It was very early on in my life that I experienced grief. I was barley six years old when my father was put in the ground. He knew he was going to die. I was told that he wouldn’t even look at me because he knew he wasn’t going to live to raise me.
In my early twenties, I moved to Atlanta. I was only there about two weeks, because my grandmother and aunt called. They asked me to come back down south to help take care of my aunt. I watched her go from a vibrant fierce definition of a great woman to a frail, helpless cancer patient. It took her out.
My good friend Nate from Pensacola, he stayed on the phone with me all the way from my hometown to my residence at that time. I was so sleepy on that night coming from my family’s Christmas party. He kept me up for two hours. We laughed, Nate sang, we talked until I made it home. I said, “Nate…thanks I’m home I’m going to bed. I’ll call you tomorrow.” The next day, Sunday, I got a phone call saying Nate had died in a house fire. It was only 45 minutes after we had gotten off the phone. Pure devastation….
I’m not a doctor. I’m no expert. I’m just someone who has learned from the big dog named LIFE. Some of what I have to say may seem harsh. I’m not trying to be, you have to have that one person to tell you the truth. I’m here to do this. Truth makes you free.
15 things I wish someone would have told me and what I wish others around me would have known about grief
1. Don’t ask why and expect to get an answer.
Why? This one single word question is enough to make even one with the characteristics of Mother Teresa harbor anger, resentment, depression, and many other emotions for a lifetime. I’ll never tell anyone not to ask why, but I will tell them don’t be prepared to get an answer. Some people get answers, but many don’t. This question will try to grip your mind, but don’t let it. Why couldn’t I have stayed on the phone with Nate an extra 45 minutes? He would have not been sleep when the fire started. He could have made it out. I’ll never know. So to keep asking “why” questions is close to self-abuse.
2. You will be disappointed once you realize that you are not in a dream.
There were times when I looked at the clocked. It was if the hands were moving, but the time stayed the same. If you get any sleep, once you wake up you will look around to see if you were dreaming. I’m sorry. This hurts just to write, but it’s not a dream. You will go back into shock.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do not just tell someone, “Jesus will fix it.” And expect that to be enough.
It’s ok to seek help. It’s ok to talk to someone about how you feel. You may be embarrassed. You may be too stubborn. Just know there are many outlets for help. Talk to someone. Go get on someone’s couch. Find a preacher, a priest, a mother, or anybody. Shoot, find a random person at the mall or the airport. People do it to me all the time (really they do). If you begin to feel suicidal or depressed, FIND SOMEBODY (especially one that can get a prayer through).
4. NEVER tell anyone one to “get over it.”
How dare you be so insensitive and tell someone to get over it. Just don’t do this. It will make you appear as if you don’t care. It will make you seem heartless. And you have to know, IT’S JUST NOT THAT EASY!
5. Never compare your grieving process with someone else’s.
It took me about 23 years to not cry when someone talked about their father. It could have been the smallest thing; I would still have a bucket full of tears. There is no time schedule on grief. Had I known the things I’m telling you today, it could have been a less amount of years for me. On the flip side, don’t take the relationship of the deceased and compare it to yours. You might have lost a child, but Sally Sue might have lost a friend. Many people say it’s different when you lose a mother from when you lose a father. Or from when one loses a child compared to one losing a husband or wife. All I know is HURT IS HURT. Hurt pretty much feels the same. Don’t be unfair and try to measure the grief because of the relationship of the deceased.
6. It takes at least a year for you to begin to start getting used to your loved one’s absence.
Something wonderful will happen, and you will be excited. You will reach for the phone to call them. He or she will be nowhere around. You will lie in bed and turn over wishing they were there. You’ll call his or her name out, expecting an answer only to remember that no one will say anything. It will take a while for their absence to sink in. It will sting.
7. Your loved one is not coming back.
Growing up I said countless, worthless prayers that I could just have one more day…just one more chance to say something. I would pray, “God, please just give me a day with my Dad.” If I could tell you how many times I’ve listened to Luther Vandross’s, “Dance With My Father Again”… SMH. If only someone told me that it would never happen. If only someone would have pushed me back into reality.
8. You are not crazy.
You don’t want to change anything about your loved one’s room. You may want to sleep with something with their smell on it. You will have to urge to replay the last conversation you had. Or it may be the opposite. You may want to get rid of all their possessions. You may not want to have anything around to remind you of them. It’s ok. That is normal.
9. There is a thin line between what’s healthy, and boarder line crazy.
I know above I just told you that you were not crazy. However, there is an invisible line, and it’s very thin. My aunt Margie died of cancer. It broke my heart. Everything happened so quickly. She told me that she had breast cancer. Then the next thing I know she was in the hospital. Then the next thing I knew She was gone. I must have called her phone a million times just to hear her voice mail. Just to leave a message (as if she was actually going to check it). Just to feel close to her. My best friend and sister found out and made me stop calling. It was becoming unhealthy. Just don’t go overboard.
10. It’s gonna hurt like hell.
At first, most times you won’t have any feeling. You will be numb, but when you do feel, it will feel as though a dagger is digging in your heart over and over again. There will be tears. And for some there won’t be tears until your moment comes. For those who don’t shed tears like everyone else and people are worried because you haven’t “broken down,” your MOMENT will come. It will more than likely be at some random place (traffic light, mall, on the toilet) and it will hit you. This is especially true for men. You will cry like a baby. IT’S OK. It’s called being human.
11. There is life after death.
At some point in life, you have to pick up where you left off and try to get back in game of life. You have to. YOUR LIFE IS NOT OVER. The truth is you are still on this earth on purpose. You have to work through the circumstances and pain to complete your daily task. Force yourself out of bed. Set goals, maybe like getting out of the house once a week.
12. Don’t feel guilty for moving on with life.
It’s ok to fall in love again. It’s ok to have another child. It’s ok to pack up your loved ones things. Once the time has gone by and you have begun your road to healing; guilt will try to slip in. Don’t let it. Just don’t think you are replacing them, because you are not and never can. Otherwise, you have a right to move forward.
13. “God is too wise to make a mistake.” is not a helpful statement at moment.
I am a Christian I love God, really I do. However, it doesn’t make it better. It just doesn’t. For some, it could make a way for resentment or anger to enter the heart towards God. I know that’s not right, but I’m telling you what I know to be true. I’ve seen it happen.
14. Most people will forget about your loved one.
This will hurt your feelings. For about a good month the calls will roll in, the chicken and pies will fill your kitchen and can sodas will be stacked up. Soon after, it will get quiet. Don’t get mad at others. They didn’t have the relationship you did with your loved one. It’s not that they weren’t important. That’s just the way it is.
15. You can make it through this.
I had some long nights and lonely days. There were days I didn’t think I would make it. There were days I didn’t want to make it. I wanted to give up. The pain seemed unbearable. But, one day God gave me peace that passed my understanding. It didn’t add up, my body would ache, but God gave me peace. It didn’t seem fair. God still gave me peace. Some days I thought I was going to go crazy, but God gave me peace. I stumbled upon Psalms 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I’m a living testimony. You can get through this.