My Lifelong Relationship With 'Grit' Has Helped Me Survive Grief


Along the shores of the South China Sea where I was conceived by an American G.I. and a Vietnamese woman, “Grit and I would meet for the first time. After being luckily removed in the last hours from Operation Babylift’s first flight out of Saigon — which ultimately crashed in a rice paddy and perished along with my birth certificate — I would make the next flight out. Maybe Grit knowingly chose to follow me as I made my journey from South Vietnam to the United States for adoption.

I found myself inseparable from Grit in many moments: during a tumultuous relationship with my father after my parents divorced when I was 13, leaving home to live on my own as a senior in high school and putting myself through college while working three jobs. But when I examine my life during those times, surprisingly they weren’t the times when I leaned on Grit the most.

Grit was with me as I drove alone, without my then-husband, to bury my father after he suddenly died of a heart attack on Thanksgiving the year after my wedding. Five years later, it was me and Grit together on the longest drive of my life. I had to say goodbye to my mother as she took her last breaths after succumbing to her muscular degenerative disease, leaving me with the title “sole survivor.” It was Grit that accompanied me as I replayed my goodbye with the hope I gave her peace before she gracefully left this earth. On that day too, Grit would step up to help me shockingly realize that once again I was flying solo despite technically bearing the “married” title, and divorce was inevitably in my future. My long divorce battle was not kind to me… taking my children 50 percent of the time, my home and all I’d worked for. But Grit essentially picked me up from that rubble and helped me recover and rebuild. Despite all of those moments that I have just recounted, even then, I remained unaware just how strong that bond I had with Grit was.

It was after returning from a three-week trip back to Vietnam after 40 years. I traveled with a man who dangled thoughts that I could love and live and regain my vision of family. That’s when I really learned how devoted Grit was to me. I feverishly pumped on the chest of this man I loved and called 911. He never made it to the hospital. My life shattered only hours after returning from our fairytale voyage. My future was stolen. It was then that Grit would assert it’s firm grasp on me and never let go. In the coming days, weeks and months that have now turned into years, Grit has been by my side. Grit is defined as courage and resolve — strength of character despite facing extreme obstacles. Perhaps Grit is part of our genetic makeup or simply secretly stamped on our hearts. Or maybe it’s a shadow that follows us as we walk through life. No matter which it may be, Grit is my steadfast friend. I believe to survive our grief, we each need to find our Grit.

This story originally appeared on the GoodGrief App Blog.

Photo credit: MLiberra/Getty Images


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