We have previously spoken a few times about my boy, Jimmy - my best mate, someone I genuinely considered a brother, and one-third of the Wolfpack (yes, it's a Hangover reference, haha). Get used to movie references, haha. Jimmy was my dude. Losing him was undoubtedly the hardest challenge I have faced in my 33 trips around the sun. However, it was this challenge that spurred my continued growth, which I now share with all of you. It snowballed into lesson after lesson, change after change, as I realized I no longer wanted to just settle, but rather, I wanted to truly live. It sparked a fire in me to not only make him proud but also to enjoy life even more every day. Today, though, I wanted to talk about the process of losing someone, especially someone close to you - I want to talk about grief.
Grief is often associated with death, but I believe it touches everyone. There are so many different ways to lose someone, whether it be due to death or other reasons, such as moving away or paths no longer aligning with friends, partners, and more. Grief does not just mean death, although in my case, it did this time. It was something I genuinely had not faced before. Sure, I had lost people in my life before, and I had experienced death before, but I had never had such a deep connection with anyone I had lost, nothing strong enough to impact me like losing Jimmy. I was always able to either not cry at all or shed a tear and carry on. I actually think that almost every time I cried at a funeral, it was more because I was witnessing people I love cry, including people I idolized like my parents. But not this time. This was my first real introduction to grief, and it changed me forever.
Living after having lost someone in such a way, boy, that was the hardest time in my life. It changed me in ways you couldn't imagine. Although I believe my character remains the same, so much changed in my life when Jimmy Jam decided to embark on a new journey. For me, the process of processing it was a very long one. I avoided it! Maybe it was my own version of grief, but instead of grieving, I latched onto the notion that I finally truly understood - life is too short! I stopped accepting things and had a newfound drive that propelled me to bulldoze anything that was no longer fueling my fire.
The first step was diving headfirst into my fitness journey. I no longer wanted to be the big cuddly man lifting crazy amounts of weights; I wanted to be fit and prove everyone wrong. I wanted to show the world that I could do it, and I've since used my story to motivate others to believe in themselves. I used Instagram to share my story, and at one point, it was humbling to receive messages from people who had lost 10, 20, 30+ kg or 20, 40, 60+ lbs. It was amazing, and nothing else mattered besides the gym. It's something I want to talk about in another episode very soon.
I continued to make changes and start again, over and over until I found what felt right - in my work, relationships, and where I was living. It was tough, and I was often told I was too old or too much of a dreamer, but I refused to settle or give in. It was a challenging and dark part of my journey, both physically and mentally, but I was determined to not settle for anything less than happiness. And now, I couldn't be more excited. It hurt like a mother, but it brought me to where I am today - beyond happy, embarking on new journeys daily.
Reflecting now, I honestly see all these changes and challenges, which I actually cherish, as by-products of my grief. I don't think I truly let myself come to terms with the physical loss, so I diverted my attention elsewhere. Anything that wasn't making me absolutely stoked anymore had to go. It may have seemed savage or selfish, but I believe we all deserve happiness, and that's what I wanted, plain and simple.
Then there was the other side of my grief - the really hard part: guilt.
I blamed myself more than words can express. I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep, shedding tears in the gym and in my car. In that one year alone, I cried more than in the 28 years prior. I kept replaying thoughts in my head, feeling like I could have done things differently, should have been more present, made him my top priority. Despite what Mitch and others would say to console me, I couldn't shake the overwhelming guilt. By the way, I'll be meeting Mitch today. But looking back, I wasn't ready to let him go. Maybe that was my way of holding on to him, of remembering him in that moment. Mitch, Jimmy, and I were the three best friends. I have countless stories that all start with "this one time with Mitch and Jimmy." I love them both deeply; I even have three wolves tattooed on my arm in their honor. But no matter what Mitch would say, I couldn't shake the guilt, and I wasn't ready to process it. Those were some of the darkest times in my life.
You know, when I mentioned in episode 3 "Light in the Dark" that I had thoughts of suicide before, most of them were during that period, though some even dated back to high school, something I've never shared before. But here we are, normalizing these conversations, and I am determined to lead by example. Yes, the negative side of my grief was the guilt and my struggle to process it.
Hindsight is 20/20, and now, reflecting on it all, I see how wrong I was. I love Jim, and I'm sure he loves me too. He still visits me, believe it or not. One time, a song that I had chosen for him when he passed, "Scar on the Sky" by Chris Cornell, randomly played on my Apple HomePod in the kitchen. It freaked me out, but in a bittersweet way. Chris Cornell was Jim's favorite, and every time we used to go on late-night drunken walks around our hometown, we would always see a shooting star and end up dancing and yelling, "Oh my God, did you see that?" It was the best. The song's meaning for me is about having more time with someone. I could go on; Jim visited me a lot. I think he still does; I can feel it sometimes, though less frequently than when I was struggling and in Australia. But I do get random glimpses.
So Jimmy did what he needed to do for himself, and he was ready for the next adventure. I needed to accept that and stop blaming myself, because it wasn't changing anything. Instead, I wanted to celebrate him and make him proud, which is why I'm here now, sharing my story to help as many people as I can avoid making the same mistake. I had to accept that Jimmy knew I was there for him, but he wasn't ready to talk. This realization was a big part of my motivation for starting this conversation and shedding light on the topic of grief. Maybe with a little more awareness, people will feel safer in reaching out for support, and maybe we won't feel as guilty for still being here.
It's easy for me to say all of this now because I've learned many lessons from the challenges life has thrown at me. The knowledge of these lessons is what I'm sharing here. However, grief doesn't have a structure or a time limit; there's no cheat code. You really need to feel it out in your own time and in your own way. But trust me when I say that holding on to someone you've lost with emotions like guilt and blame serves no purpose. It will crush you, it will impact those around you, and it won't allow you to live on in a positive and meaningful way, furthering the legacy or memory of that person. It's as simple as asking yourself what they would want you to do. I know for me, Jimmy would want everyone to party, wake up in the morning with a spring in their step, and catch up with him later when their journey here is over too.
I want to emphasize even more how grief is completely different for everyone, and no one should ever feel guilty for their own way of going through it.
There are no blueprints