A traumatic experience changes the way you operate no matter the age. Divorce, death, a health scare, and job loss are life changing events. When I hear the words you’ve changed, I now say thank you because it’s impossible to remain the same. These events alter how you deal with similar situations in the future.
Within the last year, I noticed how losing my mother impacted my siblings and me differently. The biggest shift has been our personalities. This is the part of the process many people don’t think about because we assume people will react a specific way. It’s absolutely not true because each person is their own individual. I was guilty of assuming if my siblings didn’t grieve the way I did they didn’t care. Let me tell you now to throw that mentality away because it will only hurt you in the end.
This is my family. My sister Khaleelah is the oldest, followed by me, and lastly my brother Daa’ood II. We are not only siblings, but we run the family business together called Salaam Seafood.
Khaleelah: an introvert, mild mannered, process-oriented and reserved
Safiyyah: an extrovert, social butterfly, creative, and brutally honest
Daa’ood II: introvert, quiet, observant, and a great sense of humor
Together, it was a great mix for running a business.
Running a business is difficult but running a 33-year-old family restaurant after losing the glue is devastating. It’s been some trying times grieving publicly in the space our mother operated for many years. However, it’s amazing what happens when you are determined to carry on a legacy.
Khaleelah: The First Born
For 33 months, my sister worked alongside my mother. I know without a doubt her career led her back to the restaurant in order to gain knowledge that can’t be found in any entrepreneur book. She was my mother’s right-hand woman. It’s true, everything happens for a reason.
My reserved sister developed her voice when she lost her best friend. She was no longer the quiet sister. She became vocal in business affairs and personal situations that affected us. She began speaking up for herself, setting boundaries, and developed a level of confidence I had not seen before. She is every bit of our mother.
When we entered the hospital on Mother’s Day 2016, I thought we would all be home by my birthday having our annual family dinner. We buried my mom two days before my 31st birthday.
I became very quiet and always in deep thought. I had so many questions and started evaluating everything.
· How do I treat people?
· Am I being treated right by friends and family?
· Am I living to my fullest potential?
· Am I living like tomorrow is promised?
I remember not being able to write or proof-read her obituary. The very thing I do in my profession I couldn’t do for my mom because I believed she was going to walk through the front door.
I picked up some of my sister’s characteristics during this process with the biggest being empathy. Now I take a step back to understand why people do what they do because there’s a reason. I truly try to put myself in their shoes. Before I would assume because I had never been through any life changing events. It’s true, life experiences are our biggest teacher.
Daa’ood II: The Youngest
My brother has always been quiet and still is. However, he’s become outspoken in certain situations. Most people express their feelings in a disagreement but my brother states facts. I admire his ability to stay calm, recall dates, and hold people accountable for their actions. I had never seen him like this before and I have so much respect for him. As my mother’s only son, he doesn’t allow anyone to mess with his sisters.
When a family goes through a life changing event it’s important to understand:
1. Each person grieves differently, don't judge them.
2. There is no time period on grieving.
3. Communication is important.
4. Change is inevitable.
Our mother used to tell us to keep on living. I never understood what that meant until she transitioned. Don’t say what you will and will not do if you’ve never been in that situation. Now more than ever, solidarity amongst the three of us is a must. We vowed to not let anything break our bond.
What advice would you give to someone going through a life changing event?