January 2020 has been one long month.

The first day of this new decade brought a huge loss. A loss that on this 31st day of the month my family and my friends are still trying to cope with.

We lost a very close friend, former co-worker, humanitarian and mentor. My husband and I had traveled the world with him on many humanitarian trips providing youth development to those in greatest need. Our relationship felt a lot like family to not only him but also his kids and extended family. His name was Karl and he did amazing things in his lifetime. At only 52 he succumbed to a very aggressive pneumonia in just a matter of days.

He was living in rural Mexico, Baja working with indigenous people. He was developing and building his own youth center and was making a difference alongside his wife. He was “Livin’ the Dream” as he was most often quoted.

I posted a fairly short Instagram post on the matter and how I traveled with our closest friends just hours after hearing the news to be with his mourning family in Mexico. We drove all night switching off drivers and resting for just a few hours, making it to the quickly planned memorial service just minutes before it took place. We left the next morning in a stupor and in tears.

I came home exhausted and had left my husband behind as he wanted to be with the family for a few more days and help out. One week later my husband came home and we began to mourn the loss of a friend and inspirational mentor.

And that was not the end of January. About a week and half ago we lost another great man. My husbands great grandfather. He was very close to my children, and was extremely close to my husband. Back in September 2019 at the age of 80, he had an accident on an ATV that led to a broken back, a punctured lung, and multiple broken ribs. It had been a tough recovery but it was finally looking positive. Until a sudden and quick passing left us once again reeling in grief.

Why am I sharing all this bad news with you?

Because when you’re the founder of anything these are the type of things that can really throw off your progress especially in the beginning stages. When you’re doing all the work and there is no one else to step in a lot can hinge on moments like this. We powered through tears some days, and other days we wept as we worked, and some of the days we just sat and mourned while embracing the suffering and the emotions that we have.

Here is what I did and if you think its worth a shot in the dark times then give these a try:

3 Steps to be Somewhat Productive in Difficult times

  1. Rest when you feel like rest is needed. Real rest. Shut the screens off and let your mind rest.
  2. Allow the emotions to come and go. Don’t fake it when your grieving. Your body and mind are processing a real tragedy and if your don’t let your mind get the emotions out it can lead to more issues like depression and physical sickness. This is called Emotional Agility.
    1. Read Emotional Agility by by Susan David PH.d for more information
  3. Make a list of what the most important tasks to complete and choose those that are the easiest to tackle first. in my list below all but one were difficult — but we had people to help me on the day of so I was not doing it all alone (our youth center preview night).
  4.  BONUS STEP: Rest — this one needed to be said again because well that’s the sad truth.

These are the few things that did get a few things done (I have a couple of planned blog posts for some the things below )

  • Launched this blog! (It was a fun thing to do in a dark time)
  • Got to the first draft of my Form 1023 (This one took me way longer than it would have — because I rested so much)
  • Purchased and set up our youth center equipment and furniture (This was a get out the house activity for us. Shopping can be theraputic right?)
  • Had our first preview night at the youth center (this would have been HARD to do with out the help I had — we have good people who love us.)
  • Planned out our 2020 Winter/Spring/Summer Calendar (This was just necessary and we waited the entire month to do this — because we rested)

In between all of this loss and progress, our kids and even both my husband and I have experienced 2 winter viruses. We have 3 toddlers who love to share the germs. In fact I currently have a child on the couch next to me with a fever and a belly ache!

It has been hard, real hard. It has been sad and it has been inspiring. But I am ready for January to end and February to begin. We start it tomorrow with the celebration of a 1st birthday and a small sigh of relief that we did so much considering the great loss.

I have faith that this whole month will teach us and strengthen us. I have faith that the suffering we are feeling will not be in vain. I have faith that the nonprofit will move forward even when its dark and cold. And it will thrive when its bright and warm.

These are the tenants of the teachings that I try to express to the youth we work with. Many of who have already experience great amounts of trauma in their lives. I am preaching to myself this time around that all hope is not lost, it is just a matter of time and persistence.

–Raquel

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