26 Things I'm Thankful for at 26
Updated: Oct 10
For the last six years, getting older was always something I associated with a somber aftertaste. It was another reminder that the world would keep turning, even after your favourite person dies. The sun will still rise, and the moon will still fall, and it'll feel like an act of betrayal for the earth to keep spinning in their absence.
When I think about 19-year-old me and where my mind was at, it stops me dead in my tracks. There really was a version of reality where I didn't survive the weight of the pain. One where it was too insurmountable, and I couldn't possibly recover from it. I owe that complete mental shift to so many things and people. It isn't time that heals all wounds. Time only allows you the opportunity to fill it with what will either destroy you or heal you.
This is a compilation of 26 things I'm thankful for at 26:
Parked car conversations: There is a level of intimacy and rawness that I've only ever been able to achieve while pouring my heart and soul out while sitting in a parking lot with a friend.
When mountains are in sight and the sky is PINK: I'm such a "look at the sky" type of person, so the first time I saw the sky turn pink WITH a backdrop of mountains... let's just say tears were shed.
Kind words: I really think I owe my survival to a thousand perfectly timed "I'm thinking of you," text messages. If you ever sent me one, they never ever ever went unnoticed or unappreciated. I swear the timing was so serendipitous at times that I knew in my heart and soul that Daniel was urging you to text me at the exact moment I was falling apart.
Therapy: My therapist once told me that I was acting as if I was already dead. It took years to truly unravel what that meant and what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I could choose despair or I could choose to honour Daniel by living. When you speak your harshest and cruelest thoughts out loud, it takes away their power.
Garage hangs: Nothing captivates my attention the way garage conversations with a circle of people sitting in lawn chairs talking about conspiracy theories and existentialism did.
Showing me who you really are: The majority of my heartbreaks in this life have been platonic. It's been hard not to see people leaving me as a reflection of who I am. And some days I have to remind myself of this more than others, but you leaving me was a kindness. You don't want people in your life that don't want to be in yours. Thank you for giving me the room and capacity to open my heart to people who are deserving.
Twirling in a black dress while playing Lana Del Rey: This one is pretty specific but it makes me feel beautifully dramatic and romantic. I've been able to do this in iconic places like Spain, Amsterdam and Japan. Such a power move.
Flower fields : There is something so intensely peaceful about being surrounded by a sea of uniform colour. I have travelled far and wide to see different fields of flowers. It is a direct dopamine hit for me to be immersed in a flower field.
Moving out of my hometown: When you stay in the same place where your trauma happened, it's easy for your mind to spiral into a constant loop that things will never change and it'll always be this painful. You gain so much perspective when you change your scenery and move to a place where nobody knows you. You get to redefine yourself without all the spectators that have known you for your whole life. You come to truly understand that there is a whole world out there.
Hiking: Walking up a mountain is so much more about mental strength than it is about physical strength. Hiking is such a spiritual and emotional journey for me. I have learned so much about life, patience and myself while hiking. It is something I will always keep as part of my lifestyle.
Glacier Fed Lakes: It has been the absolute privilege of my life to have lived in Jasper National Park where there is no shortage of iconic emerald green and Gatorade blue lakes. People travel thousands of miles to travel to what I was lucky enough to call home for three years. Whenever I see a new glacier fed lake, Mac Miller's song lyric comes into my head, "You remind me of the colour blue." Blue always reminds me of Daniel.
Peer Support Groups: It's one thing to go to therapy and talk to a professional about your trauma. It's another to go to a support group and talk to a group of people who have experienced exactly what you have experienced on a peer-to-peer level. I went to a suicide loss grief support group with other people who have lost loved ones to suicide. I felt so seen and validated. I cannot speak highly enough about the work The Centre for Grief and Healing does so I will link their FREE services here. My first support group was run by GirlsGottaHeal which is a supportive community of women on a mental health journey. Both these virtual groups helped me find a community of people I couldn't find otherwise.
Paying it Forward: Watching myself evolve from the pained person to the person who helps pained people is so surreal. I think it's such a beautiful thing to use your pain and lived experience to connect and empower those around you. I never want people to feel as alone and misunderstood as I felt. There is so much beauty in community.
Physical Touch: This was not my most important love language before Daniel's death but has since jumped to the top of my list. I think people take tangibility for granted. If you miss someone and you can get in your car and give them a hug, please do.
Journaling: The way my journal is written is as if I'm talking directly to Daniel. It's a release. It's the way I keep our relationship alive. Putting my thoughts down on paper lets me free myself of the heaviness of the emotions I feel. I recommend the practice to anyone who will listen.
Talking to myself: Psychiatrists might disagree with this one but I truly think this is such a healthy habit to develop. Think about it. You have to live with yourself every moment of every day. And you can pretend to drown out your inner voice by playing music, watching tv or hanging out with people. But if the moment you are alone, you feel discomfort and don't know how to self-soothe yourself, it's likely because you haven't invested enough into your relationship with yourself. Get comfortable with who you are without all the noise.
Reading: This year is the most I have read in my entire life and it really helps you redefine your relationship with silence and your inner voice. Instead of rewatching your comfort TV series or relistening to music you've heard a thousand times before, try to entertain yourself by reading. It is so much more fulfilling and I feel so accomplished every time I read a new book.
Random Phone Calls: Maintaining friendships in adulthood takes more of a conscious effort than it did when we were kids. Coffee dates require calendar invites and plans need advance notice. Even if you can't spontaneously fit me into your schedule the way we used to, a random phone call to check in and catch up is always appreciated.
Travelling: I can't believe this is so far down the list considering how much I do it - but experiencing new countries, cultures and languages has been so fundamental to my healing journey. I was so consumed by darkness for so long that I actively refused to acknowledge that there was any beauty left to be seen in this world. And it's almost as if Daniel took that as a challenge and pulled me towards some of the most beautiful places on earth. The exciting part is that there is still so much left for me to see.
When the song you wanted comes up on shuffle: I remember living day to day, moment to moment, having to really hold onto the little things. It was the small victories that slowly opened up my heart to appreciating good things in this life.
General Admission Concerts: I've said this SO many times - but there is absolutely nothing like going to a general admission concert for your favourite artists. Being in a crowd of strangers and absorbing the energy and hype of the people around you is so intimate and genuinely one of my favourite human experiences ever.
Risky text messages: Sometimes you really need to talk yourself into hitting 'send' on a message to someone who you haven't talked to in a while. If I've learned anything from Daniel dying so suddenly, its that there is nothing worse in this life than being tormented by 'what if' scenarios. It's something I refuse to be paralyzed with anymore. If I think about you, you will know. If I hear a song that reminds me of you, you will know. You should always operate with the deep understanding that what you say to someone, may be your last conversation with them. Make sure you're at peace with how you ended things.
The Northern Lights: The first time I saw what can only be described as the sky dancing in the colour green, there was an Indigenous woman there who felt compelled by the spirits to sing in her native language. It was such a beautiful and spiritually healing moment that I'll always remember.
Vulnerability: I have a very outspoken and transparent way of showcasing my feelings. This is something I've felt both admired and judged for. It's easy to brush away the many positive comments and internalize the few negative ones. But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the depth of how I feel. I've experienced some of the worst pain imaginable. But I've also felt some of the most profound love and beauty there is. The balance of this world doesn't allow you to have one without the other. It's a beautiful thing to dismantle the walls you've built in pain and let people see your true self.
Being alive to see my relationship with my parents evolve: When I was younger, I always considered their strictness to be so overbearing. Now that I've grown up, I realize that I am literally their heart outside of their body. And its a scary thing to let that heart wander out into a dangerous, uncertain world. I thought the love they felt and depths they would go to for me was normal. It wasn't until I saw other peoples relationships with their parents and family that I truly realized how insanely lucky I am.
Love is not a finite resource: The human heart is such a resilient thing. In the depths of your worst moments, hold onto this one overarching truth. No matter what you go through, and no matter how all-consuming it feels, your heart expands and makes room for new memories. For new feelings. One day, no matter how impossible it feels right now, you will find the beauty in life that you think no longer exists. If you think life is no longer worth living, please please please, hold on.
Always with love,