I wish that I had the luxury of telling you that I don’t understand grief. Yes, I consider it a luxury to be protected from the deep, heart wrenching pain. I consider those around me to be lucky when they still have both parents, grandparents, and only 1 or 2 funerals under their belt. That is not fair. I realized that I was comparing myself and becoming envious of these blessed lives that seem to be so blissful, but I was wrong. This is my journey, and all of the loss that I have faced does not make them lucky- it makes me hurt. I have no idea what type of demons others may be facing. The truth remains that my biggest hurdle and my biggest victory has been death.
Here are 7 hard lessons that came from recent deaths:
1. Don’t forget about those that helped you through childhood- Being raised by my grandparents, it took an entire village (literally) to help out. My grandmother’s baby sister was one of those helping hands. She took me along to plays, movie theatres, shopping, church events, etc. When I was old enough to do all of these things myself, I don’t think that I properly repaid the favor. By her bedside for the last time, I told her thank you for everything. We need to repay people with beautiful experiences before it’s too late. Don’t ever get too busy for these people!
2. We are not invincible- They said that she had a bit too much to drink. The car accident spread throughout our community quickly. She was one of my childhood best friends, and the news of her death literally took my breath away. I felt sick and thought of her young, vibrant life. It is easy for us to think that "it will never be me". When I drink, I am responsible now. I think of her and it shakes me up- get a cab!
3. Show up when parents die- It is very convenient to send condolences through a quick text or on Facebook. It makes us feel like we have done our job, but we haven’t. Several of my dear friends have lost a parent recently, and I am also a part of that “club”. If you are able, make a physical appearance to show your heart. I didn’t have any words that would make 2 of my friends feel any better when they loss their mothers, but I had plane tickets. I flew home to Texas and the other was a flight to South Korea. We drank, I rubbed their backs and let them cry. Just be there!
4. LOVE is all that matters- Watching my grandmother at his bedside, completely heartbroken, showed me what really matters at the end. Over 5 decades, she spent loving a man who took care of her and everyone around us. I sat on the couch and my whole body shook as I watched her hang on. The money they earned and lost, the jobs they worked, the fights they had, the long list of hardships and celebrations: nothing mattered now. She loved another human with all of her soul. I want that and not one ounce less!
5. Stress WILL harm you- Healthy lifestyles and trending food prep should not annoy you. Young people are catching on to the reality that our grandparents are outliving some of our parents. We can control this. Don’t let the burdens of everyone around you take over. Take your emotional health very seriously and treat your body right! My dear brother was overwhelmed, but he carried it every day. His body suffered while he tried to juggle everything in an unhealthy way. Take care of your heart, young people!
6. Forgive your mother- We put a lot of pressure on our moms. They have really tough jobs and not to mention the pressure of the world on top of that. I have never felt a friendship more delicate than that of my mother and I. We had huge expectations for each other, but our souls LITERALLY wrapped around one another. I met her 10 years ago, and the day she died, I have never felt that much pain in my life. She had a lot of guilt for giving me up, but to be honest, my life has been amazing. I am happy that we became friends and that I forgave her. Be gentle with her...Love wins!
7. People are hurting: Don’t judge them- Drug addictions will forever be a sensitive topic. I have watched drug and alcohol abuse flip entire lives upside down. The biggest problem is that you lose control. You lose your perception of what is real and what is important. I don’t make excuses for the substance, but I understand it’s manipulation. The day that my brother took his life, I felt the immediate impact of mental health imbalance. This subject is tricky, because sometimes people pretend they don’t want or need help. Don’t give up on them!
After recent events, I almost feel like a death expert, but that’s not possible. We all process it differently, and I pray that peace and love is the only outcome. You don’t have to be ashamed of grief..take it easy. Take a deep breath and keep living… I am with you!