What started out like a typical Sunday In October turned out to be the worst day of my life. I remember feeling sad like something was wrong but couldn't pinpoint the why. I went to church but was really just going through the motions during service and bible study. I remember my friends being worried asking if i'm okay and not knowing what to tell them. I just remember feeling really sad. I couldn't really hold a conversation driving home with my friend/mentor. She drops me off home and i head inside to the news of my fathers passing. I was 15 turning 16 the following month. I remember my legs giving out and dropping to my knees screaming in agony and then everything went black. That started my 2 year streak of being in deep depression. It was a day my world had turned black and I could see no light for a long period of time. My grief was deep, a lonely hollow feeling, not only because I had lost my first love and my best friend. But because I had already lost so much time, memories by being separated and having to live in the US while my parents were back home. It felt as though I was robbed of everything really. Time, the memories i could've had, conversations but most of all I was robbed of having a Dad. One that loved me so fiercely and my biggest protector. It's been 11 years since he passed so suddenly but this loss left a void in my heart that I still can't quite fill. I miss him everyday, I often miss his voice and wish I had called more often that week and talked to him. I wish a lot of things, all of which I can't change but accept. Through the loss of my father, and his mother that followed not long after and many more losses I experienced in my life. It taught me that absolutely nothing in this life is guaranteed. That people leave this world everyday unexpectedly and death is part of life that we can not change or have any control over. It taught me to use my words wisely, you never know when the last conversation you have will be the only one. Loss taught me gratitude. To give and have gratitude for the space i'm given, the people in my life and for the smallest things like hearing my loved ones voices or being able to hug them, tell them i love and appreciate them every chance i'm given. Loss taught me to spread love and kindness in the people I come across, to have less regrets and being present in each moment i'm lucky enough to have with my family. It most importantly taught me to LOVE fiercely and deeply with no regerts.

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My father, Kamal Wali Hasan, inspired my growth mindset, commitment to seeking knowledge, and autonomous way of living.

On May 11, 2020, six days before my 27th birthday, I held the frail hand of a 57-year-old man who I felt I was just getting to know as he took his final breath.

I feel that the experience of navigating and watching my father go up against stage 3 blood cancer empowered me to act on living in my truth no matter the reactions or responses it may provoke from others. He chose to heal holistically, and although doctor's subjected him to less than a year of life with this route, he actually made it three years on natural medicines, therapies, and disciplined diet.

His strength, courage, and choices inspired me to own my passions as a holistic strategist, and wellness and spiritual practitioner. His strong stance on legacy pushed me to further commit to building upon that of my parents, grandparents, and seven generations back in order to lay strong foundation for the forthcoming generations within my bloodline.

Every day I find myself thinking of him with much gratitude for the ways in which he inspired the woman I am today. I often hear his voice telling me, "We seek knowledge sweetheart. We come up with ideas."

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What should have been a joyous moment in any new parents life turned into the most soul shaking reality and grief I never thought I’d have to experience. I gave birth to my daughter and had to say goodbye a short 2 hours later.

I still remember the day very vividly and remember how peace she felt. I never understood why we got dealt this hand but this loss has taught me to be a more compassionate lover, a present friend and sibling. I hold a very deep gratitude for being blessed by an angel and being able to breathe every moment I wake up.

I value the present so much more and I have surrendered to the need to control certain things in the world around me.

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i have a picture in my head. of my sons, sitting on a cloud in heaven looking down on us. i still want to make them proud to say “she’s mine.” it’s been eighteen days, each one harder than the last. but that vision has kept me here, kept me going, and kept me in integrity in its own weird way

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I'll never forget the day my Dad died. The phonecall, the feeling of my world imploding in on itself. The feeling of having your heart break into a million pieces in real time. I didn't know the sharpness of that pain.

For the longest time, my grief was punctuated by anger. Confusion. Lots of questions and no answers.

What I have learned about my grief and sorrow around loss in general is to not fight the wave. Ride the wave, as it comes. It's the only way you won't get swept away by the current. Grief is also something I've learned to walk beside, it's stretched the limits of my love and gratitude for small moments I am able to share with loved ones. It makes me appreciate my humanity just a bit more.

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Nneka, I am sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was such a light in this world. Thank you for sharing this with us, and for your reflection.

My losses that have shaped me most so far in my life have not been losses from death (though I have lost my grandparents and other relatives), but from those who are still living yet left my life, often in painful ways. People who I loved, people who I adored, people who I gave my whole heart to. To be honest though, even when I was very young - starting from about 11 years old or even younger - I felt a loss within me that I couldn't explain; it felt like a hollow void, an aching for something that "should" be there, but that somehow felt like it was taken out of me long before I came into being. Strange, I know. I thought my family would fill that void for me, or my friends, or strangers, but no one and nothing did. That sense of something "missing" in me led to me giving of myself even when I had nothing to give, as well as being abandoned by many, many people I had given my heart to in the hopes that they could fill that void - all of which lasted for over two decades. Now, at 30 years old, I am beginning to fill that void. With me.

All of the loss that I experienced in my life taught me many things - patience, stillness, gratitude, hope, vulnerability, and other things - but most of all, it taught me to love, to have an open heart, to feel and connect to the humanity in others, and how to nourish and have love for me.

Having a deep sense of loss and emptiness within me most of my life brought me to who I am today.

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When you said, “What comes to me, every time, through the fog of grief, is gratitude.”

I’m in this space between gratitude and heartbreak. One thing for sure is the daily reminder that life is precious. The “love you’s ” are louder and the hugs are longer.

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Nneka man, your words are always so beautiful. This made me shed a tear. The losses I have had in my life have made me connect to gratitude. They remind me to be grateful for all the other things that I still have.

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