by Shandi Pace
Grief is usually seen as being tied to a specific person. This can be the case, but grief can also be caused by other types of loss. These include the loss of a home, an important relationship, changes to physical or mental health or any other significant change. The way one copes with this loss depends on multiple factors like the level of support you have, the state of your mental health or the circumstances surrounding that loss.
Grappling with Grief founder Jimmy Van created GWG after losing his father and his sister to cancer. As a child, Jimmy experienced a different type of loss, changes to his physical health that would eventually affect his mental health.
Jimmy grew up with a loving family. His parents were immigrants from Western Europe that moved to Canada and opened a successful grocery store. They worked hard to provide their families with better opportunities than they had themselves.
Since his parents were so busy, growing up, Jimmy watched a lot of television and wasn’t very active. On a daily basis, he would go into his parent’s store and take anything he wanted to snack on. These treats were usually chocolate bars, candy, potato chips and cans of pop. By the time he reached the third grade, his diet and inactivity caught up to him. He became overweight, making school even more challenging.
Thankfully, Jimmy went to a small school and didn’t have to go through the same amount of abuse many go through today, but he still dealt with challenges through name-calling, taunting, and some physical abuse. He was always chosen last during any sports, so they didn’t have to worry about him participating too much.
Jimmy got good grades, which led some of the boys in his class to ask for his help writing a school assignment. Those moments were temporary, as peer pressure would get the best of them, and they would go back to bullying.
The bullying didn’t begin and end with the students. During a health class, Jimmy recalls his teacher calling him Santa Claus. A few years later, after Jimmy had lost some weight, he saw that same teacher at a community event. The teacher commented that Jimmy was finally losing some weight.
Jimmy enjoyed playing volleyball and full-contact soccer during elementary school, but he could only find solace in television and food. He went through this ongoing cycle of being bullied about his weight, to eating more food, to being bullied even more about his weight.
Looking back, Jimmy recalls that if he had been more confident, he might have been able to stand up for himself against bullies. This tends to be something most overweight people experience.
Now, Jimmy is a father of two children about to enter their school years. He’s very particular about their sugar intake and diet. He’s planning on trying his best to ensure they’re active and eat well, so they don’t have to experience the same thing he did growing up.
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