And having the grit to never give up

I remember my first day at a summer job during university. It was on the production line at a brewery. It smelled like the morning after a keg party which was not very pleasant. But I soon equated that smell with a great pay cheque as I was making a lot more than my previous student jobs in retail or lifeguarding.

However the very first day was one of the toughest. That morning at 6 a.m. as I sat eating breakfast, wondering what it would be like to work in a beer factory, a long distance ring jangled the phone. It was my uncle in Ireland. He said my beloved grandma had just passed away.

Although we only met about ten times through my childhood when we visited Ireland for a month every other summer, we were very close. She was loving and supportive and always made the best ice cream wafer sandwiches.

I was devastated. But I knew I was lucky to have been chosen for this summer job and I couldn’t miss the first day. Although I cried for about a month after she passed, I dried my tears and never missed a shift. And I thought about her all the time.

Looking back, it was her grit that inspired me to never give up. She watched all her children leave home and travel to other countries to find a job or an education. Her once full house became quiet, with only the crackle of the fire or the cows’ moos to interrupt the silence. But she never lost faith or stopped smiling. She trusted her children to follow their hearts and travel their own journeys. And they did.

It is through struggle that we grow. As Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Whether a struggle is about losing someone, starting a new job, dealing with a health issue or letting go of your growing children, the only way to move past it is to walk through it. And the person you become on the other side will be stronger and more inspired than you ever thought possible.

Photo credit: Cristian Newman

The strength and wisdom found in a grandma’s hands.

Originally published at on February 24, 2017.

Originally published at


  • Siobhan Kelleher Kukolic

    Mother-of-three. Freelance writer. Author. #HuffPost blogger. Believer in dreams.

    Siobhan Kukolic is a storyteller at heart. She writes to inspire the belief that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see. She recently published her first book, available on Amazon and Indigo. The Treasure You Seek is about following your heart, believing in yourself beyond reason, embracing failure and knowing that you are enough. It includes inspirational stories about famous failures, cultural icons, world leaders and regular folks like you and me. The goal is to remind us that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see. A perfect read for graduates from elementary school through university, people starting their career, changing jobs or retiring, friends going through a medical crisis, new parents, empty nesters and anyone who wants to be inspired. She started her career as a copywriter working on campaigns for organizations including Esso, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Grand & Toy, Labatt, and SC Johnson. While raising her kids, she volunteered as co-chair of her school council for seven years, helped get eight 20-foot maples donated for an eco-classroom and co-ordinated the building of a school peace garden with 115 donated trees and shrubs for Earth Day. She co-founded a not-for-profit movement called Blueberry Shark, named after a healthy fruit and the only animal that doesn't get cancer, with a mission to create the healthiest kids in the world. By providing a voice for those who didn't have one, she rallied enough media attention to help crowd-fund $105,000 in two weeks to pay for an unfunded drug for a mother of two dying of stage-four brain cancer. She also used media attention to nudge the government to change drug coverage policy right before an election and get a $360,000 a year drug covered for a 12-year-old cystic fibrosis patient. Her letters to the editor are frequently published in the National Post and she has represented her neighbourhood by making deputations at city council and the school board. She spends her time blogging, speaking to students and corporations about grit, and juggling the schedules of her three kids as they follow their dreams in competitive Irish dance and ice hockey.