Every one of us experiences grief during our lifetime. It’s a natural progression of life and it really bites. For some of us it’s people and animals that give us solace during the most difficult transformations in our lives. For others, it may be one or the other. Even the most sinister of people have something or someone that they love and when that presence is gone, it’s gut wrenching.
I’ve loved and lost so many people in my life that have made a tremendous impact on the person I’ve become. Growing up, my grandfather on my dad’s side I loved with all my heart. He had six grandchildren. All were girls except for one boy. I was such a tomboy. I would do anything I could to go fish with my grandfather. I adored him and he adored me. He always said I was spunky and independent. I still miss him. It’s been many years since I lost him, but the impact and the conversations we used to have are imprinted in my heart and soul.
Later on, I would lose both of my grandmothers. I was with both of them when they died. Different years and different times. Both died of natural causes but it didn’t take the sting out of losing them. Each death was different. My grandmother on my mom’s side had a warmth in her death. She was 94. The room literally felt full of love and I truly felt the presence of angels. I felt the passing of her into the light. I know it sounds strange but I have never experienced anything like it. It was peaceful, tranquil and full of love and hope. My other grandmother’s death was very different. It was cold and unfeeling. She was a good woman who often times felt lonely. All her kids and grand kids were living miles away and even though they could get their within an hour or two, she wasn’t able to see them as much as she would have liked. She died after breaking her hip and it was left undetected for a little while. I will never forget the loss I felt with her death. It was like watching someone you love leave while they were not aware of what was going on around them.
I’ve had friends who died well before they should have. Some didn’t make it to even be teenagers while others died in their twenties, thirties, and forties. There’s been too many to count. I have an ex-fiance who died a few years ago from a heart attack. He was only 55. One of my friends, Alex, was a huge advocate of celebrating birthdays. He said that life was to be celebrated. Every year we get older is an accomplishment. I watch as people, including myself don’t want to have a fuss over their birthdays and then I hear Alex in my mind telling me to celebrate while I can. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate. Just make sure that you do.
Just over seven years ago, I lost my dad to a brain tumor. I have never been so grateful to have been let go from a job as I was when not even two months after my layoff, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would take him within eight months. No one can tell me that there isn’t such a thing as divine interference. Too many things happened that told me I was being given an incredible gift by having that time with my dad. I watched as the cancer devoured him. It angered me, hurt me emotionally, confused me, and a lot of other emotions were affecting me at that stage in my life. When Dad was diagnosed, I had lost a job, my marriage, a child, and was struggling with trusting my instincts. I literally had more dumped on my in about a few years, than most people get in a lifetime. I don’t know how I got through that time except to say I went through the motions. I bottled everything up. I was completely robotic. I didn’t have time to process anything and when Dad died, a part of me died with him. The woman who was scared of everything that required confidence was gone. I had to learn how to fight for what I wanted and when to do things. I’ve had to learn to start listening more than talking and that’s been difficult at times. I also had to learn when to speak up because before I just let things happen. Now I understand that if I want change, I have to be willing to change me.
When you hear the phrase “process grief”, what does that mean to you? Well, most of us know that the 5 stages of grief are as follows: 1) Denial and isolation. When the people I loved had died, I didn’t want to believe it. Most of the time this stage didn’t take long for me to deal with but in my dad’s case, I didn’t want to let go. He had been my rock for a very long time. I kept finding ways to see him in my dreams and my memories were so strong that they were at the forefront of my mind. Everything was so raw. Dad had always been the one constant that could make sense when the world was irrational. He was my translator of things that I could not comprehend without a gentle hand guiding me. There’s such a thing as being so smart that you are not always using the intelligence for common sense. Dad was a master of helping me navigate the world. Letting go and keeping him alive were two of the hardest things I ever have had to do. It can still be a struggle. There’s no set time frame for how we deal with grief. It actually can have lingering effects. But as long as we are aware that we are dealing with it, and make the necessary provisions in our lives to heal, then it can be a healthy grieving process. Whereas, an unhealthy venue is to not acknowledge our pain.
Everything I’ve researched about the five stages of grief talks about Anger. 2) Anger is the next stage of grief. The thing about the stages of grief is that there is no particular order that they have to be dealt with. Anger is normal. I was so angry with the medical group that misdiagnosed my father. They were supposed to be one of the best in the state and the head of neurology never bothered to do an MRI or a CT. Instead, he had my father walk down the hall and said “Yep, it’s Parkinson’s.” Not only was my father misdiagnosed, but we could have handled his treatment for a better quality of life had we known what he was facing. People will push buttons that they never knew they were pushing when a person is going through grief. None of us know what someone else is feeling. We can’t begin to comprehend how each other grieves. All we can do is just be there for that person.
3) Bargaining. I don’t really know how we think we can bargain for the outcome to be different. Yes, we can pray, we can obtain information and research on how to change a scenario but in all likelihood, we can’t bargain for someone else. Yes, there are exceptions but overall, it’s really difficult to bargain for someone’s life when a disease like cancer that is irreversible takes over.
4) Depression. Grief isn’t the only thing in this world that causes depression. Unfortunately, grief can magnify the depression levels that we deal with. It’s really important to find ways to get the depression under control. Write, talk, express yourself through art, or hobbies, but don’t allow the depression to create a darkness that you can’t find a light in. When it gets so dark around you, the darkness can feel like your friend, even thought the darkness will eventually overtake you. Keep a light on in your soul. Don’t let the light within you shut off.
5) Acceptance. Yes, we can accept our loved ones and things in our lives that have gone into the past but that doesn’t mean forget. We can honor those whose memories are forever etched and learn from the lessons they taught us. We can also pass those lessons down. We are all in this world together for a reason. Our lives may have changed drastically over the last few months. Yet, through it all, we still want to be able to touch each other through our words, our actions, and our dreams.
I can’t and won’t begin to tell you how to process the grief that you may feel. What I can tell you is that you aren’t alone. There’s so many people who are dealing with the same types of anger, frustration, resentment, pain, and fears that you are. Don’t be afraid to communicate to others what you are dealing with. Believe it or not, the support that you may receive might surprise you. Never forget that you are unique and special. Sort out your feelings. Take the time for you. Most importantly, take the lessons that you learned from others and apply them in your lives. The good and bad lessons help to shape us into better versions of ourselves if we allow them to. Make a difference with those around you while you have the opportunity. Life is never guaranteed. We are given free will for a reason. What we do with that free will affects not only ourselves but those around us. So my friends, cry when you need to, laugh as much as you can with those you can enjoy a laugh with, love with all your heart and experience life, love, and loss. When we stop caring, we can’t continue to grow as people. With this virus having taken over the world, it’s more important than ever to show each other that we are willing to take a chance on helping each other. Even if it’s a world that consists of Zoom and writings, we still let people in. I believe in love. If I didn’t, it would be hard for me to believe that as a Christian, it isn’t my job to judge someone for how they live their truth. It’s my job to be there and live the best life I can live while I can. I hope that this Easter Season, you are able to celebrate the lives of those you love, the things you believe in, and that we are in this time of turmoil together.