Death & Dating: A Conversation with Love is Blind's Zanab Jaffrey and Julian TorresApr 23, 2023
This week, Grieve Leave is excited to welcome Zanab Jaffrey and Julian Torres, whose names might sound familiar from Netflix’s hit dating show Love Is Blind. Zanab and Julian joined our founder, Rebecca, to chat about all things grief, and how it comes up when we’re meeting and dating new people. Watch our full interview here, @grieveleave, or you can read the transcript below.
Rebecca: Hello everyone, I'm Rebecca Feinglos, the founder of GrieveLeave.com, and I couldn't be more excited for this conversation today. We are talking about one of my favorite topics: dating. And we're talking specifically today about the intersections of our grief and how it shows up. We go on dates with people, and who better to learn from on the topic of dating, then cast members from what I think is the best show on television, Love Is Blind.
I'm beyond thrilled to welcome today from season three of Love is Blind, Zanab Jaffrey and Julian Torres. If you don't know these two incredible humans, let me just tell you a little bit about them and their bios.
Zanab was first introduced to the public while authentically wearing her heart on her sleeve on said Netflix show, Love is Blind. Using her ever growing platform, Zanab shares everything from beauty routines, workouts, favorite meals, travel tips and beyond. Zanab is a formidable and independent woman who takes pride in empowering her audience, and I love following you, Zanab. Thank you so much for being here.
Zanab: Thank you for having me.
Rebecca: And Julian was also on Love Is Blind, and if you didn't know that, honestly I don't know how you missed him. He is a native New Yorker, he is a proud Puerto Rican and the son of a teacher and a US Air Force veteran turned attorney. He currently serves as the Vice President of program operations for a national education nonprofit. His career is focused on dismantling systems of inequity and injustice through school leadership and nonprofits across the social sector. Julian also happens to be one of my closest friends of more than a decade. It's great to see you, Julian.
Julian: Thank you, Rebecca.
Well, let's kick off this conversation with the way that we kick off all of our interviews here at GrieveLeave and that is with unexpected chickens, which is a very weird thing that you have probably never heard of, because I totally made it up. But just go with me here. After my dad died, I started seeing random chickens all over the place like chicken coops and neighborhoods - chicken artwork. Just a bizarre amount of chickens and every time a chicken would pop up I would think of my father. He loves chickens. It was like a really weird family inside joke and like everyone has a weird inside joke. Chickens were my dad's. And now that he's gone, every time I see an unexpected chicken, I think it's his way of checking in on me. So to kick off our conversations, Zanab I'd love for you to go first. What is your unexpected chicken in your grief?
I am quite a spiritual person, so I see a lot of signs and I see my parents around a lot in things, but particularly it's the Paul Simon song: You can call me Out. I used to belt that out with my dad in the car and just for however many thousands of songs you have on Spotify or whatever, just whenever my phone is on shuffle it's always when I'm just having a day or having a moment. I just shuffle and the next song that pops on is You Can Call Me out by Paul Simon and I'm, like: got it, Dad. Thanks. It just pops up.
I was out of town recently. The airline lost my bag. It was awful. I was in a CVS trying to, like, just get my things together and just the CVS goes dead silent when it was really busy and it just goes dead quiet and then the start of You Can Call Me Out just comes on and I go: Come on! This is a song from the 90’s! So, that's my dad popping in for sure.
I love that. I love that song too. Thank you so much. Julian, what's your unexpected chicken for your grief?
So my father was a US Air Force veteran, like you mentioned. And it was the thing outside of his children that he was probably the most proud of. And so anytime I've seen any paraphernalia or anything from the US Air Force. That's the thing that always reminded me of him, but especially now you know, so if it's a Air Force license plate or if it's an airman that I see or whomever just reminds me of my dad and that was solidified for me when I returned home after settling my father's estate shortly after he died, a friend picked me up from the airport in Charlotte, took me to a restaurant that we had never been to, and it was a long wait.
We sat down and the only table they had available was next to six Air Force soldiers. They were just sitting right there and I just couldn't help but feel like that, you know, each one of those represented my father and then his five children. So it was just one of those things. I'm like, alright, dad's gonna talk to me through the military now it's just really cool.
That's really beautiful, Julian, thank you.
Well, for those of us who may be watching, who don't know you from love is blind - And again, Julian, I don't know how they could have missed your Emmy worthy appearance on Love is Blind, can you share just a little bit about who you are and tell us about your person, Julian, or your people? Julian, do you want to go first?
Yeah! Outside of being a background character, I am, you know, like you mentioned, you know a Vice President of operations for a national nonprofit. But when I was thinking about answering this question, it's like, why do I start first with my job? I'm so much more than my job.
To be honest with you, the first thing that comes to my mind is I'm a son. I’m a brother. I’m a friend. And those are the parts of my identity that I think mean the most to me, especially now. And then I just so happen to have a job as VP of OPS and work in the social sector in various roles through business and administration. I live in Charlotte, NC with my dog Winston, and I'm a huge NBA fan, so that's just a little bit about me outside of all this stuff.
Person is my father. He was my first hero. His name was Thomas, a great dad, a very complicated person. He was everything I wanted to be, and a lot of what I didn’t want to be. But he was a marathon runner, he was a lawyer, he was a judge, a vet, a guitar player, quite literally - He was the smartest person I have ever met.
He could talk to you about absolutely anything. His smile would light up a room, and I guarantee you like he would have you laughing within 5 minutes of meeting him, just so charismatic and brilliant. And that's my person.
Thank you so much, Julian. Zanab, can you share too?
I’m a lot more than just a person that went on reality TV for love. I’m a world traveler, I'm half British, half Pakistani, I'm mixed. Mom was British and white, and my dad was born in Pakistan to my Indian grandparents.
And yeah, I fly around the world. My older sister is still in England, so I fly. I do real estate. I tiptoe into the field of social media, influencing which is super weird and not what I ever intended to do in my life, but here we are.
My people are my parents. I hadn't really lost a grandparent. I hadn't lost anyone until I lost my dad when I was thirteen. He was an aeronautic engineer. He was incredibly smart. He spoke so many languages. He lived most of his life in Great Britain. That's where he met my mom and so he sounded more British than anything.
But he grew up, was an aeronautic engineer, so he always worked for an airline. So he was introduced to the world at a very young age, and I've been internationally traveling since I was old enough to own a passport and walk alone in the airport.
And my mom was just an ace. She wanted to be a mum, that was it. She was a stay at home Mom. She did an in-home daycare for a little bit, she loved kids. And yeah, I lost her five years after I lost my dad, so you know, 13 and 18 were elemental years and my sister lost them at 20 and 25. And I don't try to tiptoe around. I feel like when you lose them is a whole different experience. As much as I'm like, I have grief in here, I don't try to, like, understand other peoples’ cause we're all so different. We all have different experiences.
But yeah, I lost my parents. They were gone by the time I was 19. And they've been gone a long time. But I find as each year and as things happen to me, There's a new version of them I need to grieve because I'm a new version of myself, so doing all the stuff granted, it was reality TV, granted, there’s those things I just thought about. What am I gonna feel like the day I have to shop for a wedding dress? What am I gonna feel like on the day of my wedding? So those are my parents.
They've been gone a long time, but something happens to me nearly every day that I would give anything to pick up the phone and call them and talk to them or get their insight on something. But like I said, I know I’m a very special person to them and I know they're around. I feel them in different things.
Julian, you lost your dad just last year - And so I just want to highlight the contrast of you having lost him more recently and Zanab, you having lost your parents long ago. And I know that that will play into the rest of our conversation. So I just want to bring that up here.
OK, this is when I'm going to immediately get emotional. Zanab, you were so open about your loss and your grief on the show from the very beginning, and I just wonder if you could share more about how that felt for you, and I also wonder, have you always been this open about your grief for your parents, given that you lost them long ago?
I like to think I'm a pretty open book. Anyone with questions, I'm very happy to share. I'm in a time where I'm actively trying to honor my parents and do things that they would love.
For the show… it's very new to me. I don't walk into rooms and lead with hello, I'm Zenab - I'm an orphan. It's just not a crutch I've ever leaned on in my life. I don't expect different treatment because my parents have passed away, but we were going into something where we were hopefully looking for our forever people and I felt it was important to share because It's something life changing and altered the course of my life twice, and I wanted to be vulnerable.
I wanted to share. There were people that have been in my life 10-15 years that reached out and were like, Oh my gosh, I had no idea about your parents. It's just it's not something I lead with and it's not something that's everyone's business either. But I was looking for my forever person and so I wanted to share. And it comes up in dating when I tell people a story, people are like, “oh, you're British? You don't sound British.”
And then I'm like, “Yes, I am, but I moved here with my dad.”
And they're like, “Oh, so, where's your mom?”
And then I'm like, “Oh, my mom's dead.”
And they go, “Oh, but you moved here with your dad, so your dad must be alive!”
And I'm like, “No, my dad's dead too.”
So it’s kind of a word vomit once it gets going on a date, but again, it’s not something I would lie about. It's part of my story, and if it scares someone off, then it's the wrong person, you know?
Yeah, I couldn't agree more with that. The only time I ever lie about my parents being dead is when I'm in an Uber and it's like a 5 minute Uber and I don’t have the time to get into it.
Right? Like, this isn’t the time to bring us down.
Right. I wonder, Julian, we didn't get to hear about your grief. Well, your grief hadn't happened yet on Love is Blind. But I wonder if you could share more how your grief comes up on dates now and what that's like for you?
Yeah, for sure. No, Dad was still kicking when we were filming. there was a little bit of anticipatory grief. Rebecca, I know you briefly posted about that not long ago, which really resonated. But I think now, I don't bring it up so easily. I'm not just going to go straight in and bring it up and be like, “hey, I'm Julian. My dad died and like that's impacting me heavily right now.”
If it comes up naturally, it'll come up and I'll talk about it. And I have No problem talking about it. I still will be reserved, Just because I'll still get emotional about it. But sometimes I can talk about it just fine. I can laugh, and everything is OK. Other times, no. I'm gonna be a mess.
And so it just really depends on how I'm feeling in that moment. But I think a lot of it also depends on just the person. You know, are they somebody who kind of maybe gives off a lot of empathy and compassion? And so it just depends on that part of it, but it is important to me.
So it is something that at some point I'm going to want to talk about it because it was such a pivotal moment in my life. I mean, it just happened this last October. So it is still very much recent and alive right now in me.
And so it is something that is a big part of me. My father was a big part of my life, and losing him impacted me dramatically. And so I think it's shaped how I view relationships, how I view myself and this idea of like a legacy and whoever I'm gonna call a wife.
I want them to understand that and I want them to engage in those conversations with me. So yeah, it is hard to bring it up and talk about it at length. So it really just depends on the person.
I wonder if we can dig in a little bit more, Julian, about what it was like to date before your dad died versus now after and you just spoke a little bit about maybe you're thinking more about your legacy, for example. But could you share a little bit more about how that feels now?
Before he died, I was supporting him through his chemo treatments. So he had gone through 1 1/2 rounds. And you know, he didn't have many other people to kind of take care of him. And so while I was in Texas and he was in Florida, just to have to take care of him took a lot, but it was something that of course I was gonna do. And so that is something that I brought up in dating.
It was a lot easier to talk about. It was a lot more comfortable to talk about that, of course. Because I needed people to know, look, I'm supporting my father through this hard time and it's going to impact me and I might not be my best self at times because of this process.’
But I think it was interesting because, you know, my dad died just three months after a relationship of mine had ended with somebody who I was thinking I was going to marry. And so I was grieving that relationship. And then dad died. And then I'm grieving him.
And so all of a sudden the grief just blended. And I just remember being like, I don't know who I'm grieving right now or who I'm sad for. It was a really interesting, tough time. So I wasn't dating too much before he passed for obvious reasons.
But I think even just well before that, I feel like one of the biggest things that's changed from before to after is this idea of being with somebody who my father would be proud of. Because I think before, when he was alive, I wanted my parents to like whoever I'm with. You know, they'll meet them and it'll be fine and everything will be OK.
But now it's like, no. I truly have to make sure that I am honoring my father and what he would want from me, which is somebody who is gonna treat me with respect and love and care. And so it's almost, in a way, helped me to have greater respect for what I look for in someone, to be honest.
That's really beautiful, Julian. I see Zanab nodding. I wonder if any of those reflections toward the end resonate with you because I'm sitting here nodding too, and thinking about how I thought of my parents as I was dating, and I wanted to choose someone that I think they would have liked. I wonder if that resonates for you, Zanab.
Yeah, it does. It's odd. It's like when they're here, you know, “you'll meet them!” but like, I'll convince them. And now, they’re not her to convince. And now I get emotional when I meet people that I like because I think, ‘Wow. I’ll never get to sit across from my dad and like I know he'd like you’
But I get their blessing in other ways. Paul Simon. That night I mentioned when I was freaking out, I was actually meeting someone that evening and I needed all these things at CVS, and it was like my dad just came on through the CVS speaker and was like, “can you… chill out. it's gonna be fine.”
And I was like, “Hey, is this also your sign of approval, Dad? Thanks!”
I hope the date went well!
Can y'all each share– can you think of a great example of talking about your grief and talking about your people on a date? Does one moment stand out?
I've got a couple of these, I guess. It wasn't a date. For me, my roommate actually was like dating someone and was like, “hey, I want you to meet this guy.”
I was like, “OK!”
She said, “I want to have dinner with him.”
And I was like, “Sure! We'll have dinner. It's cool.”
So, same kind of thing. He asks, “You moved here with your dad. So your dad?”
“No, dad's dead.”
“What about your mom?”
“Mum's dead too.”
And he's like, “Oh, like how long?”
“Oh, my dad passed away when I was 13.”
And he's like, “Oh, he's been gone a while. That was ages ago!”
And I go, “Hmm. Yeah, it was a long time ago. But it still really sucks.”
That was one. And the other one that came to mind is this guy I was talking to off the apps and I had mentioned my parents are dead. But I have my American step mom that I call mom, Beverly, that was on Love is Blind. But my Mum will always be my Mum, and I lost my mom and my dad, so I told him my parents had passed.
And then he's like, “can you do something on this day?”
I go, “No, I can't. I've got something to do for my Mom”
And he goes, “Ohh. I thought you said your parents were dead. And he did like the this emoji [throws hands up]”
And I go, “Oh, sir, I'm so sorry for the technicality! It's stepmom. And no, I didn't lie to you about my dead parents.”
Do you need headstones? Death certificates? Like, people are just bizarre. So those are my two awkward, funny moments that just kind of came to mind when I thought of them.
Was there a good example? Did anyone handle it well that stands out?
No, because I think it's just so rare, Right? Like you've met people that have lost a parent, but I think you I are unusual to be this age and have lost both parents. And even when I was dating in my early 20s it's not normal to have them both gone and so I think when they get the news of both mostly they just sit there and they're like, “I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have asked.”
And it's like, “Well, no! It's normal you'd ask!”
But I truly think people, for the most part, do not know how to handle or what to say when you've lost both. That's just a little uncharted territory for most people.
It's so shocking to people. I pulled the stats the other day. I shared these online because the stats even shocked me. What the CDC says is the people who are between the ages of 24 and 35, 1.8% of them have lost both parents. You and I are really unlucky.
Like real unlucky! Like that 1% usually means like ohh we’re elitist! Like we're doing really well for ourselves! No, we are not.
No, it's the shittiest club to be a part of.
Yes! It is the shittiest club to be a part of! And I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you're in it too.
I'm sorry too. But at the same time, like when you meet someone else who is in that club, like I feel connected to you through the screen!.
Instant! Ohh yeah, we're like this! [fingers crossed]
Julian, can you share any moments that stand out to you in dating and sharing your grief that could be good or bad?
Yeah, I think there's maybe a couple ones. Kind of quick - It's kind of sad and uncomfortable. Actually when my father passed, I had just started thinking about dating. And I did have a date actually scheduled and I completely forgot about it. At that point I had packed up my stuff. I had to go to Florida and start making arrangements.
I completely forgot about it until I got the alert on my phone. And so I had to cancel on her last second and I did not get the kindest response back. So it wasn't great, but at the same time I'm like, “alright. Well, if you can't understand, this is not gonna be it.”
So obviously never spoke to that person again.
Did you tell her your dad died?
Oh yeah, yeah.
Oh, that was 100% Dad, taking that one out.
Absolutely. Dad was looking out for me.
So yeah, that one, that one was… That's that. That was pretty bad. But I'll balance it out with the positive. So, months later, I went on a date with a woman and we started talking about family. It got brought up naturally. And so I just briefly mentioned my dad, and she asked about him.
I mentioned that he had passed and she started asking me questions about him. First of all, she apologized. So she just was extremely compassionate. And then she started asking me questions about him, like, my favorite memory of him and what he was like, and all this other stuff and I think it was the first time somebody had done that and so it just all of a sudden something that could have gone sad, it became joyful.
And so I'm like, I don't know who this woman is, it was the first date. But I was like, “I think I'm falling in love with you right now.” I wasn't, but it was amazing. And that's to me like the kind of perfect model for how I would like someone to handle that type of conversation. It really was beautiful.
Rebecca: I think that's such a great example of the kinds of things we can say to people and should say to people when they are vulnerable enough to share their grief on a date. And really, in any conversation person to person, it's that empathy piece, like asking those follow up questions. I think that's a perfect example, Julian and it makes me think about when I was 32 and single for the first time in adult life. I was divorced, both of my parents were dead, and Zanab what you said really resonates for me. I just had to put my grief out there immediately because there was no way to avoid those topics. To your point, I didn't want to be with someone that couldn't handle what my truth was, so I'd rather just kind of get it out of the way early. But I got a whole array of responses from people, like all different types of responses, the good, the bad, but the ones that I just hated the most were the people that pitied me. The people that felt so sorry for me, and they felt like they needed to help me or save me. I wonder if that resonates with either of you. What does empathy look like and how is that different from pity when we're talking about grief and dating?
Zanab: I think yes, like the response society says. Like say you're sorry, say you're sorry.
And I'm sure both of you have been sick of it. Like, stop telling me you're sorry. Sorry doesn't bring a parent back, does it? So the sorries and like the pity comes in and the "oh, that must have been so hard. How did you do that? Who raised you?" It's like, "Hi, I'm a whole ass person sitting here in front of you." I got myself here and I'm doing okay I think. I think empathy is just not trying to step on the toes of grief. Grief looks very different for everybody. And granted, I lost my parents so long ago, but there are still moments that are completely crippling, in grief and moments that will happen.
And I think empathy is just being present and like you said, like a great example, I've actually never had anyone ever come to me and be like, "Hey, what was your dad like? What was your mom like?" I think that's a really beautiful way to be present. To be like, oh, I heard what you said and maybe you want to share something nice about your parents versus telling me the tragic way they died, or how you've been grieving.
I think empathy is hugs. There's something scientific, too, about hugs. Like what, 20 seconds releases all the chemicals. I speak about losing my parents as having the rug pulled out from underneath me and my world completely shattered, and so someone holding me and just feeling a bit held together is wonderful. And also, food. People like to bring tons of food, but I think anyone that's grieving doesn't appreciate food because, for one, food's great, and two, you do forget to eat because you're sad, right? So hugs and food are my go-tos.
Rebecca: Wow, that's great. Hugs and food are so empathetic, I love that.
Zanab: And so easy, everyone could do that.
Rebecca: That's true. Julian, do you have any other thoughts there that you want to add?
Julian: The food thing is spot on. Somebody had sent me a gift card and it was like a week or two after my dad passed. They sent me a DoorDash gift card and I think I realized at that moment that I hadn't gone grocery shopping. There's no food in my fridge, I'm barely eating. That made me realize I gotta eat some good stuff. So yeah, now the food thing is big. I think.
I think for me, pity is when somebody acknowledges my loss, but then is uncomfortable to sit with me in that loss and in that pain. I don't expect anybody to, you know, cause I understand. If you don't know how to handle it, it's fine. But I agree, it's like all the "I'm sorrys" and the "how do you manage" and "how are you doing this" crosses into pity territory. That doesn't necessarily make me feel joy.
Empathy, on the other hand, is when somebody is willing to sit in that space with me. And who's willing to not necessarily even create moments of joy, but just allow me to feel whatever it is I need to feel in that moment, whether it's just listening, whether it's a hug, whether it's just saying I love you, that to me is empathy and yeah, it's a big difference.
Rebecca: That was great.
Do you either of you find yourself wanting to date people who have experienced similar losses, like people who get you in that way, or do you have thoughts about dating people that have not experienced such significant losses?
Zanab: I don't need someone that's had loss, I've had enough loss. For the two of us to be quite frank and maybe that's super unfair to say, but Becki, you may feel the same. I personally have always looked for and pray that I marry into a massive, loving family. With parents, I want the parents that are like, "You're with us now. Get over here baby." I want the all-encompassing loud dysfunctional family, because my family unit was completely obliterated. So I hope I end up with someone that has their parents and has their family. As far as me personally, I'm choosing to believe that I've been created, built, designed with this loss in mind, and I have been created to be the partner to someone who, when they go through that, I got it. I got us. I got you. I know how this goes. I know what not to say to you. I know how to be here for you and I truly believe I will carry my husband through that.
And so that's my take. My preference is not to have someone that's experienced loss because I've got enough of that sadness and I carry that with me too throughout the course of the day or the year, you know. Like Mother's Day, Father's Day, to me, are huge slaps in the face and so to have another mother-in-law, someone to celebrate a father to celebrate on Father's Day. Like what a beautiful full circle moment that I'm like holding out for, you know.
Rebecca: Julian, do you have thoughts about dating people who have also experienced loss versus not?
Julian: I think I'm still figuring that out, you know, cause this is still recent, it's still new to me. I'm still trying to cope with this all and figure out what my life looks like. I haven't experienced all four seasons without my dad yet. And so I think I'm still learning and figuring out what that is. So I don't know if being with somebody who's experienced loss is gonna be helpful or is gonna be somebody that is gonna be good for me or not. I truly don't know. What I do know is that right now, I am very attracted to people whose compassion and empathy just come more naturally to them. Because I don't need you to experience loss, but I just need you to know how to support me whenever it comes up and whenever it hits me. And so that's what I think I know I'm looking for right now, but I don't know. I'm still figuring that out and I've given myself the permission to figure that out, right. I think that's one of the most important things. I'm still figuring this out. My identity really, truly was impacted by that, and so that's gonna, you know, fall into dating. So ask me again in a year and maybe I'll have an update for you.
Rebecca: I'm sure your feelings will evolve over time and you will find someone who can sit with you in those feelings.
What is the hardest part about dating while grieving a parent or your parents? And the flip side to that is like, is there anything that is unexpectedly beautiful about it?
Zanab: Julian, I feel like it's fresher for you, so you might have a good take on this.
Julian: Yeah, I think it's hard. I think, just in general, it's hard to find space to talk about it without coming across like you are an emotional wreck or like you're this poor little injured baby bird. Which kind of is what we're talking about, about pity or empathy, I think, especially for me, I feel extra pressure as a male to hold my emotions in a little bit more when I'm talking about it. I've told myself not to do that. If I'm gonna cry, then I'm gonna cry. You know, if I'm gonna be sad, I'm gonna be sad. I don't care if it's the first date. And if you can't handle it, then you're not it for me, but that was really hard at first. I was like, I have to be this strong stoic guy right now, because I think that still, even though we've come a long way, there's still a lot of pressure for men just to handle things, to kind of suck it up and deal with it.
So I think that's honestly been tough, you know, but again to my point earlier, I've given myself the grace and permission to feel however it is I'm going to feel, and if it rubs somebody the wrong way, they're just not meant to be in my life, period.
Rebecca: I love that. Thank you, Julian. Zanab, what's the hardest part, and what's beautiful?
Zanab: I think to piggyback off of what Julian said it does really weed out a ton of people.
I will kind of go back on what I said about not needing someone that's lost parents. I would prefer them to have parents, but it would be ideal if you've experienced loss of some kind in your life, because you and I will just feel things are very different once you've lost parents, one or both. My heart breaks every time I hear someone's lost a parent. When I heard Julian lost his dad, it just rips open old wounds. In dating, just like what Julian said and piggybacking off it weeds it out, I don't want someone that scares easily.
If you're concerned about whatever lasting trauma I have and that scares you then go find someone that's never had a bad day. Go find them. My bad days allow me to have the best of days also. I think it's when you find someone that is emotionally aware and is sensitive and is willing to sit with you in it and ask questions.
That's beautiful. It's that level of connection that you haven't been able to have with someone before because you're like, "Oh you, you're not running away from this. You wanna come all the way." Okay. We're going.
And you know, and anytime anyone wants to talk to me about my parents, I get emotional. So I'm like, OK, well, and now I'm crying.
Rebecca: So here we are, but it's like it's only because of the loss that you get to feel that depth of connection. Well, while we're talking about sad crying thoughts, I want to ask you about something that you said on camera that I have never heard another person say out loud and that resonated with me so strongly. Basically, you said something along the lines of, "On my lowest days, I don't know if I deserve love or I don't know if I deserve to be happy." I don't remember what the context was exactly or how it was edited into whatever context it was edited into.
I understand that feeling. Do I deserve love? Do I deserve to feel good? Do I deserve to feel happy? Am I worthy of that feeling? And it's taken me a long time and a lot of work with my therapist to figure out that that innate sense of unworthiness is really rooted in losing a parent young.
I lost my mom to brain cancer when I was 13 and she was diagnosed when I was five. I really don't have any positive memories of her where she was well, and that is that just colors my entire childhood. But that feeling of just not feeling worthy, and how that then connects to your experience dating, I wonder, does that resonate for you or what?
Zanab: Your thoughts are so very similar. My mom had brain tumors and she was diagnosed when I was 11 and made it til I was 18. But 11 to 18. Also, I have a lot of memories of her being sick and I hate, hate, hate remembering her in her hospital gown and ventilators and head bandages. I hate it, but there is tons of work I've done with my therapist, too. So much of worthiness, identity, self esteem comes from your parents, your childhood, your family life, because that's where you stem your value from. And so when that is all out of balance, you lose a lot of that.
At the time I said that I was very happy. I thought I had met my person and so it's a moment of joy. I find this a lot in my life, whenever I'm really happy, there's always like a twang of a twinge of, like bittersweet because you can't share it with the people you love the most. They're not here to celebrate with you.I think when you are so accustomed to such bad news and you've been delivered such awful news and you've had some of the worst things and some of the worst news delivered to you, that you will receive in your entire life. At this point, joy feels very foreign, and you don't usually get too much of that. So there's this slingshot effect of where you're like, "Hold on. This is weird to me." It sounds so sad and that's not how I mean it. It's like good things don't happen to me. I get the catastrophic news, that's what I get delivered. So when I'm sitting here and I'm like, I'm elated, I'm so happy. It's like, wait, do I deserve this? Did I pull someone else's card? Like it's like, "this isn't for me." And then you say it out loud and you're like, "that is so sad." And that's what had me, even saying it out loud, broke my heart a little bit because I was like, I know, I know, I deserve these things. But it just feels so wrong to have so much happiness when you are so used to being so sad.
Rebecca: And that shows up in dating. It showed up for me while dating, connecting with my person now and being so happy, and then seriously questioning like, do I deserve to be with this person?
So it pops up and it pops up for you. Thank you for saying that on camera. That meant a lot to me, personally, and that helped me then have more conversations with my therapist about my own worthiness, and ultimately I think has made my relationship stronger now. So you helped me do that. Thank you.
Zanab: You did that work, but this is what I always tell my therapist. I'm like, oh, my gosh, you're changing my life for doing so much. He's like Zanab, but you are doing the work. So Becki, that's all you. I just said something and you went and did the work on it. That's all you, mama.
Rebecca: Love you. OK. A couple more questions before we close up, but, oh, my God, I think I could talk to both of you forever.
What advice would you give to people who have lost someone and are dating right now? Julian, as someone who is, is doing that pretty well. Do you want to share?
Julian: So I think the first thing I'll say and you two have both mentioned it. Therapy has honestly saved my life. It was already something that I was going to regularly before my dad died, but I think because I was going consistently, I had already some of the tools to be able to process it, but then throughout this grief process, my therapist has been instrumental in making sure that I can still like, bring my conversations outside of our therapy sessions. Go to therapy. Just period full stop. It's life changing.
I think two, give yourself permission to stop dating if you feel like it's too overwhelming. Because I know for me it was for a while and I felt there's weird pressure. It was weird. It was like I felt for one second like, what's the point of dating if my dad's not gonna meet my wife and my, you know, my children, all that stuff? But then on the other hand, you know, I think grief just does a lot of confusing things to your emotions and how you perceive things. I think for me, I had to realize, nope, now's not the time. I've gotta just take care of myself right now and grief. And it felt good when I gave myself that permission.
And I think the third piece of advice is to bring up your person as much as you want and cry about it and think about and reflect and journal and whatever it is. Listen to the music, watch the movies if you have the. Figure out what honors your person and just do that thing because it's a way that you can still remain connected to them and realize even though their physical being is not on this earth anymore, they are still very much present and alive in all the things around us.
Rebecca: Thank you, Julian. That's perfect. That's great advice. Zanab, what advice would you give to people?
Zanab: Feel everything, even if you find yourself laughing for absolutely no reason. Laugh, laugh loud. If it's a day where you can't get up on the couch or all you can do is get up and shower that day, you did great. Feel absolutely everything. Grief is not a straight line. I think when I lost my dad when I was 13, I had to grieve for him as a 20 year old woman, I had to grieve for him as a 30 year old woman. Especially as I've dated more mature men, right? I went from dating guys in their early 20s to now I'm dating guys in their 30s. There's so much I wish I had my dad's insight on. There are just moments that will just come that are so bizarre and I'm like this would be a great moment for me to sit down and chat with my dad. So I think it's just feeling everything. It's understanding that there'll be months where you're absolutely great and then a day would just totally knock you on your ass and that's OK.
Same thing as Julian said. Be open, talk about it. It will not scare off the right person. I believe that. If you can't understand that, like, I go dark sometimes when I get sad, I just go really quiet. I internalize a lot. I deal with it a lot because I've done a lot of life alone and I've had to dig myself out of those spaces by myself. And so if that scares someone off or you tell someone that like, oh, I don't like that. OK well, there's plenty of other fish in the sea, as they say, so don't be afraid to speak out about how you're feeling and what kind of day you're having.
And, honor them in any way you can, any moment you can. If it's a song on the radio, turn it up. If it's doing your dad's ridiculous dance moves, do it. I do a lot of cooking. My mom did a lot of baking. My mum is cremated in England and my dad is buried in Dallas. And so when my sister comes to visit, we go see my dad's grave. When I go visit home, we put flowers out on my mum's.I'm such a spiritual person and I'm, like, going to the cemetery doesn't do anything for me anymore. Like, I know they're not there. So I wanna pull out a recipe that she does and I want to cook and I want to think about my parents and I want to speak about them regularly with the people that I'm dating. Speaking to the overwhelming theme, if it makes someone uncomfortable, they're quite simply not equipped to deal. Because if you can't talk about it with me, then you absolutely can't deal with me when I'm on the couch, just sobbing my eyes out.
I think what both of you are capturing, too, is that whether your person just died last year or last week or they died 20 years ago, that grief keeps going. It will pop up in ways that you don't expect and you need to honor that. Grief and that is totally OK. and your perspectives on dating and grieving are so valuable for our listeners in the Greive Leave community.
I want to close out with a quick segment that we call grief brief. The goal is quick words or phrases in response to a handful of questions.
We could talk about grief and like tons and tons of words, and we can elaborate on all of our thoughts. But sometimes we just need bite-sized pieces of advice so I can't wait for your grief brief thoughts here.
On your lowest days in a word or a sentence, what is your go-to way to grieve? Let's start with Zanab.
I turn it up and I dance it out.
Julian, on your lowest days, what's your go-to way to grieve?
I call my siblings.
When someone you care about is grieving, what's your go-to way to support them in their grief, Julian?
Send them food, cook them food, bring them food. Just something they can eat.
And Zanab, when someone you care about is grieving, what's your go-to way to support them in their grief?
I hold them.
And last, what is one thing you wish everyone knew about grief and grieving?
Just that it's not a straight line.
Julian, what's one thing you wish everyone knew about grief and grieving?
There's no right or wrong way to do it. However you have to do it is the right way.
Ah, y'all. Thank you so much. You both of you are incredible. Thank you for your time and energy. Can you tell folks where they can follow you? How to find more info about you? How to keep up with you?
You can follow me on Instagram or TikTok @ZanabJaffrey.
Thank you, and Julianne, how can people keep up with you?
Yeah, you can follow me on Instagram, @JT103, LinkedIn or on any of the Grieve Leave community boards because I'm an active participant through Grieve Leave. So that would be a great way to keep in touch.
Thanks, Julian. Thank you so much to everybody who tuned in. Be sure to post like Julian does on GrieveLeave.com, we will post the transcript and the video, of course, to this whole interview and that we hope that you will share this conversation with someone you love and someone who is grieving. Grieve on, friends.
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