Real Talk: Transforming Tragedy into Love with Ashley Gordon

 

When I met Ashley Gordon last summer at a BBQ, I was floored by her beauty and her aura. But once we got talking, I was really blown away by how incredible she was. She told me a story* you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t heard it from her mouth. Her boyfriend died in her arms followed by her two, older brothers deaths overseas a year later. To add to the tragedy, her dad died a month after her brothers climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. So over a span of 14 months, she lost FOUR people she loved dearly. This 25-year-old has every right to feel like a victim and yet, she’s humble and kind and filled with this amazing sense of love, peace and faith. Her perception and laid back personality drew me in and I couldn’t help but admire and respect this woman for overcoming such huge obstacles with grace, wisdom and humility. She is a true encapsulation of love and light. Read on to see for yourself!

*due to the nature of the circumstances surrounding some of these deaths, fine details have been omitted to protect the family’s hearts, wishes and privacy.

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What We Don’t Do: Tell us a little about you and your journey so far.

Ashley Gordon: I’m a 25-year-old student. My whole story is basically that in a very short period of time I went through a lot of major losses in my life of close, significant people. From that, I’ve kind of had to strengthen up which I feel blessed for and from going through all that, I’ve become very resilient. Going through everything showed me how strong I am and going through what I did was a blessing in the way that it allowed me to learn a lot about myself.

WWDD: How did you strengthen up and find that resiliency?

AG: Number one, crying A LOT and allowing myself to cry. I would shut myself in my room and listen to (musician) Ben Howard and bawl my eyes out. It felt good. His music is very personal and so raw. At the time, I felt like he was singing about what I was going through. I think he’s singing about someone he’s lost so I felt there was grieving undertones to his music I could connect too.

WWDD: How many years between all your losses?

AG: Not even three. I came home from Australia and right away my Grandpa Steve passed away. But the four major losses were about a year. Leeron (her boyfriend) was September 2013, my brothers were December 2014 and my dad was January 2015.

WWDD: Without sounding like an insensitive ass, in retrospect, were you eventually okay with the way it all happened in terms of them all passing so close together and just having a couple years to just grieve fully?

AG: I feel like the way it worked out it was like the Universe speaking to me on steroids. When you have that in between period you get to settle down and reflect and I feel like with them being so close, it was kind of like this hyper active feeling of “okay, focus, where are you?  What are you doing? What do you want?” I obviously don’t prefer that it was that close but I feel like it was meant to show me something.

WWDD: Have your values/beliefs/morals changed?

AG: For the most part, especially because of the influence from my dad growing up listening to Bob Marley, I always had these ideas that something was going on here. [That] we need to change, that there needed to be some kind of change and major differences in the way we were doing things. I usually lived outside of the box in terms of my thinking anyways. When I had all these people pass away, that only grew stronger. Having lost so many people pushed me into the metaphysical world as well. Crazy story actually, I found a video on my old Blackberry that I had made and it was from a couple months before I met Leeron. It was me saying, “Ya so I don’t know, I think some really big things are going to start happening for me. But I just need to hold on and know that I’ll be okay through it all.” First time I saw that after everything happened I thought, “little did you know past Ashley!” It was kind of eerie to already be in that mindset and then everything showed me that!

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WWDD: Did your spirituality change from this experience?

AG: I’m a lot closer or trying to be closer to whatever Source is out there. I’ve never been one for religious spirituality but energetically, I’ve delved into that more on a spiritual level.

WWDD: Why that? As opposed to getting mad at the Universe or the situation or even getting into drugs or something else destructive?

AG: First and foremost, going back to my dad and his love for Bob Marley and him always saying  “just connect with that spirit. You have high potential ad you are a strong, capable person.” For me, with having so much loss, there was this question of “whats out there?” It was like having a new little piece of the puzzle that wasn’t there before that there isn’t any way to really understand unless you want to dive into metaphysics and spirituality.

WWDD: Aside from listening to Ben Howard and crying, how else did you grieve and express that grief?

AG: I was still writing. I was writing out things like how I was doing or where I was at the time. It definitely helped. After Leeron passed, I joined a grief support group. I was the odd person in the group because they didn’t have a category for young people who had lost boyfriends/girlfriends. These were all people who had been married for 30+ years. I was the youngest in there but hearing their stories helped. In a sense it made me realize I had a pretty good grip on my grief and my acceptance of it. Acceptance was something I realized through the group.

WWDD: Was that because he was ill and clearly in pain?

AG: Yeah and just the character he was. He was such an outgoing and happy person and the way it all ended I knew we were okay. I did everything I could have done while he was sick. I held his hand as he passed. I did everything I could have done so there was no questioning or worrying or regrets.

WWDD: That must have been so hard on you.

562343_402244326453348_347552426_nAG: It was. It’s like a loss of identity too in a way. Taking care of him was my life’s purpose at the time.  I wasn’t in school. I wasn’t working. I wasn’t thinking of anything outside of “Okay, what are we doing today, what appointments do we need to make, what pills are you taking, what friends do you want to go see.”  So when that all stopped I was like, “what am I doing? Now what’s my life?” After that I decided that the best way I could continue on was remembering Leeron as a person and his passion and outlook on life. It was still hard and I still grieved but it felt right to be that happy, outgoing person because Leeron, throughout his sickness, never once had anything bad to say or complained.

For me, it was like “I got this. If someone who is dying of cancer could still be the most outgoing and uplifting person, then I thought I’m still here, I can do this too.”

WWDD: With four losses, were you angry at the Universe/God/Source?

AG: I think it was more like a deep sadness and questions of why. Why was this happening to me? And I was angry at how I lost my brothers. That was the only part I was angry about. I was mad at the situation. The last time I talked to them I tried to play it cool but I told them, “I don’t believe in what you’re doing or that you’re happy with what you are doing”  so I was just putting it out there that it was my Truth that I didn’t agree or believe that they were truly are in line with what they were doing. Maybe that wasn’t my place but I was angry that here I was, the little sister, and I felt a little abandoned.

WWDD: So you never had any WTF Universe-type thoughts?

AG: Definitely a lot of WTF’s! But more like WTF confused. But more, I wanted to get happy and be around people.

WWDD: Your mom must have been devastated. How did that affect you?

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AG: It was hard. I’m the youngest in my family and seeing her go through all that, I knew that there was so much more to her pain. Not to compare of course; we’re a family and we both lost important people but for her to have had two boys and raise them plus she met my dad when they were 14-15 years old, it was really hard for her. It was almost like I put this distance between us. I knew we lost the same people but deep down I was trying to imagine what it must have been like watching people grow up into adults and being with someone for 25 years of your life. It was hard to see her because I couldn’t fully understand the depth of her loss.

WWDD: How is your relationship with her now that it’s just the two of you?

AG: Going through all this there’s been more opportunity for my mom and I to sit down and get more one-on-one and real with each other. It’s definitely opened our relationship up and I think we see each other a little more clearly now. She sees who I am as crazy as I can be sometimes and I see that she’s a loving, devoted woman.

WWDD: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from each of their deaths?

AG: With Leeron, watching someone be sick like that, there’s definitely a compassion lesson there.  You think you love someone and when you have to go through something like that you have to ask yourself are you truly willing to hold on for dear life? Or is it too much? It’s selflessness. My oldest brother was always sick growing up and was hospitalized a lot and my mom took care of him. I felt like the Universe showed me how to care for a person compassionately because I always saw my mom taking care of my brother, being in the hospital and never once complained about that responsibility. That set me up to be able to realize when you are going through something like that and you want to be supportive for someone, you need to make it your focus. Put your head down and do it. Being in the hospital wasn’t weird or foreign to me either so having to go for appointments or see sick people wasn’t difficult for me. In a weird way it was Divine Intervention in the fact that I was going travelling, he was going travelling, and we met a month or two before we both left. We met up in Thailand and our Visa’s were almost done in Australia. For some reason I was like, “you know what? You have a cyst on your neck and maybe we should get it checked out before we leave this first world country.” Lo and behold, it was cancer. My purpose was to catch that for some reason and be in his life and help him through his sickness. It made sense to me that I was in his life for that reason.

WWDD: You were in his life to help him through his illness. What would you say you brought to him during that time?

AG: I gave him unconditional love. Don’t get me wrong though, it was bumpy, it wasn’t perfect. There were definitely times where the heaviness of being in the relationship and him being sick got to both of us. The compassion and love was the biggest. I think when you’re in a situation like that and when you’re sick and you don’t have a significant other, it puts so much more stress on the person to be able to get through it themselves. It’s all good when you have friends and family who want to support you but there’s something to be said for being in a loving, romantic relationship when you’re going through hardships versus just having friends and family. I gave him that. I almost feel like I gave humanity in being sick. It was like a, “Look, I love you no matter what. You don’t have to prove anything. You just be you, do what you need to do and I’m always going to be here for you” mentality. He was always so strong. At the end of the day, we would go home and he could be human and cry and tell me how he was really feeling instead of always having to hold himself up for other people.

WWDD: What about your brothers and your dad? What lesson was there for you?

The Boys0007AG: With my brothers, it’s to follow your own path and don’t let anyone else tell you who you should be or what you need to be doing. My belief is that that inner world (gut, heart, soul, intuition) we all having going on, if we just slow down and listen to that, we all know the answers we need. That’s all there for a reason and there is no need to feel the need to follow someone else or let them convince you wholeheartedly that what they’re saying is Gospel. Find your own path. Be comfortable in that path and there’s nothing wrong with knowing for yourself how you feel about where you’re trying to go or what your purpose is. It’s easy to get inspired by people who seem really passionate about what they’re talking about. But when you’re not checking in with the way you’ve been raised and your own personal values and with what sits with you, it’s easy to get lost.

WWDD: And your dad?

AG: Go and get it. Don’t let anyone tell you no. You know your strengths and abilities and it’s okay to strive for your best. Always. I think I’ve developed a bit of a complex from my dad being my dad because he was always bettering himself. He was challenging himself and that’s influenced me. If I’m not working towards something or creating something it’s kind of a waste. He died with dignity. He died climbing a mountain! Obviously it’s sad but at the end of the day he pushed himself and that was something he was determined to do and that’s awesome. How many people are climbing huge mountains? It’s people who are pushing to the edge of ability. For us here on Earth it’s a sad story because that person is gone but perspective is everything. It’s either going to be a hard one to look at or its going to be “no it’s awesome, he died doing something he loved and worked hard for.” It’s not so dreary the way it happened.

WWDD: What do you believe is the process for surviving tragedy?

AG: I wouldn’t say there’s any set process.

I’d say take the time to be human and grieve. At the same time the process needs to include some inner reflection. Reflection about what’s important in life and how you’re going to take what you’ve been through and how you’ll use it to push youself forward and grow.

I know in the beginning stages you’re not thinking about that but obviously after some times passed, really try to reflect. Reflect on whatever needs reflecting on which sounds really broad but when things are flowing smoothly in life, you’re not really thinking about those deeper things. You’re just in your routine, doing what you’re doing and those bigger life questions get pushed aside. Who am I? What’s important? What kind of lessons will I take from this? Who are my tribe? A reflection of what’s important in life is needed.

WWDD: How do you see love and loving people today? I know you’re dating someone now but was that hard to open yourself up to him?

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AG: My dad passed January 2015 and I met Andrew that May. I think I’m able to dig a little deeper when it comes to relationships. I see the bigger picture. I can see when people are getting frustrated over certain things and I can sit there and know that they feel frustrated but that in two hours it won’t be a big deal. That helps in my relationships now.

WWDD: You don’t take things so personally then.

AG: No, it’s a waste of time. Patience with people comes easier to me. After Leeron I can definitely say I just wanted someone to love again because I had just loved someone so much with all my being that I was just empty to not have anyone there. But within meeting Andrew and the way I met him, it was like the Universe’s way of putting love back in my life again. It was so spontaneous and random meeting Leeron and it was the same with Andrew too.

WWDD: Have you implemented any kind of spiritual practice since losing your loved ones?

AG: I like sage. I like smudging and praying, meditating more, practicing yoga. I’ve started a little collection of crystals. I like to be silent a little bit more; a little more quietness is what I’ve decided to do.

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It’s easy to hustle and bustle and life does go on after a loss, but I’ve learned the importance of slowing down and taking time for myself to do those self-care things.

WWDD: What would you tell someone else who’s struggling with the loss of a loved one?

AG: Be human; cry, scream, reach out to those you love. There’s always people going through what you’re going through just maybe not down to the exact same situation. Reach out to people who know what you are going through. Having a support system within your family and friends is really good but it makes a world of difference to hear people say, “I understand you. I know what that feels like.” There’s deeper meaning when it comes from them. You’re never alone. I convinced myself of being alone especially after Leeron passed. I had these feelings of, “No one understands. I’m so lonely.” But don’t lie to yourself. You have support, you have love. It’s just up to you to go out there and find it.

WWDD: You’re at a concert and have the opportunity to speak to a crowd of 20,000 about anything in the world, completely your choice of topic. What would you say?

AG: Love needs to be our foundation. Dig deep. We have incredible potential and when love is the basis of what we do in our lives we can achieve amazing things. More importantly, love yourself. In this weird social media world that we live in, we’re always looking out to everyone else for ideas of beauty, love, you name it. Love yourself, own whatever you got going on. It’s easy to be our harshest critic. Love! Love! Love! That’s the most important thing! That’s why we exist: to ground ourselves in the this pure energy of love and when we expand from that that’s when you start to see doors open and see those signs at the right place at the right time that things start really changing for the better.

WWDD: What do you believe is your purpose on this Earth in this life?

AG: I think to help people through their struggles and to bring light to the fact that we all have it within us to get through whatever Life throws at us. We all have resiliency. I look at my situation and I know it’s not the worst of the situations out there.

I keep myself humbled by it because I know that as much as I’ve lost and as much as I’ve hurt, there’s still people out there going through way more.

But it’s important for me to be a voice in saying, “You got this. You’re supported and you’re loved. You can do it. You can get through anything. It’s just going to get tough before it gets better.” I just want to help re-spark that inner knowing. We are incredible beings. We have amazing potential. But you have to dig and it takes time and patience. I’m sure there’s lots of people who have been through things that may have broken them a bit or made them question their purpose or where they were going. But we all have the ability to heal.

WWDD: What do you want people to know about mortality?

13892169_10157200823680534_2390375851287957917_nAG: It’s apart of life and knowing that the connection doesn’t break because the connection isn’t physical. My connection to Leeron and my dad and my brothers and anyone else I’ve lost is still there; it’s a simple thought. It could be me sitting there by myself and just saying, “Hey dad, love you” and that’s our new connection. Or if I play a song that reminds me of someone, that’s the new connection. It’s not all dreary.

WWDD: When you’re acknowledging them you’re honouring them and there’s joy in that.

AG: Yes, initially it’s really rough. You just want everything to be reversed. It’s confusing. But as time goes on I think it’s important to keep those special connections whether it’s little celebrations of/for them or whatever. I still have conversations with my loved ones. Something will happen and I’ll just say, “Ha ha dad I see this!” It’s a transformed, changed relationship. They won’t not ever be a part of my life. At the end of the day, these people are right in front of me but I have a conscious mind and that creates my reality. When I’m thinking about them I still feel like I have a connection to them.

WWDD: What do you want people to know about perseverance?

AG: You have to really work at persevering. There’s this element of self-expression that helps in persevering through things. There are so many feelings towards what you’re going through and when those aren’t expressed I think you’re missing out on an opportunity to let go of some of that pain. The term “let go” is debatable because there’s definitely people who will say, “I will never let go.”

But in my mind, I’m not letting go of anything because like I said, the connection is always there, but I’m letting go of the burden of always being sad.

To persevere, you have to stay true to yourself and express what you’re going through.

WWDD: What don’t you do?

AG: I don’t blame other people for what I’ve been through. I refuse to put what has happened to me on other people. I know there’s been influences but at the end of the day I try to see the bigger picture. I see it as a learning thing for me. I want to learn and grow from what I’ve been through and toxicity of blaming other people for your experiences is the easiest way not to grow. Also, I don’t feel sorry for myself but I do feel sad for my loss. It’s not “woe is me” it’s “woah, I’ve lost a lot of important people.” I’m reminiscing and just get sad for the magnitude of the loss. But after I’m done my cry I’m back at ‘er and am like, “what are we doing next?”

WWDD: Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

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AG: Thank you to everyone who supported and loved me through my losses! Also, you’re beautiful. Just remember that. It’s a bit of a crazy world out there but someone like you, Kelsey, giving people the opportunity to connect like this is important because if the world does change, this is how it’ll happen. We connect, we tell our stories, we get real, we have some real talk and we really start to transform how we connect and interact with each other.

 

United we rise!

-K

 

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