When I was about 13, one of my uncles told me, “Life is not hard, we as people make it hard.” I always felt that statement was only true to an extent. There are certain situations that can and will occur in life that make you feel stagnant, confused, fearful, hopeless, faithless, depressed. Sure, we can complicate simple concepts, it’s just not the case every time. November 28th, 2022 was heartbreaking; my mother passed away. I saw her for the last time while she still had a bit of life in her two days before she passed. When I got home from the hospital, obviously, I was sad, angry, and frustrated that she was nearing the end of her life and I hated seeing her in that state. I was upset at the medical field for the constant misdiagnosis and what appeared to me to be carelessness. I was upset that alternative methods of treatment weren’t an interest. I was upset that I couldn’t help her, and that the situation was out of my control. I pulled a glass pan from a kitchen cabinet and slammed it hard onto the floor (this broke a piece of tile). About two months after her passing, I was cleaning up and came across glasses that we would never use. I threw one into the trash can, then slammed the additional two glasses against it. I slammed the last glass onto the floor. This was a form of an emotional release. The pain was still there; it did feel good to break something, though.
I can’t speak for everyone, but to lose a parent, especially one that you genuinely love and shared a bond with is an indescribable pain that leaves you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. This isn’t a logical piece. Today, as you can tell by the title, I’ll be discussing grief. I’ll emphasize on the way I interpret sayings. The topic of grief is something we can all relate to.
Nothing in the world can prepare you for it– Whether you knew your loved one was sick for a long time or was aware that his/her life was coming to an end or not, it’s still difficult departing from them physically. You don’t think too much about life without them being around. I understand that death is inevitable. We still have thoughts of them being around to experience a full life. We still desire for them to be around to share even greater experiences with.
Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing at all– We all know someone who lost a loved one(s).
“We are born to die.”
“You have to be strong.”
“You are so strong.”
“At least she’s not suffering.”
I didn’t want to hear these phrases. I lost the woman who carried me for four months (I was premature). I had an actual bond with my mother. I know that people don’t have negative intentions when they say phrases such as the ones mentioned above and they mean well. However, I had more respect for people who told me the following instead:
“There’s nothing that I can say.”
“I honestly don’t know what to tell you.”
“I’m here for you if you need me.”
“Take all of the time you need.”,
“Feel every emotion/don’t hide your emotions.”, or simply embrace me with a warm hug.
As crazy as it may sound, I didn’t want to hear “she’s in a better place.” I still don’t want to hear it. Initially, I found myself making that statement knowing it wasn’t true to my real feelings. When I would tell a friend or family member about a sad moment I would have, one thing I would say before they would have a chance to, “I’m happy she’s not suffering and I know she’s in a better place.” Why did I say this? Subconsciously, I wanted to beat them to the punch; the phrase can feel like a punch. This also depends on who I was conversing with because I would be honest with others. Growing up in a Christian household, I was taught that heaven was a more peaceful place to be and being in that “better place” was emphasized when loved ones would pass. They would be free from burdens, pain, responsibilities, and worries.
I do have faith even though it’s being tested now more than ever. I have a relationship with God and know that she’s in heaven. At the same time, the phrase can come across as dismissive to the life she lived. It doesn’t offer me any “comfort.” Hypothetically speaking, if she was here, would you tell her that she’d be better off dead while battling cancer? I don’t think you would. If you had to choose today between going to heaven or remaining here, would you choose to pass and abruptly go to heaven? Notice, I did say “choose” and I DIDN’T say anything about your number being called for God to take you home. Most of you wouldn’t because you’d prefer to be here longer with your children, grandchildren, family, and friends. You would rather watch little ones grow up. You wouldn’t be prepared. You would want to accomplish your goals and execute plans. You would want to get married and grow old. You would want to travel. Are you ready to go to that “better place” yourself? Are you in a hurry to get there? Probably not. You say “she’s in a better place,” meanwhile you’re living your best life and striving to live a long time. You use phrases such as “life is for the living” and “I have to live my life to the fullest,” all while saying that “heaven is better than the wicked world we live in.” Make it make sense to me. Just because I didn’t want to see my mother suffer, that doesn’t mean I wanted her to die. When I say “I wish she was still here,” I don’t mean I want her back to suffer. I’d give anything to see her again in real time in the healthiest way possible.
Bottom line, if you don’t know what to say to someone experiencing a loss, don’t say anything at all aside from making it clear that you’ll be supportive and are there for them when they’re ready to be open.
Family members lose the same person, but each individual member will be impacted differently– My dad lost his wife of forty years. My siblings and I lost our mother. Her friends lost a friend. Her siblings lost a sister and so on. Granted, we share this person in common, however, she affected our lives in different ways. She and her siblings were close and at times, she was like another mother to her brothers.
Hearing about another person’s pain can make some people uncomfortable or eager to, I guess, help you “fix the pain”- One friend told me to “just focus on the good times and memories.” I do this of course. It’s impossible to remain in one emotional state repeatedly. I think about my experiences with mama as a whole. Some memories trigger a belly laugh, some put me at ease, others make me sad. It’s easy to say, “just focus on the good times and memories.” Only focusing on happier experiences, especially when the loss is fresh, can be difficult. Do I want to remember her being sick? Absolutely not. Imagine watching someone you are close to and love so much deteriorate before your eyes and you can’t do anything to help her/him. I’ve been in therapy for three years now and I also pray. I’ve accepted that it’s a process. I will admit that those thoughts aren’t as intense as they were a couple of months ago, although I experience them at times. They’ve started to cease.
During your time of grief, it’s highly important to allow yourself to feel your emotions whether you’re sad, angry, in a happy mood, or just don’t know how to feel. There isn’t anything that can be done to “make you feel better” because the pain of that special loved one not being physically around never goes away. Having to adjust to this new reality will take time.
Your grief will be surface level to several people– If you appear fine, that’s how you’ll be perceived. It’s not problematic on your part. We have to continue working, going to school, completing daily tasks to the best of our abilities with smiles on our faces that are sometimes forced. In spite of this, it can cause those around you to become highly inconsiderate of the current circumstances, making them believe you’re good.
Since I’m being honest, I will admit that part of me is afraid of what the rest of my life is going to look like without mama. When a loved one passes, our fear of the unknown intensifies. I always feared losing a parent as a child and teen. I’m a young adult and it doesn’t matter how old you are when your parent passes, it hurts immensely and part of you departs with her/him.
I used the term “dead” earlier regarding my mother. However, I overall hate saying “she’s dead” or “she died.” I don’t like it when others say things like that either. To me, it insinuates that she’s gone forever, should be forgotten about, and holds no value. That’s completely false and I prefer to think of her spiritually transitioning. I prefer to say “passed away” or “transitioned.”
I wholeheartedly am grateful and blessed for the time I experienced with my mama. Simultaneously, I find myself grieving the moments that I’ll never get to share with her. I’m uncomfortable driving, so I don’t drive yet (she would drive because she HAD to and she enjoyed being able to come and go as she pleased. Believe it or not, she said to me on several occasions while driving, “I hate driving!”). I’m ready to gain more experience behind the wheel. When I do have enough confidence to drive, I’ll never know what it’s like for her to be my passenger. When I do get married and have children, she won’t be here. I’ll never be able to pick up the phone to call her for wisdom, advice, encouragement, or just to simply hear her voice. I miss shopping with her. Certain TV shows don’t hit the same level anymore because she made watching them fun and intriguing. I once looked forward to holidays, now, holidays are just plain dreadful. My phone will never ring again with her name on the caller ID. I can’t talk to her on my commute to work. My selfishness aside, she had plans of her own that she looked forward to. She talked about wanting to try traveling. She wanted to spend more time with her grandkids. My parents’ wedding anniversary is March 18th. She wanted a party to celebrate their union. She just wanted to live.
I’m still learning how to live without her physical presence; she’s missed every day and loved. It can be challenging to do, so I’m just taking everything one day at a time. I’m learning to cope better every day. Understand that you never heal from the loss of a loved one, especially if it’s as tremendous as a close parent, friend, or extended family member (God forbid, a child). Don’t ever rush yourself through the grieving process because ultimately, you can’t. As I’ve mentioned before, embrace your emotions. At this point in the article, I’m supposed to say a mouth full of cliché mumbo jumbo. I don’t think it would be appropriate to do that. Grief affects us differently. What may work for me may not work for you. I don’t even know how to end this. I’m lowkey tempted to break more glass at the moment because I’m reviewing this writing, reliving dark instances. I’m considering smash therapy.
One thing that does help me is thinking about what she would want me to do on days where I don’t feel like pushing. So, if I can’t push for myself, I do it for her.