As a child I had to experience the loss of a sibling in my life. A major change like this is awful for anyone to go through, much less a 9-year-old.

I did not really understand the concept of death at the time. It wasn’t until much later that I would understand what death meant. It meant a loss of a life. A huge concept that 9-year-old me would have to learn the hard way. 

A few years after my sister’s death, I started work through my grief. Coming from a Hispanic-American home, counseling and therapy weren’t options commonly sought out. So this left me to look for other means of coping. 

I had always wanted to dance, so I had begged my mother for years to let me join a studio. One day, I found an ad for a Christian dance studio in my mailbox. It felt like it was perfectly placed for me. 

After my sister’s death, we moved from our old house to a new house across town. My parents were in no place financially to support a young dancer, but they saw how much I wanted to do it. So we compromised; I would take one dance class.

I chose to take a ballet class. I excitedly signed myself up and sadly had to wait a few months to join in the next school year. That summer, I probably watched anything and everything ballet related. I was so infatuated and excited with the thought of becoming a real dancer.

Starting dance as an 11-year-old is considered late in a normal dancer’s career. Most dancers start from the age of two or three and finish when they graduate high school. I was definitely behind compared to the other girls in my class, but I didn’t let that discourage me. 

As I got older, dance became more prominent in my life. I still continued with ballet only, but I depended on it to get me through my days. I often felt like the studio was more like home than my actual home. 

My best memories consist of sitting on the wooden floor and watching the older girls perform their solos, or simply watching the pointe class before me. Moments like these made me feel like I was still the kid I was before my sister’s death.

Dance was the outlet I needed to survive those harsh years. It was a means of expressing my emotions whenever I could not speak them. I loved being able to simply leave everything that troubled me on the dance floor. 

As I grew into an older teenager, I struggled with body image issues. Which is common in dance, since dancers stare at themselves in large mirrors for hours on end. I have heard horror stories of other dancers saying their studios forced them to lose weight or constantly fat shamed them. 

My experience was thankfully not like that. I had the sweetest and kindest dance teacher. She was, for me, the person I needed in those moments of my life. Her sweet way of teaching meant the world to me. 

For me it wasn’t just dance that helped me cope, it was also the people I was surrounded by. It made me want to look forward to the stolen laughs in the middle of class, or the playful glances we made to each other when one of us messed up. 

Ballet is a very disciplined artform. You need to be very powerful to make the moves look very soft and natural. I often thought of myself like that, needing to be strong inside, yet calm and collected on the outside. 

I remember days where all I wanted was to forget the outside world and only work on myself. Ballet was the way I could do that. I could walk in, zone out, work on my technique, and I wouldn’t be viewed as selfish. 

Grieving the loss of someone or something can be a grueling process. I can say that grief does not always have to be sad and lonely. You can create wonderful memories as you learn to cope and continue with life. 

I can look back at some of the darkest points in my life and see what beautiful art I created. Grief is something you learn to live with and move on, and that is what I did. I moved on from dance.                          

I wish I could say I continued to pursue ballet and became an amazing prima ballerina, but I did not. Because of circumstances that happened in my life, I had to drop out of dance. I was extremely sad, but I felt that I had grown enough as a person. I did not need to dance to cope anymore. 

I am sure 11-year-old me is mad at me for not fighting for my passion harder. But she does not know that dance saved her life, and that is worth more than any professional career. 

If you are going through a period of grief, I encourage you to pursue something. Anything really, take a small chance. You might even find your saving grace through a newspaper ad, like I did.