When I think of the big moments of my life—like my wedding day, college graduation day or even award ceremonies—I immediately think of my Dad. 

2020 was one of the biggest years of my life. I graduated from an Ivy League school, wrote a book and started a new career—all without him being present. But his presence was felt along the way. 

How do you turn loss into a catalyst? I share more in this excerpt from ‘The Fire Inside You,” an e-book I recently published in collaboration with poet and publishing coach Scott Andrew James.

For more content, inspiration and fuel for your fire visit me at my website.

The Secrets Inside of Grief and Loss

It took a big loss in my life to set me on the path toward intentional living. On May 20, 2017, I lost my dad, who had always just seemed to get me. He was the person I called each day when driving home from work. After his passing, every time I found myself about to pick up the phone to call him made my pain cut a little deeper. 

But loss made me take a hard look at how I was living my life, and I was not happy with what I saw. Grief ripped the blinders off and showed me all the ways I was going through the motions and fulfilling goals others were setting for me. 

For years, I had had an amazing career as a lobbyist. The team I led passed more than a dozen state laws each year and more city ordinances than we could count. I received fancy awards, from being selected as one of five most influential women in the city I live in to being named an under 40 leader to watch.

But behind my smile and the veneer of social media was someone living on autopilot. I was putting so much pressure on myself. I was known as the person who got shit done, and, sure enough, that meant people asked me to do more and more. My responsibilities at work grew and grew. I chaired seven galas in eight years. I rarely saw those I cared about. I felt lost and aimless. 

Then my dad passed away. The week after his funeral, I went to Mexico to decompress with some friends . While there, I started to feel a tectonic shift within me. Suddenly, I was just done blindly going through the motions. It 16 was time to reclaim my energy and vision for my life. So I began the process of healing two wounds: living each day without my dad and the realization that for so long, I’d been on autopilot and had let my life get away from me. That’s a tough pill to swallow. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all grieved and lost. It might be a family member or friend, but it might be a job or even a hobby that brought us joy. I miss traveling to see friends and dancing to music in big cities — sometimes so much, I almost cry.

But what if we used grief and loss as a hard reset for life? What if we used it to commit to leading a more centered and balanced life?

I found ways to set that energy in motion consistently. I began to live with intention. I immediately noticed that things I had always wanted to do or dreamed about became real opportunities in my life. I began listening to my gut, starting with being unapologetically, authentically me. That has given me the confidence to say no to things I don’t really want to do and yes to things that at one time scared me or I wasn’t sure were within my reach. 

I committed to making sure each decision is tied to one thing: my personal mission of inspiring others to lead and to create movements within themselves or their communities. By living with intention, the parts of my life where I might have found fear or showed judgment were just no longer around. You see, intention allows you to shed unnecessary skin and habits. Fear and judgment were replaced with courage, compassion and grace. To guide me, I selected a theme for my new belief in intention. My theme is faith and fortitude. When I allowed this theme to guide me and my vision for myself, finding my center got a whole lot easier. And it is wonderful that the person who knew me so well left me the incredible gift of pushing me toward reclaiming my life. Now I think of him every time I make decisions that lead me closer to my vision for my life, and I know he’s happy, just like me. 

Grief and loss are brutal. They shake us to our very core. And while we all need to take time to grieve and acknowledge the loss and heal, there is truly 17 no going back to who we (thought we) were before the loss. We either let the empty hole suck our energy and life, or we treat it as an opportunity to grow, build, and honor our path toward a more intentional life.