February 1, 2018

Happy New Year to me

Disclaimer: Very personal and quite sombre post coming up, but I'm just trying to keep it real...

Early December, 2017 I lost someone very dear to me - my Dad's younger sister, Jeanne. 

Jeanne (aka 'Jan Jan')  was a mentor, a confidante, the most incredible aunty to me, and a close friend. Though we knew that she was going to undergo a very serious and dangerous surgery, we never expected that she would never wake up from that surgery.

What followed was one of the hardest months I've ever endured as I had never experienced losing someone I was so close with as an adult.

I had a hard time processing it all, not least because it is incredibly difficult to mourn during the Christmas holidays when everyone around you is celebrating.

We said our official goodbyes to Jeanne early January. Her service was a celebration of life and the 'after party' (instead of a wake) was quite epic; with a group of us ending up in Harbour Lights, dancing our asses off. Let's just say that there were naked (hairy) men and cheap shots involved. It was a great end to a very emotionally charged period, and I think she would have been proud of the hilarious debauchery that night. 

A month is hardly enough time to really grieve someone, but it was enough time for me to physically process the sadness and to reflect on both Jeanne's life and my own. I took comfort in spending time with her close friends and family throughout the month of January, listening to stories and crying my eyes out while looking through old photo albums. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Jeanne as I remember her, always cracking up.

Jeanne and I, Aruba, 1991
Jeanne, Barbados, Circa 1964

Death has a funny way of reminding us about life and our sense of purpose. 

As I cried in to too many glasses of wine, I jotted down some lessons learned from this lovely person I was lucky enough to call my Aunt, as I mentally prepared myself for a New Year;

- Be grateful: Here I was feeling incredibly sad and sorry for myself, yet Jeanne was always so grateful for the good things in her life, despite many medical challenges she faced. She talked about her privilege and her happiness often. I had to check myself and keep reminding myself (sometimes out loud) that I'm privileged, healthy and had a lot to be grateful for. Jeanne's positive attitude always brought clarity and perspective to situations.

- Find the funny: Jeanne was funny as hell. Her wicked sense of humour helped her overcome some pretty crazy obstacles in her life. I'm not kidding when I say that she could mimic any accent under the sun and could make any person double over with laughter. She never felt sorry for herself and saw the comical side of many situations.

- Find your sense of purpose: Jeanne's business was taking care of senior citizens in her final years, and this prompted me to really think about my own career and to focus more on a social enterprise that's been brewing in the background for a while now. I kept putting certain things off because I just figured I could do it 'tomorrow.' This whole experience reminded me that tomorrow is not always guaranteed and we're doing the world (and ourselves) and disservice if we're not fulfilling our true purpose.

I'm a sucker for symbolism and finding meaning in everything, so it was hard to shake off the sadness I felt throughout December and in to the New Year without recognising that I needed to give myself time to grieve. 

Side note: It was also too much for me to post happy/pretty photos on social media when I felt so rotten inside, so my accounts have all slipped a bit in the last month, but so be it. I can't post something that isn't real, even if it means I can't be Insta famous.

I unofficially decided that I was going to enter in to the New Year on February 1st, instead. 

I needed the month of January to be sad, to mourn, and to reflect on these horrible circumstances that stopped me in my tracks and to think about the year (and years) ahead of me. 

I needed to do this so that I could fully move on from what had happened and to be able to embrace 2018 with open arms. 

Towards the end of January, over the course of one weekend, I met my close friends' newborn baby for the first time, buried my aunt, and celebrated the wedding of another close friend. The circle of life is quite an incredible thing and I felt really 'emo' as I celebrated it all.

What we think, we become, and as my Personal "New Year" on Feb 1st approached, I started to feel lighter. I was no longer crying on a daily basis, and I started to feel excited about new projects and ideas. I started to feel like myself again.

Once we allow ourselves to focus on being (and in my case, grieving), happiness will follow.

In the wise words of Richard Branson, and as my amazing Aunt Jan Jan embodied every day:

"...don’t just seek happiness when you’re down. Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts."

Happy New Year!


  1. Oh Malou, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. The grieving part never 100% goes away (6 months later and I still have moments when listening to Cambodian music or seeing photos of my Gramma triggers emotions I thought I had gotten under control) but it DOES get easier to deal with over time. I think your Aunt would be so proud to know her legacy lives on through you. Sending big bear hugs your way. xo

  2. Happy New Year Malou!!!.. I know it's been difficult. Memories thankfully remain and life, as always, will go on. We all do what we need to do for the healing process.. Great Post!!! (Sarah)

  3. Dear Malou, I’ve read your blog post half a dozen times. You are a wise woman and, in so many ways, remind me of Jeanne. You have Jeanne’s exuberance for life – In person it’s a palpable energy --- and it comes through in your writing. It’s the same joie de vivre that rubbed off on me whenever I spent time with your Aunt :) Julie xoxo

  4. I'm very sorry about your aunt. I lost my mother some years ago so I understand. Enjoyed reading this post. I could feel the authenticity and rawness. I'm an overthinker so I also try to find meaning in things too. Love the quote at the end.

    1. Thanks so much Ann! I'm sorry for your loss and I really appreciate your feedback. That quote is now written out and stuck in my daily planner as a reminder :) xo