Grieving and Honoring the Person We Lost

For tonight’s blog post, I am not writing about the typical “happy” things. This post is for those who are actively grieving, and just so you know, grieving doesn’t just have to be a person. It can be the year you thought 2020 was going to be before the dumpster fire that it was. It can be your dog. It can be your job. Or a house you lost to a fire or hurricane. But it can also be your grandparent. Or, like me, your parents.

Grief hit me particularly hard last week. Last Wednesday was the seven month anniversary of my mother’s murder, and this seemed like a very bold anniversary. One that was very in my face because it reminded me that I am now closer to the year mark of her death than I am to the morning before she died. The morning I saw her at my apartment for her birthday brunch when she was smiling and laughing and playing with my nephews. And that was very hard to deal with. It has not helped that I’ve had a recurrence of nightmares related to what happened, which has led or contributed to heightened anxiety.

And I know for me personally, times like these are frustrating because maybe just the week or two before I was doing great. I felt like I was finally over the hump and getting better. But in my experience, so far at least, the hump doesn’t exist with grief like this. You can be going on about your normal life, thinking you are doing better, and all it takes is an anniversary, or a photo, or any other reminder to send you spiraling back down. But that’s okay. That is normal grieving. Take a deep breath and let yourself feel it. Tell yourself that you’re okay because you are.

And once you start to come out of it a little bit (I’m talking two to three days or more) think about how you can honor the person who you’ve lost. After a rough week last week, coming into this week, I knew I had a good opportunity to honor my mother. I was asked to sit on the domestic violence program committee for Ruth’s Cottage and the Patticake House, a women and children’s shelter here, and our first meeting was this Tuesday.
After that meeting, I volunteered to become chair of the committee (now mind you, I had considered doing this before the meeting as well), and this week has been a flurry of activity for me. I have been working with the director of Ruth’s Cottage, the shelter manager there, and other committee members on our awareness projects for October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And while it would have been hard for me to find the energy to do some of these things last week, when I was in the low point of my grief, now, coming out of that, this position and this committee has given me a great way to channel all of my energy and all of my love for my mother into tangible projects.

For you, that might look like community service too. You might volunteer with a local nonprofit that honors your loss in some way, and it does not have to be as big of a time commitment as the one I am making. Or maybe the way you channel your grief and loss is through art, and you work artistic works honoring what or who you lost when you are coming out of one of those valleys of grief. Or maybe it’s writing. Or maybe it’s devoting time to making your new house a home if you lost your previous house to a natural disaster. Or maybe it’s spending time with your remaining loved ones because you know that time is precious. But no matter what it is, just know that finding a way to channel that love for what you lost into something tangible is incredibly helpful.

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