I am sure the title of this blog post has already given away what I am going to be talking about. Grief is such an interesting thing that everyone will inevitably go through at some point in their life. And unfortunately we do not really talk a whole lot about grief or the grieving process. I think this is in part because people often do not know what to say or how to interact with someone who is going through grief. So with that said I wanted to share some of the things that I no one often talks about from my own experience with grief & grieving in the past year.
Roughly a year ago around this time I had no idea that my entire life was about to change. Honestly, we had a lot of plans for what the year was going to look like. I had a lot of goals & dreams, and on top of that my birthday was coming up and anyone who knows me knows that I celebrate my birthday for a full month (I may be a little extra – but really you only have one birthday a year, why not go all out). I give you all this context because it plays a role in what I have been learning about grief & the depth of the grieving process.
I will start off by saying that this year has not been easy in the slightest. In fact I would say this has been one of the hardest years for myself. In January of last year on the same day that Jonathan and I found out that our plans for the upcoming year would not be happening (serious dreams crushed), on the same day I found out that my mentor, friend, a person who was like a mother to me for the majority of my adolescent years had passed away in a tragic accident. And to say that my world shattered that day would be an understatement. I remember getting the news of both of these events on the same day when I was at work & I remember being in complete shock. Thankfully I had some amazing co-workers & an amazing boss who were all very understanding & I was able to talk through some of what was going on & then I remember feeling completely numb. I knew at that point, that if I did not leave to drive home that I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it home without having someone come pick me up or drive me home because I knew the shock was going to wear off. Well what do you know, about five minutes away from home (thankfully), the shock wore off & the tears started rolling down my face. When I got home I just balled (more like whaling). It was like a nightmare that I couldn’t even begin to understand & there were many times when I wish I could have woken up from the nightmare. Now being a counsellor myself I knew that I needed to allow myself the time to grieve. However, on the other side of this is the fact that I am a counsellor & I felt that I should know exactly how I should be grieving etc… Well I am hear to say regardless of anything else that I am human & grieving is a process that takes time & this meant that I needed to give myself the time to grieve.
There were times I would often think to myself “Common now Esther, you journey with so many individuals through their grief, you should know how to allow yourself to grieve” Well let me tell you this was not the case. I thought I was allowing myself to grieve but I realized I actually just allowed myself to get angry. Now, being angry is a part of the grieving process & it is okay to be angry. The only problem is I realized that I had actually never gotten out of that stage. I was angry at God for taking another mother figure from me in a land that I grew up in & love. I was angry that I did not have another chance to see her before she passed away, I was mad that I had not made an effort to connect more with her while she was alive, I was mad at myself for so many various reasons. Really this anger turned into a very deep place & at some point I realized what was going on.
There are many things that I am learning as I still continue to grieve the loss of Kim & the loss of future plans for the 2018 year that Jon & I had made. It was just a year full of disappointment, loss, & tears. I have learned that because I am a professional counsellor, this does not mean that I am always going to be aware or perfect in allowing myself to grieve. However, I do strive to constantly have awareness & to always be on top of my emotions but because I am human this is not always possible. In fact I found it more difficult because I felt like I should know what stages to be in & the works. I think once I took that pressure off I allowed myself to actually express the emotions that I had been feeling. I learned that this grief went down pretty far, it connected with a previous grief (the death of my mother when I was 2 years old) & allowed me to grieve in a whole new way. I was able to recognize the depth of the grief & understand where it was all rooted.
As I sit here typing this I can’t help but have tears streaming down my face. Some of the tears are out of sadness but some of the tears are out of Joy, because I was lucky enough to have Kim in my life & impact my life. And the other side of that is that she is no longer here, I can no longer tell her how much I appreciate her, I can no longer write her emails to ask for advice etc… There seems to always be two sides to the coin when it comes to the tears & grief as a whole. Jon and I were lucky to be able to spend this last year with some amazing friends & surround ourselves with some pretty awesome people. Despite the aches, pain, frustration, anger & everything else that comes with grief we had an army of people who supported us, gave us space to grieve, and loved us. It has been one of these years that I know has shaped me even more but one of these years that I do not want to repeat.
This time of year is usually a time of year that I am super excited about my birthday & a whole lot of other things. This year is different, while I am still excited because I know that Kim would want me to celebrate her life & impact (which I hope to continue to do through the years), I find it difficult particularly around the anniversary of Kim’s death which is mere days before my birthday. This year for my birthday I hope to be able to do something to continue to build Kim’s legacy. I am not sure what that is yet but I know one things for sure it will involve helping & serving others in some capacity. And as I go into this year I am daring to be more adventurous & daring to dream beyond because I know that is what both Kim & my mother Katherine would want for me.
So as I go into this new year I am going to continue to allow myself to learn more about my own grief & I am going to continue to allow myself to grieve this loss because it is important that I give myself the space, time, patience, and grace to do this.
“Sometimes memories sneak out my eyes & roll down my cheeks” – Unknown