This year marks 3 years since we lost my ‘Young Man’. In honor of him, I’ve finally written a Self-Care Tip #12 about Grief. It has been a long time coming & I am beyond thankful to get to a place where I can share without spontaneously combusting. Feel free to comment below, like &/or pass it along. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read… <3 :)
A while back, I saw an older gentleman wandering the aisles of Staples looking for something. He was around 70, very tall, dark skin with a steady walk. I’d never met or seen him before in my life, but something about him was warmly familiar, so much so, without even thinking I began to follow him. I watched him walk steadily, but aimlessly through a few aisles as he searched for his item. I didn’t know what he was looking for, but I guessed that he was probably looking for mailing supplies. As he walked, I was drawn to a familiarity in him that I had grown to know all my life. His walk in & out of the aisles though slow, was steady & patient. When he finally reached what he had been looking for, I peaked around the corner to see him reaching for mailing envelopes. I realized he walked just like my grandfather.
At that point it had been a year since I lost my grandpa. I couldn’t remember much outside of the random bouts of crying & unintentional moments of isolation, but I could never seem to forget the feeling of losing him. I remember the confirmation phone call like it was yesterday. I remember calling one of my best friends for comfort & reassurance, my mother’s voice when she called, the echo of my apartment when I couldn’t afford any furniture just yet. The worst part was being alone when it happened, my space felt so empty as I screamed into a silence no one could hear. I remember not knowing who to call, the emptiness & feeling more alone than ever. The drive down the freeway to my friends’ apartment, just to be somewhere, felt long & winding. I remember nobody checking on me in the airport while I cried silently at the gate waiting for my flight home. I remember who I was & understanding I would never be the same after.
I also remember chaperoning a college tour before going home & interviewing for my first position fresh out of grad school. I posted something ambiguous on Instagram & made jokes in front of the funeral home the day of the memorial. I buried my disappointment about people not being there for me deep inside & trudged through work, events, life, & everything in between. I cried alone, but put on a brave face every morning & took off my burdens while falling apart at night. I tried my hardest not to use his death as an excuse, though some days when I didn’t want to leave my house it felt like it was the only one I had.
As an adult, you lose money, you lose patience, sometimes you even lose love... but no one ever tells you how to deal with losing people. It’s something so inevitable, but too devastating to even think about. It’s an arduous task to ask of anyone, but one that requires time, patience and incredible care from not only your support system, but yourself as well. I had so much I felt like I had to do, I didn’t even allow myself the space to feel what I needed unless I was alone. I couldn’t bare to call my mother when she unconsciously carried my brother and I’s grief on top of her own. She lost her father & had to look grief directly in the face nonstop for about 8-9 months as she took care of his arrangements, financial, burial, & otherwise. When I couldn’t keep it together I blamed myself for not being strong enough to carry on for her. I didn’t want to ask for anybody’s help, I just wanted others to recognize my loss & support my family through their grief rather than deal with my own. Having moved away years before, from where I lived I didn’t feel the impact quite like they did & it became something to only deal with from a distance. I carried so much anguish, guilt, disappointment & vulnerability it nearly bursted through the seams of my strong woman persona following the loss. It became too much of a burden to carry on my own that it forced me to look for help even when I really didn’t want to.
Learning & Understanding:
I’ve learned that for everyone grief looks different & comes in various forms & processes. Relearning how to live your life without someone is probably the most difficult task no one is ever taught to cope with. My ‘Young Man’ was like a third parent & a permanent fixture in my life. There was no phone call made, no picture taken, no story told, no record kept without him being there, it was nearly impossible to imagine life without him. I wanted people to just look at me & recognize the gapping hole in my life, without having to give a whole backstory. I just wanted them to see my need for support in the spontaneous bouts of crying & alienation & understand how important he was. But I soon realized nobody knew how important my grandpa was because you really had to know me to know him, which required talking about it & that made reaching out for support so much more challenging. I didn’t want to have to explain who he was or why I was crying over postage or tell the many stories of my childhood & adolescence, I didn’t want to have share my pain because I was afraid of bringing it to life. More honestly, I just didn’t think anybody could be there for me if they couldn’t recognize my silent suffering. It’s important to let people be there for you, it’s important to talk about loss & while IT IS painful, it relieves some of the pressure off of your grieving spirit. I still can’t remember if it gets better or easy, all I can say is that it’s a process that you never stop learning from. While getting over the initial hurdle was rough, I began opening up & speaking more about my loss & grief. In speaking on it, I allowed people to be there for me & somehow managed to become a support for others during their time of loss.
After I lost my grandpa it seemed like there was a domino effect of loss in the lives of other people I’d known. Friends had lost mothers, partners, fathers, friends, cousins, even pets. Death felt more real & as if it was coming alive all around me. I suddenly found myself utilizing my experience & somehow managed to become the person I once needed for others. I found myself sending scrolls to people I hadn’t spoken to in months, answering phone calls in the middle of the night, & driving up north in the rain without a second thought. It awaken a greater sense of empathy in me I never even knew I had. Being present in any capacity is the most important form of support. Without even thinking, I became the person I needed for other people in my life who experienced tremendous loss. Check on people even if you don’t know them, call even if you haven’t spoken in years, listen when you have nothing say & above all speak when there is something on your heart, because even if you’re unsure you don’t know how your experience can change someone’s life. I’ve affirmed people, sat on the phone in silence, showed up with flowers unexpectedly, cried & listened to people’s stories, I remembered who I was and who I had become after loss. And although, I still miss him endlessly, I praise God for allowing my grandfather to make me a better daughter, sister, friend, & human being, even in death…
Until next time…