I certainly didn’t set out to begin writing my first blog post about such a morbid topic, but here we are. Like most people, I would begin the new year full of optimism and equipped with multiple self-help tools (i.e. New Year’s Resolutions and “To-Do” Lists from Pinterest), when the first death of 2019 happened. Still coming down from a self-induced “pain au chocolat craze” during a recent trip to Paris, the text message that I received was like a punch to the gut. My godmother was dying.
Since early childhood, godmama was one of very few adults in my life that never had a cross word or a disapproving look for me, no matter how badly I’d managed to mess something up (which was more often than not, if I’m being honest) and that was rare. Always complimentary and encouraging, my godmother had a gift for making you feel as though you could accomplish anything even if you didn’t see it in yourself or believe it. She showered that gift freely on people like it was her God given purpose and I had never expressed to her just how special that made me feel. Sure, I’d said, “I love you, too” on many occasions but I’d never actually considered the fact that one day she would actually die.
Not even two weeks later, I would suffer another tremendous loss. My aunt (whom I’d had a strained relationship with) would suddenly and unexpectedly die. Four days before she was found unresponsive in her room, I had gone with my mom and immediate family to visit her in a rehabilitation center. A staff member told that us that she was currently in physical therapy so we headed over anyway just to peek in on her. I was the first person to walk into the room and the smile that she had on her face when she saw me still makes me weepy. She was genuinely happy to see me! We visited for about an hour and I now feel so grateful that she was in good spirits when we left.
Thinking back on our past difficulties, I’ve been wondering if maybe she saw the broken parts of me and just didn’t know a constructive way to tell me, meanwhile, I was NOT in a space to receive any kind of message from her. As a child, I’d always felt that she didn’t like me and that was a heavy burden that I carried well into adulthood. Things had been contentious for entirely too long and it wore me out more than I’ve ever been able to say until now. While I’d made a conscious effort during the last 8 or 9 years to be kind to her in spite of what she might say to me, it. was. work. In hindsight, I truly regret not having more time to demonstrate that underneath all of the unnecessary strife and negative vibes, I loved her.
The sudden loss of two, starkly different relationships with these women had a profound and immediate impact on me. My depression, which I’d been struggling with for months prior to their deaths, became totally debilitating. I see-sawed between fits of crying and intense anger and struggled to get out of bed for the better part of a month. If I stepped outside of the house it was a good day, trust me. I became moody and found myself lashing out at others for any perceived slight or injustice, it was all bad.
Carrying that unexpected anger made my back and joints ache, zapped any energy that I might have had and honestly, produced a myriad of negative side effects both physically and emotionally. Grief was on auto-pilot and I found myself a reluctant and weary passenger during its flight. Something had to give!
A few weeks later, I made a decision to intentionally be gentle with myself by focusing heavily on self-care activities (praying, journaling, and resting when my body demanded it) and soon began to feel the benefits of that. It’s March now and I’m just beginning to feel like the clouds are clearing and I can actually feel the warmth of the sun again.
Grief has a way of stirring up unresolved emotions and can manifest itself in some pretty undesirable ways. When I think about the actual process of mourning, anger is not the first emotion that comes to mind even though it’s clearly listed as one of the stages of grief. An intense byproduct of the healing process, anger may serve as a reminder of the vulnerability and sense of hopelessness some may feel after a death.
It’s a topic that I personally feel deserves more discussion, and in doing so, we can have more meaningful conversations about how to respond to others during this stage of grief and how to effectively manage ourselves when we are struggling with this situation.