With a Passion for Fashion & Zest for Life, Grace Liang Keeps It Real About Living Through Grief and Loss

“Your job, even in life’s darkest times, is trying to find out how to learn from whatever it is that life puts you through.”

Grace Liang talks about grief and loss with Homegirl Talk

At just five feet tall, Grace Liang might not take up much physical space, but the petite 44-year-old lifestyle blogger has an enormous story to tell that can help others persevere through life’s challenges.

That’s because she knows what it’s like to experience struggle and loss, whether it was low self-esteem, poverty and losing her father in her homeland of China, or moving to America to marry her husband and then losing him to cancer ten years later.

“Try to understand that what makes you suffer now will make you stronger later.” To that end, Grace created her popular blog Color & Grace and Instagram page where she connects with more than 126K followers about fun and fashion as well as the more serious side of life. “Fashion is meaningless if it’s without the human story behind it. For me, my fashion blog and my social media are platforms to help share my stories….Someone somewhere will find it useful.”

I reached out to Grace on Instagram while searching the #grief hashtag after recently losing my Dad. A few DMs and emails later, here we are on Homegirl Talk!

If you’ve also lost someone you love, Grace’s story will encourage you to confront adversity with grace and create a bright outlook even in the midst of life’s darkest moments.

On the bio page of your blog Color & Grace, you say that “most Asian cultures have traditionally valued sons above daughters and my family was no different.” How did this affect your self-esteem growing up?

It made me lack confidence and always feel insecure because I didn’t feel safe or supported. But now I see it as a gift that I have the chance to practice self-love, the truly unconditional love. My past got me here and made who I am today, so I made peace with all my history.

Have you been back to China after emigrating to the US? If so, do you see the culture changing at all?

I’ve been back many times since my family is still there. Yes, I have noticed big culture change. People have so much better quality of life, and they are catching up with the whole world on human rights, too.

You also mentioned that you grew up poor. Did that drive your ambition to make money as you got older?

That drive was my way of feeling safe. But now my ambition has changed to how I can serve others. You can see the points below to see my dirt-poor condition. 😉

• First time seeing a car: 1985 (11 years old)

• First black and white photo: 1985 (11 years old)

• First time brushing my teeth: 1986 (12 years old)

• First time owning a TV/black and white: 1987 (13 years old)

• First living space with an indoor restroom: 1990 (16 years old)

• First living space with running water: 1990 (16 years old)

• First time having my own room: 1995 (21 years old)

• Complete end of hunger: 2001 (27 years old)

• First time flying on an airplane: 2002 (28 years old)

• First dentist appointment: 2002 (28 years old)

• First birthday party: 2005 (31 years old)

• Learned to drive and owned my first car: 2008 (34 years old)

• First toy or doll: As a kid, never.

You’ve written that it wasn’t until you became an adult and moved to Shanghai that you began to have more confidence in your abilities and see yourself as anything other than plain-looking. What changed your perspective? 

Shanghai is a city that respects females more, compared to other cities in China. After I finally made a living there by myself, I started to have the time and money to take care of myself. I realized if I could lead a big company’s whole department, I should be able to make myself look and feel beautiful. It required some learning and a lot of practice.

How important do you think physical attractiveness is in relation to inner beauty? Do they go hand-in-hand?

For me, in a relationship, physical attractiveness is the first step. Without it, a person may not want to even look into the inner beauty of someone. Yet, physical attractiveness varies throughout time for cultures. All around the world, there are different perceptions of what beauty is exactly.

For example, my late husband was overweight and bald, but I still found him attractive. The best way to admire individual outer and inner beauty is by growing into a better version of yourself. That should be your focus. There might be someone you think is more beautiful than you, but that can’t get in the way of your self-confidence. So remember to be the best version of yourself that you can for yourself.

You’re a full-time fashion and lifestyle blogger and it’s clear you enjoy the good life. How were you able to turn your love of fashion into a career?

It’s important to “dream big, plan carefully and make it happen.” At the end of every year, I spend a few days focusing on the next year’s goals. From there, I break them down to monthly plans and daily schedules. I made my passion a career with a clear vision, detailed plan, long hours of hard work and a lot of luck plus love.

I very recently lost my Dad and I still cannot fully grasp that he is gone. You also lost your father when you were a teenager. And then more recently in 2017 you lost your husband to cancer after 10 years of marriage. What has the grieving process been like for you? What have been the main differences in how you grieved the loss of your parent vs. the loss of your partner?

I had no clue about grieving after my father passed away. There was very little knowledge or help in China at that time for the process of grieving, so I didn’t grieve at all. This resulted in me crying every time I talked about my dad. I often saw him in my dreams, where I asked him, “Where did you go? Why don’t you go home?” Never getting any answers, he walked away, and I woke myself up because I was crying. It took me about 20 years to finally accept this.

But for my late husband, I haven’t had any sad dreams at all. Now, I have learned so much about how to give myself time to listen to my emotions and let it pass. The main differences, between the death of my father and husband, are my age and life experiences. I had no control over how I was grieving for my father, so I was in a deep hole when I was a teenager. But for my late husband, I figured out how to listen to my heart. I figured out how to push through and learned when to slow down.

Once your husband was diagnosed with cancer, you began sharing posts with your “Living With Cancer” series and once he passed, you created the “Life After Loss” series, which is what you are doing now. Why has it been important to share your very personal struggles with others?

I had made a promise to myself when I started my blog that I would protect my family from the public eye. I almost never mentioned anything about my family. But later, one of my blogger friend’s husband got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, too, and she was very upset and angry.

My late husband encouraged me to share our journey. He wanted to show people there are different ways to deal with life crashes. We knew there was a big chance that he wouldn’t get cured, so we enjoyed every last minute together. Talking, joking and enjoying each other’s company.

Then, after a few posts, I realized that my posts actually helped me so much. It was my outlet to let emotions out, and it was also a way to clear my thoughts. From that moment, I wrote them for myself. But I have received thousands of emails, messages and comments about those posts and how they have helped others who are going through a similar journey.

I plan to end the Life After Loss series soon and start a new one called Being the Best Version of Myself. This year, I’ll be putting my posts for Living With Cancer and Life After Loss in a book.

Death is such a heavy topic. Why do you think so many of us are uncomfortable talking about death even though we know that all of us will die one day?

Fear. We get used to dealing with fears by not talking about them.

Were you ever concerned that posting about cancer and dying was too serious? Or conversely, do you now worry that fashion is too superficial when compared to losing someone?

I write about my journey for myself, so I hardly think about what others will think. 😉 I love documentary films because they are real. Being real is very powerful, more than the Hollywood movies. Living With Cancer and Life After Loss were the ways I documented my journey. Fashion is meaningless if it’s without the human story behind it.

For me, my fashion blog and my social media are platforms to help share my stories. I never want to teach people what to do, but I want to share with the world my experiences. Someone somewhere will find it useful. I’m a storyteller and a messenger. My job is to tell the stories I have experienced along my path. Some may love it, some may not even care. It’s not my job to worry about if people love it or not, my job is sharing.

How has traveling alone helped you through the grieving process?

It helped me gain so much self-confidence and made me realize that my pain is like a drop of rain in the ocean. It’s very small.

What are some practical steps that have helped you through the grieving process that might also help others going through a similar situation?

The first one is TALKING ABOUT IT. I know it’s not very comfortable to talk about feelings for a lot of people. Some may not even know where to start, so finding a grieving consultant will be a good starting point. I don’t suggest talking about it with most of your friends. If they have never been through it, they might have a hard time understanding you. They may think they’re helping, but it ends up hurting your feelings. Leave it to the professionals. There’s another way to talk about it, and that’s by keeping a journal. You can write it for yourself, not showing others or publicly post it at all. No matter what way you choose, the bottom line is to let all your emotions out.

The second one might sound a little weird…. Find answers through spiritual research. After months of research and study, I choose to believe that our souls are pure energy. They can transfer into different forms, our current body being the form we got for this lifetime. It seems like everything starts when we are born and ends when we die. But, our souls are still out there when we die. This made me feel less sad because I know my man is still here but in a different form. Yes, he won’t be my man anymore, but I’m very glad we had the chance to spend 10 years of beautiful marriage together in this lifetime.

You’ve mentioned that your late husband gave you two wonderful stepchildren. Do you still keep in touch with them? How have your relationships evolved since your husband passed away?

Yes, I’m very lucky to still have them in my life. My stepdaughter and I usually see each other at least twice a month. And I try to see my stepson and his family at least once a month. Since my late husband passed away, we’ve grown closer than before. There were some moments, but we all chose to stick together.

On your site you say “The grieving process is a winding road with a lot of ups and downs.” How do you keep pushing through even when you feel sad or unmotivated?

I’ve always felt motivated to strive to live better. First was honoring my late husband’s dying wish. When you love someone, whatever that person has asked you to do, you’ll find a way to get it done. That was my motivation for the first year of grieving. Then through that journey I learned how lucky I was… that I still get the chance to live. So I better live every day like I mean it! This is my current motivation.

What are your religious or spiritual beliefs that help you get through the painful moments?

I still don’t have a religion yet. But I’ve been learning so much after my man passed away from many great spiritual teachers such as Oprah Winfrey and Wayne Dyer. I love the book The Secret. All the studies have helped me figure out my life purpose. The studies also helped me find peace with my man’s death. They made me realize that he came into my life to show me what unconditional love is. By doing this, I can continue to give unconditional love to myself and to others.

He also opened up the door of self-empowerment for me. His job had finished, so he left. I often tell others that our true love didn’t complete me, but his death did. Now I know when I’m in a dark place I still have the ability to lighten up my own sky and others’.

What is the one thing you have learned in life that you want everyone to know?

Give yourself and others unconditional love. That means don’t judge and criticize yourself or others. Instead, try to understand that what makes you suffer now will make you stronger later. That also means no one appears in your life for nothing. They came to teach you something. So your job, even in life’s darkest times, is trying to find out how to learn from whatever it is that life puts you through.

To learn more about Grace Liang’s journey, read the entire Life After Loss series.

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Written by Mar Yvette

Mar Yvette is an on-air host, lifestyle expert, writer and editor with 10+ years of experience working with some of the world’s most recognized media companies.