I am both honored and humbled to share this story from an old and dear friend, whose journey is one of extreme tragedy turned into unbelievable inspiration. For anyone who has experienced a tragedy or loss in their lives, Angie’s words will definitely help you to realize that, although it is a long journey, it is possible to rise up if you remain true to yourself. I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have survived and flourished the way Angie Rehal has in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. My hope is that through sharing her story, we can all learn what it takes to have courage to not only face the demons within and without but be a role model for others to follow.
When Trauma Shows Up
PPP: Angie, tell me about your journey. Where did it start, what defining moments changed you? What choices did you face, or obstacles were in front of you?
My journey really began in 2016. The defining moment was an unexpected traumatic death of my husband of 23 years. The story of the relationship is like many others, we met when we were 19 and 20, dated for several years and married in 1991. Most friends fondly recall that there was never an Angie without Jas, and vice versa. As with any relationship there were lots of happy moments and lots of learning, sometimes the road was very tough, but then – which relationship is truly a happy one consistently? I’ve yet to come across anyone who’s completely content all the time. We were made for one another; I wholeheartedly believe that in my core. Jas was a force to be reckoned with, his larger than life personality filled up any room, he was the oldest of the kids in his family including his cousins. Many of them are even following his footsteps as far as career choices. He left behind a legacy and many fond memories for his family.
His death changed my world. When trauma shows up, you have to question your whole being, what you stand for, how you move forward, and how you support your family and most importantly, yourself. The choice was to give up or rise up. It took a lot of strength and learning to choose the latter. What were the obstacles? They were so overpowering; everyone was feeling sorry for me and I was feeling sorry for myself. What would people think? Will I lose my home? How will I bear the financial instability? How will I wear the new title of “widow”?
I have a strong personality so I constantly heard folks saying, “if anyone can survive, it’s you, you’re so strong.” This slogan was the hardest part for me. Strong people fall too, and when they fall, they are not comfortable sharing their weakness; that was me.
The Side Effects of Grief
As a South Asian female, the community pressure is the most daunting and unforgiving. Oppression and judgement are a REAL thing no matter how subtle. I pushed myself to be “okay” but clearly my body and mind had other plans.
PPP: What was going through your mind at the time, and how did this affect your actions?
I lost the strength to survive holistically, feelings of anger, and the “why me” syndrome set in. The unravelling doesn’t take long, a few poor choices can send you down a rabbit hole of bad decisions. My sabotage was not taking care of myself, physically and mentally. The impact of trauma can alter your thoughts. I wasn’t sleeping, not eating well, and the biggest challenge was actually showering and changing my clothes, something that seems so small yet seemed like a mountain I couldn’t challenge myself to compete with.
I was in denial that I may need help. Unfortunately, especially our South Asian community does not talk about trauma, addiction or any kind of factor that makes us appear as not being well. We tend to ignore these issues for fear of shame and hope for the best. The “what will people say” slogan is heavy in the South Asian community. Also, friends and family around you mean well, but cannot understand the effects of the loss.
PPP: How did you overcome these obstacles and/or limiting beliefs, and how has the journey transformed you as an individual?
Overcoming is such a murky word for me. You never really overcome trauma, instead, I think you learn to accept the new way of life. The emotional impact trauma leaves behind are fear, anger, guilt, and anxiety. The best way for me to accept it was to really really dig within, do work on ME. I learned to seek out help and owned the premise that therapy may actually assist me in navigating my grief. I was in one-on-one therapy and group therapy. This acceptance led me to be honest and transparent with myself. I learned to channel the grief and rise for me so I could be healthy and a strong role model for my boys who, even though they were young adults, depended on me as their sole parent.
Path to Reinvention
It took me two years. It first started with therapy, then I always wanted to start a small business. I wanted to keep my mind busy and keep away from feeling helpless with things I couldn’t control. This is when Angie’s Golden Ghee was born.
I also had to face the fact that my health had taken a very bad turn, I went from being active to completely still, making all the wrong choices with food and lack of movement. As it would happen, I was doing a Ghee show at a local community gym in June 2017. I was always against personal training and paying too much for a gym, I already had a Goodlife membership that I was paying for that I wasn’t using. Somehow I talked myself into giving this small local community gym a chance, I signed on for personal training for six months and have been with a personal trainer since then. I was supposed to be at the gym that day because all the extraordinary people were supposed to enter my life to make me better to help me heal and grow.
I completely believe in the power of the larger force in this universe that collides us with opportunities and choices.~ Angie Real
Lastly, but most importantly, I would not have survived without my community work. The work I do for various agencies also fuels me and keeps me distracted and busy. My Seva Foodbank family who also entered my life when I was at a loss and looking for meaning, has been a tremendous force of love and goodness. I cherish each new person I have met at the foodbank. I am also on the Big Brothers and Big Sisters board who add to my community work – they are a great group and have added so much purpose.
I am still on the path of acceptance, learning and being good to me. I’m trying my best to compartmentalize 24 hours and not thinking about what was or what will be. The concept of not worrying is not easy, I worry as a parent and also, I worry as a human about the events unfolding in front of our eyes from the virus that has put us on lockdown.
PPP: It seems as though you are only at the beginning of a complete transformation of yourself. Where would you say you are now in your journey of reinvention?
I seek to not allow the past to define my life, and to only control the day that I’m in. I have chosen to rise in my strength, hold the power for my choices, dream for a better tomorrow and hold on to what I stand for. This is intertwined with my choices to put me first, help humanity, love my humans deeply and attempt to forgive easily.
I tend to move trauma around. Sometimes it’s a bad day, so instead of pushing through, I attempt to acknowledge the feelings and be kind to myself. I have come far in my physical self and am making much better choices for myself. I am keeping busy with running – it’s an activity I have control over, and I enjoy the after-effects of positive feelings which keep me going.
I have also allowed myself to say NO. I am a people pleaser, but the last four years have challenged me to put myself first and this has also allowed me to dust off friendships that were not conducive to my well being. I am also sharing my journey in talks and groups where I am called on to share. This experience helps me, and I hope the transparency gives others the power to share their story. We all have a story, and we all need a shoulder to cry on at times.
PPP: Angie – what are you the most proud of?
I am most proud of my ability to connect with people. I love humans, and connection. I am able to do the community work I do because I’m always excited to help people who are vulnerable or need someone to listen to their story. I’m very proud of being able to find power to rise with the help of people. It always comes back to people – family, friends, community – and I never take that for granted. Of course, it goes without saying, I am also a proud fierce momma and I wear that label with humility and pride, and am deeply grateful for my boys.
PPP: Can you share the main lessons you have learned, to help our audience with their own journey of transformation?
It’s not easy, each day is a new beginning, be KIND to YOU and be GRATEFUL it’s sometimes impossible, but remind yourself, especially when days are dark. Own your own physical and mental power, stay authentic and vulnerable. Only you know what your journey entails – accept the path and do what’s right for you. Change will come only if you allow it, and work towards goals. Set the goals and slowly chip away at them.
Do you have or know someone who has a personal reinvention story they want to share with our community? Send us a line through our Contact Page or reach out to us on social media @power.purpose.play.