What is your story of strength?
My story is based on patience, love, my faith and perseverance. When my husband died, it was totally unexpected. He died in a car accident. And for a whole year I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it because I was left with three kids that I had to bring up. It was very hard. Had it not been for my faith, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to go through it. But the joy that I got in return– just to be able to be there for my kids– and the love that my husband and I shared for the time that we were together gave me even more strength. Even though it was an obstacle, I always felt that he was with me, encouraging me to move on and do what I had to do. For a very long time I was robotic. I got up, went to work, made sure the kids ate, that they were taken care of, and that I went to all their sports activities. But it was fine because that was my life. That’s the thing people sometimes don’t understand about someone going through grief, when you lose someone very close to you– you are the one mourning. Everything else stays the same. My “okay” now is not the same “okay” as it was before he died. I had to adapt. You adapt. Things don’t get better. You just adapt better and you move on because if you don’t, life is going to run away with you, and you can’t afford to have that happen. That was the biggest obstacle I’ve ever had.
Now, It’s been 12 years. My husband died on Sept 10, 2005. I was 45 years old, he was 38. My oldest daughter was 17, my second daughter was 10, and my baby boy was 8 going on 9. My husband died on the 10th and my son’s 9th birthday was on the 25th. His birthday was one week after the funeral. Imagine I had to throw a birthday party for my son’s 9th birthday, one week after I buried my husband. It was very hard, but we made it through. It was all about him that day. He had a good day and all the family members came over. I wasn’t going to not celebrate his birthday. That also gave me strength. I didn’t realize how strong I was until I lost my husband.
I now work at Be Like Brit (“BLB”), a non-adoptive orphanage in Grand Goave, Haiti with 66 children. Our vision is to raise the next generation of leaders in Haiti. I love my 66 children and I love what I do. To be able to make a difference in their lives keeps me going every day. They’re relying on me and all those who support them, whether it be through monetary donations, sponsorship, etc. I can’t let them down. These children give me another type of strength that I didn’t know I had….the strength to be selfless and see everything through their eyes. Being at BLB has nothing to do with me. It’s all about them. They’re such dreamers and I hope and pray that I can help them in making their dreams come true.
What advice would your adult self give your younger self?
Don’t take life too seriously. Don’t plan too far in advance. Take one day at a time because sometimes you make these plans and I think it’s a matter of ‘real planning.’ If you’re planning– make it real. Don’t plan ahead for things that you would like, reach for something you know you can accomplish. Because there is a big difference. It is akin to differentiating between your wants and your needs. I’ve learned that. A lot of choices I made when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have told my younger self to remake. But then again, had I not made them, I wouldn’t be here today.
Can you tell me about a time you disappointed yourself?
I’m an overachiever and I’m a perfectionist so I’m always disappointing myself. I question myself a lot. It’s important to me to do the right thing. I want to be moral and ethical in everything I do because I’m a very sincere person. What you see is what you get- with me there is no hidden agenda. With that, I never do enough. I’m always striving to better myself and everything I do because there’s always room for improvement. I’m always disappointing myself because I’m constantly thinking “I could’ve done this better.” What do I do? I learn and try to do it the next time.
What can women do to better support other women?
Don’t be selfish and don’t point fingers at each other. We need to embrace one another. One thing I find with women versus men — when men compete against each other, they do it through strength, through showing “I can do this, I’m stronger than you!” Whereas women, we put each other down. It’s always– “I’m prettier than you, you’re not good enough for this.” Men encourage other men, even though they’re competing. But it’s a different kind of competition.
With women, I think it’s vicious, how some women deal with other women. They don’t always support one another as much as they should. There’s too much pettiness. Perhaps it’s the way we are raised- where we are brought up to think it’s all about being pretty and being girly. So if a woman or young girl is not all these softer things, she’s aggressive, she’s too much like a boy and becomes insecure. I think we need to embrace each other’s differences and support each other better and not let pettiness get in the way. If you see another woman, a professional woman, encourage her. If you’re going to criticize, let it be constructive criticism. Because we are more sensitive by nature, approach it differently. Start with “you know I love you, but this is what I’ve noticed…” Don’t just come out and criticize. Depending on how you deliver it, people will hear it differently.