What International Women’s Day Means to Me

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International Women's Day with Renee

I believe in me, now more than ever. International Women’s Day is a time to honor both ourselves and all the incredibly strong, bold and impressive women who provide us the inspiration to keep on keepin’ on. There is no shortage of females who have kept me going. When I look back on these last four months, navigating the world without the comfort and security of the familiar, I am grateful for the strength and resilience I have managed to tap into. I’ve drawn much of this strength from the women who rallied around me when I needed it most.

On Nov 6, 2018, my mate of 22 years passed away after a came-out-of-nowhere, six-month battle with cancer. There’s nothing like a death to quickly teach you what’s important and how precious time really is. Losing Florian has forever changed me, and I will never view the world the same ever, ever again. Despite the incredible darkness of grief, I am slowly learning how to rise up again. I’m looking at the world through a new lens and understanding my place in it as a woman. I have gained wisdom from my pain and as the fog of grief slowly lifts, I am standing in my truth and power. This experience has forced me to look inward in a way that few things ever have. It’s been incredibly difficult, but I can now confidently say that the purpose and vision for my life have never been clearer. I’d like to use today as a way to honor some of the women who helped me get to this point.

I am honoring my grandmothers

Two tough cookies who drank and cussed like sailors but had a “can-do” attitude about everything they did. They were both independent, hard-working, self-sufficient women. Both picked up and carried on after experiencing the loss of their spouses at a younger age, like I now have. They weren’t the warmest and fuzziest of grandmothers, but their ’suck it up, buttercup’ mentalities prepared me for any hardships that have come my way.

I am honoring my sister-in-law, Isabelle

She flew in from France to be by her brother’s side the last month before he passed away. She also supported me and his children through the end-of-life caregiving process. The strength, grace and love she showed while in the eye of the storm were extraordinary, to say the least. Isabelle managed Florian’s copious medications, which was no small feat. As Florian’s body was failing him, his mind was all that was still intact. This meant he dug in his heels when it came to taking the medication that would bring him comfort, for fear that it would cloud his mind. The fact that Isabelle maintained her resolve and composure, finally getting Florian to surrender to the delicate balance of her firm yet loving hand, is something I’ll never forget. I am also forever grateful that she encouraged me to witness Florian’s cremation. I was not brought up to take part in that ritual, so the idea scared me. But what I had anticipated would be a terrifying experience ended up being incredibly beautiful. Dignity until the end, Florian.

I am honoring my stepdaughter, Caroline

We only have one father, and she lost hers. Watching a 22-year-old woman become a caretaker for her dad and face that challenge with tenderness, patience and strength was inspiring. I watched her protect him by staying strong, not allowing him to see her grieve. She juggled her own emotions with his needs in a way that was so admirable.

A page out of the book Florian gave me, called “What I Love About You.” This book of his written words is everything to me.

I am honoring my family, friends and employees

They sent flowers, “bereavement spray” for my pillows at night, food, cards, texts and loaded me up with love. I am especially thankful to those who didn’t try to solve or “fix” my problems, but rather checked in and listened to me, taking a moment to share in my grief and just be there.

I am honoring a woman who passed judgment on me

She questioned why I was traveling to LA for work two weeks after Florian’s death. When someone passes away, the world expects you to stay in hiding as if not doing so disrespects the loss. I’m grateful that her comment made me pause and think, only to realize that I’d had the strength to pick up and carry on, just like Florian wanted. Her message served as a reminder of my resilience in those early, dark days.

I am honoring my girlfriends

They recognized that the time when I would need them most was after all the celebrations of life events had ended and everyone had gone away. This was when I was truly alone and a weekend with my besties provided me an opportunity to laugh and find joy again.

I am honoring the sisterhood

The women from all around the globe who reached out to me with messages of hope. Wow. We all have a love/hate relationship with social media but let me tell you, the outpouring of support was inspiring. I was using social as a way to share my journey so I could get the words out of my head and hear my own truth reflected back to me, and the love made me feel whole. Thank you. You can see all the #thisisflorian posts on my personal Instagram.

Before Florian passed away, he told me, “Renée, you’re like a tiger in a cage, and it’s time to let you out.” He told me how he loved that I wanted to change the world around me. He was giving me permission to take charge of my life and fulfill my true potential. Florian always supported my goals and was never intimidated by having a strong wife with a big career. This made him one of the best feminists I knew.

The clip I had made, inspired by Florian’s words to me.

 

Florian exemplified one of life’s greatest teachings: “It’s not death we should fear. We should fear never beginning to live.” In the spirit of this, I am moving forward. I am making this year all about connecting with women and living life to the fullest. Coming up, I’ll be participating in Babes Ride Out, an inclusive, ladies-only motorcycle riding and camp-out event in California; The Camino trek, a 115-mile pilgrimage in Northern Spain with three of my friends who I hiked the Grand Canyon with in 2017; and Women of EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization) in Colombia, a three-day conference with 200 female founders/CEOs from around the globe. I can’t wait to meet more strong-minded women and expand my community.

My favorite quote by Stephanie Bennett-Henry says, “Life is tough my darling, but so are you.” I’ve never been more proud to be a woman.

Love,

Renée

Renée Rouleau

Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”

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