can become more spiritually rich to fall in love with every moment of life!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Liz McNairy of the Dominican Republic. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more empowering stories of healing after grief:
SHARE this story on Facebook to encourage others to cherish every moment and love what matters most.