Trigger Warning: Grief, Death
On February 5th, 2023, my maternal grandfather passed away. He would have been 76 years old on March 4th, and I’m truly going to miss those birthday calls every year. It just won’t be the same now that he’s gone, and honestly, it’s still hard to come to terms with the fact that he’s not here anymore.
It’s been such a difficult month since his passing, and I debated writing this post because everything is still so raw. However, death hits us all pretty hard, and I figured someone out there could potentially use my experience to cope while grieving. So, here are the three most important things that I’m learning after my grandfather passed away.
1. Don’t try to hold back your emotions.
When we got the news that my grandfather only had a week or so to live, I was devastated, angry, depressed, and a complete mess of emotions. When I told my dad, he said I have to be strong for my mother. I took this to mean that I shouldn’t and couldn’t tell my mom how I was feeling for fear that it would make her sad. Each time she asked me if I was okay, I told her that I was even if I wasn’t. I thought I was doing the right thing and as a result, I cried alone.
I’m sure my dad meant well and just wanted my mom to be protected and comforted, but he was wrong for telling me to be strong for my mother, and I know that now. I experienced a loss, too. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to cry? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to share my feelings with my mom so that we can comfort each other?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you to be strong, don’t cry, or stay active to take your mind off of it. You are allowed to feel any and everything you need to feel so that you may go through the grieving process in a healthy way.
2. Keep your boundaries and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing so.
Everyone who knows my mom knows that she does not attend funerals. This boundary stems from a traumatic experience that occurred during her childhood, and she has not attended a funeral since. Even with this explanation, which she honestly doesn’t owe anyone, people still judge her for her decision. With the passing of my grandfather, everyone assumed that she would attend the funeral and was shocked to discover that she was standing firm in her boundary. Of course, there were some family members who tried to make her feel bad for not attending or judged her with a simple shift in their tone of voice. However, it was amazing to see that my mom did not care and would not let anyone make her feel bad.
Watching my mother deflect all of the negativity and hold fast to her decision helped me remember that boundaries are sacred. There will be people who don’t understand why you have a certain boundary, and perhaps they never will understand. I’ve learned that it’s not your place to try to make them get it or see it your way. It’s your duty to hold that boundary and not let go of it unless you feel comfortable with it.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of a good support system.
Marlon has been my rock throughout this entire process. From holding me while I cried to attending the 10 am funeral after he had just off of work at 7 am — he has supported me through it all. Bubba, I’m eternally grateful for your guidance and comfort, and I love you to pieces.
My job has been super supportive as well with everyone sending me thoughtful texts and emails. My coworkers and supervisors were extremely patient with me, especially when I’d have to step out of our classroom ten times a day to call my mom and check on her. To my job, thank you for understanding my circumstances and giving me time off to be with family.
Lastly, my mom has been the glue that has kept me from falling apart. Once we talked about why I wasn’t opening up to her and she helped me realize how silly I was being, she has truly kept me going throughout this journey. And, I’d like to think that I was useful in getting her through this as well. We’d send each other funny videos, call and text constantly throughout the day sometimes to talk about absolutely nothing and just show each other love. Mom, I’m sorry again for keeping my thoughts and feelings from you. Thank you for your love and listening ear. Thank you for being there every time I needed you.
Grieving is a long and difficult path that has many twists and turns, and there is no correct way to journey along that path. Everyone grieves differently and no matter the circumstances, we should always respect each other’s decisions. Love before anything else. Show kindness and patience instead of being mean and passing judgment. Lean on those people in your life who make you feel comfortable and safe, and once you’re feeling up to it, don’t forget to show them gratitude for it all.