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A young black man walks through a series of dark doorways until he reaches a warmly glowing one at the end, stages of grief

Grief and Purpose

Grief is a complex emotion; there are expectations around how to grieve, when to grieve, and guilt that comes with not meeting those expectations. You can’t force grief. You just have to let it in. That’s what I’ve found, at least.

A shocking loss

It’s been 14 years since my Mom was unexpectedly taken from me. One heart attack, that’s all it took, and my world flipped completely. I was a teenager. A carefree, happy teenager. Until March 15, 2010.

I remember the shock, the feeling of numbness. Like nothing was real. I’d find normalcy for a split second when I’d wake up in the morning, quickly to be met with the reality. She was no longer here.

I was expected to just bounce back

The first month was filled with support. Sympathy. Kindness. But after that month, it’s like people just expected me to bounce back to how I was before. When she was still here.

I tried. I smiled, I felt happiness. And people saw happiness. "You’re so positive," they’d say.

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And the thing is, I was. And positivity is what got 17-year-old me through the early days of grief.

A wave of grief hit me

The outward-facing positivity stayed with me when I received the shocking diagnosis, too. "You have high cholesterol. It’s hereditary."

It felt like a wave of grief hit me when I found out I had high cholesterol. Because that’s what my Mom had. And that’s what took her from me. A reminder that she’s no longer here, mixed with fear for my own future.

Grief is complex

Within a year, I lost my Mom and received the same diagnosis that took her life. So I did what I knew how to do when my world got turned upside down. I smiled.

I felt happiness. And people saw happiness. “You’re so positive,” they’d say. But this time there was something else that was present.

There was this internal nudge to take this loss and diagnosis and create something. And that’s what I did.

Finding purpose and building community

I learned all I could about heart health. I started exercising. Eating well. I became a group fitness instructor. A personal trainer. A yoga teacher. A CPR instructor. I fell in love with sharing my knowledge with others, inspiring them to enjoy taking care of their health.

I opened my first yoga studio in NYC in 2019, and after the pandemic shut it down, I branched out virtually. I taught high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and yoga to students in all different timezones. I built a community of people who truly wanted to care for their hearts (in every sense of that word). I opened up my second studio in 2022 in my hometown on Long Island, NY.

Grief and purpose are connected

I documented my blood tests, the changes in my medication plan, my test results.

I partnered with CVS, lululemon, Family Heart Foundation, and GoodRx, all to raise awareness about the condition that took my Mom from me: familial hypercholesterolemia.

Most days, it’s easy. Other days, sharing this journey feels like someone just ripped the bandaid off of my grief-wound. But the pain doesn’t stop me, because I learned something extremely important: Grief and purpose are connected.

Creating something painfully beautiful

It’s like the two dance around, creating this beautiful choreographed routine. They are so different, but they just work together.

Sadness, anger, defeat.

Drive, excitement, motivation.

Grief and purpose are 2 things that we cannot force. We just have to let them in. Let them surprise us, let them make themselves known. Without running from them, let them in. Listen to the messages that they bring. Let them guide. Because they can create something painfully beautiful.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The CardiovascularDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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