megan vaninger

Founder, St. Louis Chapter of Motherless Daughters + teacheR

what does confidence mean to you?

Loving yourself for who you are — the good parts and all your flaws. Being able to forgive yourself for mistakes and move on. When you speak to people, taking pride in your voice and believing in the words that you say.

megan'S STORY

By age 23, I knew grief far too well. I lost both my parents, multiple grandparents and a few friends. Instead of talking about my losses and opening up to people, I tried to shut myself off because I didn't feel like people understood. I locked all my feelings in a box and I would not talk about my loved ones who had died. I thought that if I didn’t think about it, I would move on and eventually heal. By putting these emotions in a box, I was neglecting my wounds from the losses; I didn’t even realize that I had not allowed myself to grieve.

Fast forward to 2016 — I married a truly amazing human. However, planning our wedding triggered a lot of the emotions and grief that I had worked so hard to keep sealed in that box. It was then I realized that I needed help, I needed to process my grief, learn how to share my feelings and learn how to deal with all the emotions I had never let myself fully experience. Ignoring my losses had only magnified the pain.

I reached out to complete strangers who understood grief, went on a Motherless Daughters retreat with Hope Edelmen and started seeing a therapist on a regular basis. Many times, when I opened up to someone and shared my story, there was someone else listening who said “me too.”

When I shared my experiences with people who had also experienced grief, I felt validated. When I shared my struggles with people who did not understand, I felt vulnerable but so brave. I could feel my wounds healing instead of covering them up. I learned through exploring my grief and pain that grief never really goes away. Your core will always stay the same; you will always be who you are. The life around you will change. People will come and go, but it’s up to you what you do with those life changes.

Many times, when I opened up to someone and shared my story, there was someone else listening who said “me too.”

When is your first memory of feeling confident?

I only learned how to feel confident a few short years ago. There wasn’t a certain moment that I felt it, but more like a revelation that grew inside of me. Grief was such a big part of my life and for so long and I felt like I had to silence my voice and my pain. I did some serious soul searching, learned how to take care of myself emotionally, mentally and physically. I had to undo years of silencing my voice and feeling self conscious about my body and my voice. I learned how to talk positively to myself and about myself. I learned how to feel proud of myself when accomplishing things.

What makes you feel most confident now? How has this changed?

I feel most confident when I treat myself in a positive way. I am proud of myself when I accomplish things and use positive self talk. I encourage myself when things are difficult. I also try to give myself grace when I do make a mistake and learn from each and every experience. Positive or negative comments from other people, I try not to take things personally. Instead of being that little girl who believed everything that everyone told her and didn’t want to be different, I have evolved into a strong woman who forms her own opinions and I pride myself in how different I am from others. 

When is your first memory of feeling insecure? Why did you feel this way or what made you feel this way?

As a child, I was always self conscious about everything from my weight, to my ponytail. My life was different due to my mom being disabled and my dad’s struggles with mental illness. I didn’t want to be different or even noticed. I put my head down, hardly spoke and wore my hair the same way every day praying that doing these things would make me “normal.” I wasn’t taught how to be confident and believe in myself. When it came to myself, I took everything personally and internalized every comment from others. Even worse, I believed what other people said, good or bad. I let that determine what I thought and how I felt about myself. Negative comments, especially from others, stuck with me for a long time, even into my adult years. I wasn’t taught how to deal with those emotions. I did not know how to believe in myself and feel confident in my own opinions and beliefs.

What is something you’re most proud of?

I am proud of myself for working through the challenges that I have been given in life. It would have been easier to simply give up at times. However, persevering through the pain and doing the work has made me stronger in many ways. 


Be gentle with yourself.

Life is tough, but so are you, girl. 

How are you using your platform to make a difference?

After the retreat, I was inspired to come home and start a Motherless Daughters group in St. Louis. In May 2018 we had our first annual Motherless Daughters Luncheon. Our goal is to normalize grief for women and give them a safe place to share their stories instead of silencing their pain. We provide a place to learn from one another that everyone grieves differently. It’s okay to still be sad, but it’s okay to be happy, too. You never really move on from grief, you just learn how to live again.