Girls Gotta Heal: The Community Empowering Women (and their Allies) on Their Journey with Grief, Loss & Mental Health

We’re passing the mic to our incredible friend Carm, who used her journey with grief and loss to create a community that invites others into healing, fellowship and empowerment

girls gotta heal | girlsgottaheal | grief
Image: Girls Gotta Heal

Words by Carm, GirlsGottaHeal.com

My name is Carm. I was born and grew up in Toronto, Ontario. I am a 28-year-old woman who is an educational support specialist, child and youth care practitioner and a mental health advocate by day. I’ve worked in residential, clinical and school settings. I find that my life experiences have led me to the career path I’m on and the community/ project initiative I’ve created called Girls Gotta Heal.

Through both my professional work and leading the GGH platform, I’m able to connect with and support those who are working through healing, personal growth and building resilience in those with individual needs whose environments aren’t always accepting of that.
Connecting with others had been something that I’d struggled with as a young person, as I’ve experienced multiple tragedies, traumas, losses as well as struggles with my mental health for a large part of my life.

Ironically enough, it is something today that a lot of my work with others revolves around. I felt for so long that I had to adjust and adapt quickly while processing my trauma as a teenager because for the rest of the world, it was very evident that life kept going. I think that that really impacted my mental health. 

I had lost my dad when I was 18 ( he had been in the hospital for almost 4 years prior). This was my safe person, the adult who provided a very anxious and shy girl emotional validation and unconditional love – by far my strongest adult relationship. I was shattered for years prior watching him suffer and deteriorate while also seeing the visible impact on my mom and siblings as well. My grandmother had also passed that same day- in the morning, due to unrelated causes. My grandfather had passed 2 weeks prior, and my uncle who I was very close to passed 13 months after these significant deaths.

I was in the first year of university which was already a struggle to get to that point with my declining grades and money being very tight. I remember writing my exams two weeks after his loss and refusing any extensions. I so badly didn’t want others to think I had an advantage in any way and was entirely dismissive of my own feelings of grief – I felt like no one was safe enough to share with or help me in the way I needed.

Stigma around talking about death/loss played a huge role in that as well – others thinking that you’re broken or feeling uncomfortable talking to you about it risking even further being alienated from others. Creating this platform is a way for me to honor where I’m at and what I’ve been through, as well as the people that helped to pick me up when I couldn’t and the experiences that have played a key role in my healing journey.

In the last 10 years, showing up for myself has been instrumental and willing to try new and uncomfortable things to explore my grief. I always wanted to feel better and create a life for myself beyond the challenges that came up but had been stuck for long. I accessed free counselling services at my university which took several months of showing up for me to eventually feel safe and begin sharing my true feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Gradually, I began connecting more with others about my grief and in doing that, I was able to see that there were so many resilient and powerful women who had gone through various types of trauma and loss and had either been working on their growth or had persevered and were modelling that for me. I clung to those people and felt such a difference. GGH is for all of those who wandered on their own for so long and provides a space so that others don’t have to go forward. Loss is something that has most definitely reshaped the course of my life.

I wanted to create a community that I’ve always longed for and do that on my own terms – talking about the things that prevented me from connecting to others in the first place because I had felt so alone. I always say that grief and loss are not just about the death of someone (a missing part of you, going through holidays and important events without them, sadness about their suffering, helplessness and questioning about everything), but also the shift in all aspects of your life. Finances, education, cultural and religious expectation, relationships, health, opportunities, accessing support, life choices, geographic location etc. all heavily impacted my life following loss and working through my trauma. It’s important for me to share those experiences with others who are on various points in their healing journey or aren’t even sure where to start. I educate on what I know, speak on my truth and continuously work on doing what I can to encourage a safe and supportive community for people to arrive at and take what they need. 

Yes, my trauma and losses have reshaped the course of my life but instead of letting grief continue to consume my quality of life, with a lot of personal work behind this mindset I choose to wake up every day and use it as fuel to give myself the life I know I deserve full of beautiful relationships and purpose. That takes work and actively pushing yourself even when life makes it very hard to.

My message is to meet yourself where you’re at and make active choices to explore and develop your relationship with yourself.

One of my therapists had told me, “Carm you need to feel it to heal it.” That clear message spoke volumes to me. For so many years societal and cultural reinforced messages made me believe that keeping my mouth shut and continuing on with my head down minding my own business was noble and expected of me. GGH offers peer support groups facilitated by me which cover a lot of the topics that play a role in who/how we connect (relationship with self, acceptance, validation, support systems, control, coping) whether you’ve experienced loss, trauma, grief or challenges with your mental health. It’s a safe space that embraces everyone’s story and experiences while encouraging vulnerability and owning your truth.

I connect through Instagram a lot with the community but also use my blog to share glimpses of my experiences and how grief has always shown up in them. Most recently I’ve shared my experience with fertility preservation ( egg retrieval ) and touch on my physical health issues that developed in my early 20s. I keep it raw and honest in the hopes that others can connect to an open and vulnerable woman’s journey through life after loss whether it helps initiate a conversation with a friend about a difficult experience or motivating you to discover ways to invest yourself.

It’s important for me to share the message that your relationship with yourself is the backbone to everything you experience, choose and engage in despite the things that you go through that you have no control over. With this platform, I not only highlight the light at the end of a very cold, dark and long tunnel sometimes but also touch on and validate those feelings experienced on those days that you’re stuck in that tunnel. Part of me running this platform is also modelling that this girl’s gotta heal. and she will continue to do great things that exceed her own expectations. There is more work to be done with normalizing grief, asking for help and not feeling sorry for putting your needs first. 

girls gotta heal | girlsgottaheal | grief

Connect with Carm and the Girls Gotta Heal community by visiting GirlsGottaHeal.com or checking out the @GirlsGottaHeal Instagram.

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