#TBT: Grief During the Holidays

holidays

Hi RLD Family,

I know some of you have lost loved ones this year as I have.  It is tough going through the holidays — you are joyful on one hand, because the year has come to an end and you get to spend time with those you love. On the other hand, there is always an empty seat at the table as well as in your heart.  Here is a piece I wrote on surviving the holidays when grieving — I hope this helps you get through it. 

Hugs!

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Tips for Grieving

  • Take it day by day, minute by minute. Don’t think beyond today. It’s easier that way.
  • It’s a rollercoaster. You will feel a ton of emotions – anger one minute, crying the next, laughing for a moment. It’s totally normal although it feels weird. You’re working through all those memories and emotions at the same time, and that’s how it manifests itself. Take it one step at a time, and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling without judgment.

Read the other tips here.

Living Through Loss During the Holidays

Since Thanksgiving, I have had several friends who have lost parents or close family members.  There’s nothing worse than grieving during the holidays.  Here are some ways to get through it — from my own experience in losing my mother and turning into the ultimate Grinch.

Tips for Grieving

  • Take it day by day, minute by minute. Don’t think beyond today. It’s easier that way.
  • It’s a rollercoaster. You will feel a ton of emotions – anger one minute, crying the next, laughing for a moment. It’s totally normal although it feels weird. You’re working through all those memories and emotions at the same time, and that’s how it manifests itself. Take it one step at a time, and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling without judgment.
  • If is the most evil word in the English language. You may be feeling “if” I did xyz the outcome would have been different. When you feel that, make a list of the things you think you “should” have done, and list the things you DID do. It may be longer than you think — especially if you cared for an ailing parent, relative or loved one.
  • It’s OK to be mad at God. You may ask, why did God put me through this? Why did I have to watch my loved one suffer? Why did it have to end this way? We never get to know why. Being mad at God is normal in the short term. But know this…in the next few years, you will see a shift (hopefully positive) in the lives that your loved one touched. People will make decisions to honor the person; people will feel emboldened to make decisions because of the person. Your loved one’s spirit resides with you to guide you in times of need. Literally I have heard my mother’s voice in times of need, so I speak truth in this. It is not the same as having the person there, but it is a really strong force. This never answers the question why…but our lives are intertwined as part of a greater plan.
  • Have compassion for yourself. If you were a primary caregiver, your compassion has been focused on your loved one, for their pain and suffering. Now, it is time to take care of yourself. It is time for you to heal from the stress, the pain and go through the grieving process. Turn the compassion that you sent outwards inwards to heal yourself.
  • Take it easy on yourself. There is no standard for grieving; you do what you can when you can. Don’t force yourself to be somewhere emotionally where you are not. If the thought of going to a party, smiling and being festive makes you sick, don’t go! If you get to a party and can’t handle it, it’s ok to leave.
  • Everyone grieves differently. Men and women can be different. My husband went back to work the next week after losing his mother; another male friend of mine went to work the next day after losing his mother. I needed a few days and still was not in good shape.
  • Everyone takes their own time to recover. Some say a year later “you should be over this”. Says who? Everyone heals differently. I was very close with my mother, so losing her was really hard. I’ve had other friends who had a strained relationship with their family, but healed even more slowly because things were left unsaid.
  • Relinquish control. As strong people (especially as women), we usually have control over work and our lives. It’s rare we have something that we totally can’t control. Health, life and emotions we cannot control no matter how hard we try. So just let go. It’s easier said than done, but give it a shot.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a funeral. Funerals are more than just a ceremony. It’s the hardest moment in your life; but it helps bring closure. During the funeral, you will hear things about your loved one that will surprise you, make you laugh, touch you, and that will stay with you forever.
  • Each day will be different. Some days you can get out bed, others you want to die. Real talk. But it does get better eventually.
  • Friends will let you down, and kindness will come from the strangest places. Your friends (especially if they have not had a loss of someone close) may draw away from you, because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. And there are other random folks who you are not close with who will totally lift you up. It’s not their fault or a reflection on your friendship.
  • Get therapy if you need it. Don’t be afraid to talk about it to someone who is objective and not involved. They won’t get sick of hearing you say the same thing over and over again.
  • Life will never be the same. But you will find a new normal.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Merle Pearson who absolutely loved Christmas.  I also dedicate this post to all who are grieving this season. I’m sending you a huge hug.

M.

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Of Love & Loss: A Tribute to My Mom

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It was April 21, 2012. My mother had been battling cancer for three years. I was running errands, and got a call from the hospice nurse. With her sweet Creole accent, she tells me ” Ms. Melba, your mom decided to leave us this morning”

And with those words, life as I knew it ceased to exist.

Sounds dramatic. But it’s so true. Yes, the sun continued to rise and set, life continued, another Bond movie was released, no one else missed a beat.

But I did. My father did. Our close relatives and friends did as well.

There is something uniquely intense when it’s your mom. Soul groups, hip hop artists like Tupac, and country singers have all sung about their love for their mothers. She’s the only person that literally pushed you into this world. And if you were as blessed as I was to have a close relationship with your mom, it’s a hole that never quite gets filled.

Life has a weird way of working. Eight months before, my husband lost his mother. I remember emailing my mom a lot during that time, trying to figure out how to help him. Loss and death is truly something you have NO concept of until it happens to you. She gave me a lot of great advice, sharing with me the pain and sometimes resentment she felt towards others for still having their mothers while she had lost hers, along with the simultaneous guilt she felt for having those emotions.

In a way…she was teaching me how to grieve for her.

It’s been two years now. I remember the kindness that people I wasn’t that close to showed me. I remember being disappointed in those who were close to me for not being as supportive. One thing is for sure: people deal with loss differently, and you need to forgive those who have no clue how to deal with you.

Losing your mom makes you part of this weird kind of club. When you’ve been through it, you get it. When you find out that someone has that loss, you immediately act, and try to comfort them, even if they are practically a stranger.

I still hear her voice, telling me her Mama Pearson-isms. Such as “There’s more behind you than in front of you“, “Can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear“, and the most relevant one to my life at present, “When it’s for you, it is for you, and nothing will stop it from happening.” I love her classic when it comes to advancement in the workforce, “If you can’t jump up, don’t jump around“.

Throwback of me and my mom at my college graduation in 1994
Throwback of me and my mom at my college graduation in 1994

This past Easter Sunday, I kept hearing her voice say “Happy Easter!”, with that sweet upbeat tempo. My mom loved every holiday; somehow I’m a grinch, but appreciated how cute she was. Last month, on the morning of the two year anniversary of her passing, I had a dream. She was running late for work, and said she was going to leave. I asked her to stay a little longer. She said to me “I will stay for as long as I can”.

And I believe it was true. She did stay for as long as she could.

When she was undergoing the awful treatment for cancer, she reached a point where she realized that nothing was going to work. The tumors were not shrinking. Her nurse later revealed to me that they had an understanding– continue the treatment so that she could attend my wedding, and once she came back, she would let nature take its course. To me, that is a true testament of my mother’s love for me.

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At my wedding in 2012

In some ways, I’ve become my mom. She was classy, responsible, very blunt and had an amazing sense of self that only comes from overcoming adversity. For sure I’m responsible…and have become very blunt!

I’ve also realized that losing your mom makes you that much stronger, because once you’ve been through that pain…there’s not a whole lot (other than the loss of a spouse/partner) that can ever hurt you that deeply again.

RIP Mama Pearson. Love you and miss you. And please continue to speak to me, as well as through me.

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Christmas 2010