Tag Archives: gift of grief

Be Keeping SH*T Real

There is a pervasive message in our culture that is saying “stay positive”, “think positive”, shift your mindset to be more positive and everything will be AWESOME!

Those that know me, know that I do have a positive mindset, but I did not, I repeat, I DID NOT, get there by being positive all the flipping time.

Rails and Trails, 2018

Let me tell you a little story about these three geniuses above:

My boys were 7,4 and 2 years old when my mom was dying. This grief experience would become the greatest gift that our family has been given! Plus, isn’t it amazing to know that we all having the incredible Nana waiting for us in heaven. When we were given this gift of grief, I spoke with my counselor, a tremendous amount, about how we grieve as human beings She taught me, and my children showed me, that the very best grievers are actually children. What they do is feel things very deeply, stay in each moment and move in and out of grief very quickly. This was exactly our experience. They would see or remember something from Nana, wham, the tears would come. Then they would see their favourite LEGO and wham, they are smiling and playing again. My counselor taught me that the best thing I could do for them, and myself, was to sit with them in their grief, feel things with them and wait for them to shift or helps them slowing shift after being present with them. Rarely, did I need to do anything but merely sit and be present with them.

Imagine this same grief journey, if I constantly put on a positive face, ignored their feelings and told them to be positive. “Just be positive” said over and over and over again.  In a child’s world, this would be completely invalidating their feelings and not give them the permission to feel or grieve. I wonder what counselling they would need later in life to get over not feeling the feelings they had during this time?  

This year is going to be our fifth Christmas without my marvellous mama and I must admit that I have become an expert at negotiating grief. I sit with myself. I feel things deeply and then gently move myself when I know I am ready.  I cried in the pool this morning while swimming lengths. I feel the feelings, I let the tears flow. 

Germany, 2003
Robyn’s wedding, 1998

I am blessed because I can now see and sense this grief process working in others and I easily give them space to move through the process. We do this often with relationships, situations, and even with our food.  I can see people giving themselves lashes for not being positive enough or at all.  I can see people trying so hard. 

This brings me back to the positive rah rah that is overpowering our culture.  I WANT TO BE A PERMISSION BEARER.  As I observe and grow a business in this culture of a constant positivity, my message has clearly become “keep sh*t real”. The more honest my customers can be with me, the more I can walk with them. The more we can sit with each other in the real sh*t that exists in this world, the more we can move each other into positive places. We have to sit together, listen together and then move!

Feel the feels. 

Sit in them. 

Then look, seek and find solutions and that positive place. 

When you look around and feel like sh*t because you aren’t positive enough, pretty enough, doing enough or…. <insert what it is for you here>… keep it real and sit with your sh*t. And realise that when I look around and see the pervasive positivism overwhelming my feed, it’s usually being put out into the world by men, young couples or empty nesters. You don’t often seen mom’s waking up to puking kids or having to put every single thing they had planned that day on hold because of a child with a fever, spewing the positivity message 24/7.

It’s about keeping sh*t real. Finding a way to keep taking one step forward every day towards where you want to go. Surrounding yourself with people who will cheer you on and be positive even when you have spit up on your shoulder and haven’t combed your hair.  Find that tribe that keep things real and can be positive when you can’t be.  

If you aren’t feeling that you are good enough, positive enough or that you are doing enough, STOP that sh*t.  Remember my lessons from grief that my boys taught me.  

God has given you many talents that you may not be able to see right now.

That’s okay.

God is taking you through a season that is going to give you great strength.

That’s amazing.

God is going to reveal everything to you in EXACTLY the right time.

That’s incredible.

BUT, life isn’t always okay, amazing or incredible.

But you “Cann”: 

Always hold hope.

Always brings peace.

Always hold love.

Always keep sh*t real.

Even when the positivity police try to overtake you.

Learn from my greatest teachers, my boys, in this upcoming season.

Sit exactly where you are.

Feel things deeply.

Move when you are ready.

Always hold hope.

Always bring peace.

Always hold love.

Always keep sh*t real.

😘 Joanna Cann

Be Soil, Sun, Water and Oxygen

More today, now than ever, we need connections and people to mentor us on our life journeys.  Between the smoke and mirrors of social media and the messages being portrayed in movies, streaming and in advertisements, finding our individual growth journey is more important than it ever has been.  Slowly, we are inundated with the perfect lives, the neatly wrapped up stories and lives that are missing connections with the people breathing all around us.   We have forgotten to look around.  We are often looking at our phone missing the people around us.  

Look out. 

Look within. 

See the beauty around you. 

See the beauty within. 

As I thought about people who have helped me become the “flower” that I am: colourful, a bit tattered at the edges, long, strong and loving life amongst my other flowers, I have realised that there have been four key people who have helped me on my journey.    

Donna S, one of my mom’s very best friends, has been my soil.  She has provided nourishment at the right time of my life.  She has always held space and made space for me to be me.  I have never felt judgement from her, ever.  Donna has been the ground that I could stand on when growing.  She, too, was married to a Principal, worked in a care giving position as a nurse and chose to be a stay-at-home mom.  Donna is also a mom of three children.  She makes the very best zucchini sticks, fresh from her garden.  It never fails on my birthday that I will receive a birthday card from Donna.  A handwritten card will often show up at other pertinent moments, like my first year of University and my first time living alone, I received a card in November. I will never forget sitting on my dorm room bed, reading the card and crying because someone remembered me and thought of me.  Isn’t that a nourishing thought?  Where would I be without this soil beneath my feet provided by Donna?

At our wedding in 1997

Who loves the sun? Jean R. was my “University mom” and she was my light and sun during my growth as a university student.  She showed me how to live a life of freedom being exactly who you are.  Jean gave me physical and spiritual food and she showed me how to tap into God’s love and grace.  She had created beautiful rituals around the holidays and always had a handful of people home for the holidays, unrelated, but always at home at Jean and Joe’s.  Jean was married to an Engineer and is also a mom of three.  She, too, chose to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her three children while having a hairdressing studio in her basement.  She was also the person that gave me light on my wedding day by doing my hair.  Where would I be without this light-filled person in my world?  

Doing my hair for my wedding. 

Now enter into my life, water in the form of Hilde W. or Mrs. White in English.  She came to me in a season of tremendous growth, early in my marriage.  Hilde was my German mom and also a mother of three.   She showed me how to soak up new ideas and how she literally turned a century old barn into a thriving hotel and restaurant in a village the population of an elementary school.  Living in room 25 of her hotel, she also taught me how to cook pizza on a wood oven outside and load a mean dishwasher.  She was open and accepting and poured great love into both us.  She watered us on a daily basis with her kind words, big ideas and hard work.  What would I be without watching this clear living water pour from Hilde?  

Hilde and my German sister, Katrin, visiting Canada in 2006. 

Lastly, I end with my mentor who has breathed life in me from the very beginning.  She was my mom’s fellow ‘hockey wife’, one of her best friends and Wendy knew me when I was in my mother’s womb.  Wendy is also one of the first people that all my boys met when they were born. She taught me how to show up in live,  just be and breathe. Wendy also reminds me never to forget to laugh.  She showed me how to live the gift of grief when she lost her husband in a car accident when I was in my teens.  Wendy gives the very best gifts!  Through her actions and her words she is like a breathe of fresh air and her hugs, ah her hugs, they literally give you life.   Wendy helped in the family business, worked in schools, but mostly loved on her three children.  Where would I be without seeing Wendy live with full life with full breathes and have so much fun? O’Wen! 

Around 1982 at Shakee’s pizzeria. 

All of us are flowers getting ready to bloom.  We just need to remember or find those that are nourishing us as soil, sun, water and oxygen.  I wonder who those people are for you.  Conversely, I wonder who you could be those things for. 

Soil. 

Sun. 

Water. 

Oxygen. 

Moms of three. 

Filled with light. 

Overcomers of loss. 

Living life. 

All very important elements and role models for me to have to truly bloom.  

Note: For the article that inspired me to write this post, take a look at this article.  Thanks Wendy W. for the inspiration, my fellow flower! 

Be Opening the Treasure Box (Mother’s Day 2018) 

Five Mother’s Days! 

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018 

Five specific moments to ponder the gift of grief that I received when my mom died.  

Five seasons of pondering, praying and seeing what my hamster mind would create with the unthinkable fact that I won’t have my mom’s physical presence with me until we meet in heaven. 

Five Sundays to remember that I made a decision that nothing bad would ever come from my mom’s death.  

And it hasn’t. 

Ever! 

The moments where the waves of grief come over me have helped me uncover treasure.  

The waves have washed away the debris and clutter.  Clarity has come.  

These waves have made me sit or lie down and ponder what pieces of gold that my mom gave me that I am now missing. 

This grief has given me the privilege to see my mom’s life in totality from a perspective I never imagined.   


As a daughter.  


As a neighbour.  


As a teacher. 


As a friend.  

Watching my mom’s life come to an end allowed me to see and feel in a new way!  I was able to see and feel her influence, to this day, as my fingers tap on this keyboard. My mom/Super Nana’s presence is still felt in our lives by those who knew her and people that now know us, but never met my mama.  

Below are the treasures I have discovered about my mom.  Miraculously, now ALL these treasures are held and given to me by different people in my life, especially Sexy Neck!  The light has overshadowed the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death. I am incredibly grateful for these treasures given in DEATH to me by my mom and now given to me in LIFE by my close family and friends.  


 The treasure box has been flung open: 

✨ My mama had a golden heart.  She was always open to others and felt things deeply.  Her heart was incredibly good. It was pure gold.  She was the most non-judgemental person you could meet.  (And she never commented on my choice of clothing!). 


✨ My mama had a silver stature and posture. She could have been a President of a large company or a Principal of any school, but instead she chose family first and help raise myself, my sister, my cousins, our friends and anyone she taught. We were given the ability to hold our posture no matter what came our way. She exemplified this.   She even helped me keep my posture when I said “F*ck off” to our neighbour Chris H. by washing my mouth out with soap.   


✨ My mama had a shining smile and life-giving words that flowed from those lips. She always found something good to say, even when  people, in the same situation, may not have found something good to say.   I remember when she was close to the end of her cancer journey and we were talking about her having cancer and she responded, “Why not me, JJ?”  


✨My mama was clothed in humility.  Her volunteerism, going above and beyond in all her teaching job was a treasure for me that I now out on every day.  She created healthy boundaries but still often found ways to put others first.  We often had our cousins on family vacations, neighbours over to swim and we even had one of my sister’s friends live with us for a year just because she needed a place to live.  She was always helping and connecting with her three siblings and often our summer holidays involved visiting them or having them at our house.   She was incredibly thoughtful and now I aim to be a magical memory maker, like she was for our family.  

(My mama always made homemade birthday cakes for me and then my boys birthdays.) 

✨ At the bottom of my mama’s treasure chest after all that gold, silver, shining words, and cloths of humility, I have found nuggets. 

Not the nuggets that my boys like to talk about, but the nuggets that stick with you that you pass onto your children.  Well, I guess in some way my boys did get their nuggets from me.  My mom’s words about these specific topics still ring in my mind: marriage, parenting, the cycles of teaching, friendship and life.   

💥 Only boring people are bored.  

💥 Don’t share anything that’s negative with her (or anyone) about your marriage because they will remember and you may not tell them how you worked it out.  

💥 Don’t be so hard on your oldest child. 

💥 You are a great mother.  

💥 Wash your hands before you eat. 

💥 The same issues in teaching cycle around and around, just wait for it to correct itself. 

💥Find friends who love the same things you do.  

💥 Be a good person.   

💥 Make your bed.  (I have to admit that I still make my bed, but I really could care less if my boys make theirs.) 

💥 It’s never too late to do anything.  (My mama got her teaching degree in her late 40’s, took Spanish classes after my cousin moved to Spain and was cycling with a group in Mallorca, 90km per day, eight months before she died.) 

💥 Make no excuses.  Find a way to do what you want to do or ask for help.  (I am not very good at asking for help, but I am working on that!) 

💥 Be kind.  Work hard. Make shit happen.  

💜 MOM 💜

Her treasure box is open. 

Feel free to take what landed on you today.  

I thoroughly love all the treasures I have personally have been given and continue to discover.  

Thank you God that light always prevails.  

Always look for light, my friends!  Even in the darkness, you will find a sliver.  

This is my wish as we all celebrate Mother’s Day in our own way! 

Take something from the treasure box of my mom’s life.

A golden heart. 

Silver stature. 

Shining smile. 

Cloth of humility. 

Nuggets.  So many nuggets.  

With gratitude for all the women in my life who have my mother’s loving, vibrant and thoughtful heart!  I am blessed.  


😘 Joanna 

Be Knowing the Opposite of Love 

I am a feelings girl. 

I no longer apologize for this. 

I feel things deeply. 

I am impacted by the words and even vibe of the people around me. 

I know this. 

Now, I harness this. 

People are powerful. 

We have emotions that fuel behaviour. 

We have passions. 

We have love!  

In my personal journey that I entered into as I walked through the gift of grief, the loss of my mama, I saw love.  

Pure love that no amount of pain could suppress. 

One moment my mama would be writhing and the next moment my boys would walk through the door.  

In that single moment, a smile would come on my mama’s face. Her eyes would open up and she would see them. She would hear them. She would be fully present and LOVING!  


On this journey, I also learned the opposite of love and it wasn’t what I had thought. 

During my four decades of life, I have surmised that the opposite of love was the feelings, thoughts and actions of hate. I realized the untruth of all of this. 

The incongruency. 

The inconsistency. 

I witnessed people, people I dearly love, be silent.  

Be unpresent. 

Eyes closed. 

Ears firmly shut. 

I asked them “why” and implored them to tell me “What could I do differently?”.

I received no responses. 

I had to sit with no answers. 

And then the moment hit me that the opposite of love had never been hate. 

Hate allows for discussion, emotion, action of some sort.  

The opposite of love has never been hate. 

It’s apathy. 

The nothingness. 

The unresponse.  

Love and hate are actions. 

Apathy is lethargy. 

Action and apathy are opposite. 

Apathy is meeting people to go sledding and one person decides to take a nap on the top of the ski hill.  This is not love! 

Apathy is inviting someone over for a two hour birthday party and they fall asleep on the couch in the middle of the party. (Note: The person is in their 30’s!). This is not love! 

Apathy is talking to someone daily and seeing someone weekly and then never being invited over to their house again.  They end up texting to tell you they are selling the house. This is not love! 

Apathy is having your phone in front of your face when someone is trying to have a heartfelt conversation. This is not love! 

Living in my gift of grief and my apathy examples, I implore you to be awake to love and aware of apathy.   


Keep your eyes open.  

Ears ready to hear.  

Be present. 

Be loving. 

I am a feelings girl 

Apathy is brutal! 

I no longer apologize for this. 

Nothingness is worse than hatred. 

I feel things deeply. 

I am impacted by the words and even vibe of the people around me. 

I know this. 

Now I harness this. 
I don’t spend time with apathetic people. 

People are powerful. 

If THEY choose to be! 

Overflowing with love, with action and knowing it’s opposite. 💖

Lessons from a Super Nana who would be celebrating her 75th birthday this week!   I love you Mama. 😘 Joanna 

Be Living A Brut-iful Life!

img_8886 As I sit, ponder and let my mind wander, I think of all of you reading this 2017 message. Each of my Facebook friends and all 996 of you that follow my blog. I want to pour out extra love to everyone going through their sprinkling of brutal and beautiful as I did three years ago.  Couldn’t that be all of us?  Isn’t life imperfectly perfect?  What a brut-iful life we are living here in the stunning Okanagan Valley!  A sprinkle of brutal, but ALWAYS beautiful!

Three years ago, I walked with my mom as she was being released into heaven.  I walked as a daughter, an advocate, a pain reliever, a massager, a water getter, a midwife and had to make phone calls that I never thought I would have to, I think back at how brut-iful these moments were.  Brutal moments where I just have to lie down and cry and beautiful moments where I lie down and rejoice!  All magically weaved together into living each day with the gift of grief.

My boys were playing in their “Astronomer’s Lair” a few days ago, and I was very surprised to walk in and see them playing with old Tupperware bins.   I experienced one of my brut-iful moments when they proceeded to inform me that the extra bed was a place for their beloved Nana.  It was a lying down rejoicing and crying kind of moment!  The boys were 2, 4 and 6 when my marvelous Mama went to heaven, but she is still very much present in our lives!   It is slowly moving from brutal memories into beautiful moments.  Don’t underestimate your power to leave an impact on peoples lives!

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As I send  you wishes for an healthy, energetic, adventurous 2017 filled with dreams, may you savour all your brut-iful moments knowing that they are neither good nor bad, they just are.

Day by day.

Beautiful.

Brutal.

Memory-Making.

Healthy.

Living EVERY day.

Brut-iful living.

Brut-iful life!

Smooch, Joanna

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