This year was a big year for me.

My husband and I celebrated our first year of marriage, we bought a dog, we bought a house and I got a new job. As spectators looked at my life and through my social media – they probably saw someone who seemed to have it all together.

What many don’t know and for the first time speaking out about this – I was suffering with depression. Some of my friends and family reading this are shocked and those that know me best aren’t. How could such an exciting year lead to a severe wave of depression?

On March 24, my beautiful grandmother took her final breath. Having been the matriarch of our family and someone I talked to regularly, the grief hit hard. The first few days, I felt like the only reason to get out of bed was to be with family. I couldn’t think straight and all I did was cry.

I cried. I cried a lot and then life after that two-week break went back to “normal.” I had a job to go back to and responsibilities to fill. As I was going back through the motions in a city that was over an hour from my family, I felt empty. All I wanted to do was cry and sleep. I also wanted to do anything and everything to avoid this blackness in my heart. People stopped or never asked how I was doing and I felt like no one cared. It hurt.

You may be going through a season like this and you may be wondering how you’re going to get through the holidays and the new year. I’ve been there. I’ve felt hopeless and while I have the power of Christ in me – I felt powerless. I’m here to tell you, though, that there is hope and there will be a day when the darkness will seem less dark. So, how do you thrive through grief? While I wish there was a specific roadmap, there isn’t. What there is, though, are pieces of advice that I took that changed my life and I’ve listed them below.

Get Real.

She died and she’s never coming back. I never wanted to accept those words and through the grieving process, I’ve had to acknowledge them. My grandma lived a beautiful life, but it was her time to go and she truly is in a better place. That doesn’t help with the pain, though. The biggest thing that led me to depression is not facing the truth head on. I would look at pictures and be in disbelief, but that was doing me so much harm. Once you acknowledge the truth, you’ll be able to figure out what the path of grief looks like for you. You can’t avoid it and if you do, you’re hurting yourself more. Trust me, I know.

Get active.

After my day at work and on the weekends, I had no desire to do anything. I wanted to sleep or just lay in bed. I also was gaining weight and as someone who can gain weight after looking at cookies, it wasn’t good for my body. Clothes were getting tight and I didn’t care. After being diagnosed with depression, I was highly encouraged to do some sort of activity. As a prior member of Orangetheory Fitness, I asked my husband if he would want to do it with me. He agreed to and since the diagnosis, we’ve been doing OTF at 5 a.m. every morning. Sweating and getting activity has changed my mental state. I leave class feeling refreshed and motivated to kick my day in the butt. It doesn’t matter if you take a class like me or walk your dog – get out there!

Get help.

When family members first pointed out my significant change – they immediately suggested I talk to someone. Instead of going to my family doctor, I decided to try a holistic approach. I visited a holistic doctor in my area and had tons of bloodwork done. Through that, we noticed deficiencies that were all associated with my depression. I was prescribed tons of vitamins, as well as a natural antidepressant and I’ve noticed a huge difference. While taking vitamins can sometimes be a pain, I knew how important it was to fuel my body with things that I was lacking.

Not only did I see a doctor, but I also saw a therapist. I was able to confront my grief and pain, as well as realize that I’m stronger than I think. Which leads me to my next point.

Get talking.

You need to talk about what you’re going through. You also need to talk about the importance of mental health. Whether talking to a licensed therapist or a family member, find someone. Here’s the catch: find someone who cares. That sounds harsh, but the ones that I thought would care have become absent in my life. Not only find someone who cares, but find someone who truly understands. Having lost my grandma opened up a completely new understanding of grief. If you haven’t experienced it, you just don’t get it. Whether that’s remembering beautiful times with your loved one or having a crying session with a good friend – do it! Holding in words will only hurt you more. Mental health is a real thing and if you don’t speak up, no one will.

The journey of grief is a long road. I’m still going through it, but my journey looks so different from where I stared. I get up every morning thankful. I’m thankful for those that love me and have supported me. I’m thankful for professionals that have walked beside me and for the strength I never thought I had. I won’t lie -the holidays will be painful. But, when we’re all together, we can remember the beautiful life my grandma had. We’re still finding a new normal and you will too. You and I can thrive through grief. You’ve got this.