Finding Growth Through the Grief of Losing My Father

By Lorraine Le, May 11, 2024

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Grow with Lorraine is a mission-driven column, aimed at destigmatizing difficult human experiences, offering insights and strategies to empower personal growth, healing, and deeper connections.

A Journey from Grief to the Beginning of True Growth

I’ve become quite familiar with a lot of topics around trauma, emotional health and mental health. My personal experiences allow me to feel deeply and relate to a lot of experiences that others are going through.

Perhaps one area I’ve always felt a disconnect to, however, has been the topic of grief. All I’ve known is that it has always scared me. The idea of losing someone forever... especially someone you love deeply.

Loss is something we all fear from one degree to another. And grief as it is, doesn’t just apply to the actual death and passing of a person. It applies to many situations: the end of a relationship; the death of a friendship; the breakdown of a business, a dream, a goal, an image of how we pictured our lives being. 

We all grieve things in our lives, but often fail to find the language for it. What we all understand, however, is that feeling of deep sorrow, of emotional pain that makes us feel sick to our stomach, that seemingly comes from nowhere that most didn’t know we had in us.

I’ve felt the impact of death deeply twice in my life. Once, when Austin Hu died – a friend and big part of my life in Shanghai. And the second more recently, with my dad passing in December.

The late, great Austin Hu

Austin’s death prompted in me a fear of losing those most important to me in my life – and watching his partner at the time move through the horrendous pain and grief impacted me on many levels. Not being able to take that pain away from her... not being able to make things better.

READ MORE: Chef Austin Hu on Mental Health and Kitchen Life in Wake of Bourdain Suicide

My dad’s death has brought with it a period of significant upheaval in my life. A type of change I haven’t felt for over five years, since I pretty much broke down mentally.

But this time feels so different, it feels like a healthy type of change and turmoil. It feels like something big is happening. It feels like I’m growing.

It is a well-known fact that grief can trigger a lot of things. And as advice from therapists go, it is best not to make any big life decisions while we are experiencing it.

This experience, however, has helped me feel and see my own growth. In the past, big emotions always felt like something was wrong and always prompted in me a need to react, a need to have answers, a need to fix whatever it was I was feeling.

This time, I am embracing the turmoil, even though at times it feels hard. But I think that’s the thing – growth isn’t always supposed to feel easy like it’s painted out to us. It isn’t often yoga, meditation or sitting on a lily pad surrounded by the sounds of waterfalls and nature's wonders.

A young Lorraine with her father

There are no doubt moments of that, but more often than not it feels like we’re being dragged involuntarily through deep emotional turmoil; spinning, swirling, grasping  finding stability and then being thrust into the spiral again.

In the past, I’d accessorize this experience with unhealthy coping mechanisms from my past drinking, seeking emotional validation and affection, throwing myself entirely into work – but this time I want to ride the waves, and I don’t need to numb myself.

I’m curious and empowered by the idea that something greater that a more whole version of myself  might be waiting to greet me on the other side, if I only just hold on and allow this journey to unwind, to unfold, to reveal itself in the time and way it needs to.

So much of my life has been a series of me running away from, and running towards emotional hurt, invalidation and trauma. Trying to control my self-worth by trying to please those I can, by trying to be someone I barely recognized upon real confrontation.

I’m not sure if my father passing symbolized a part of me literally dying – it has really felt like that often.

Yet it also feels like I’m shedding layers and letting go – of my past traumas, of past narratives, of the things that have controlled me internally all my life.

It feels like he is telling me that I deserve what he could never tell me in person – to love myself and be loved.

Right before he died, he told me he would take care of me. That he would make sure I would be okay forever. I’m not sure – but is this you?

If it is – thank you.


Lorraine Le is the Founder of Mental Health platform Inward Living, and CEO of The Kindness Dealer, a confidential and bespoke consultancy that specializes in in-depth sessions for people to gain a 'birds-eye view' of their struggles and the influences that have and continue to shape them. 

To get in touch or follow her advocacy and work, contact Lorraine through the WeChat ID: growwithlorraine or follow @growwithlorraine on Instagram, and @growwithlorraine on YouTube.


[All images courtesy of Lorraine Le]

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