The Grieving Room

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Learning to love the dead without forgetting them and experiencing life’s gifts in waves

If I have loved you and lost you, I will not forget you. It is impossible to do so. But I have a bad habit of letting loss stay with me more than I think it should. I cradle it — provide comfort for it — beg it to stay for more than just a little while. And therefore, it is hard for me to live life at its highest point because there is always an air of extreme sadness hanging over me whenever I lose someone I love or was deeply connected to.

What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us. — Helen Keller

When I am assessing a situation and I have my wits about me, I know how to maneuver through that situation. I can design plans to resolve issues and problem solve to the best of my ability for a considerably desirable outcome.

With the death of a loved one, though, there is no immediate resolution on how one should grieve/heal/cure the pain that pops up at all hours of the day without warning.

A favorite song can help with the aches. An animated movie can send me directly to my happiest place and distract me. Time well spent with Jernee, my dog, sometimes gives me the calming energy I need to push through the roughest parts. But I have not found the master plan to deal with death appropriately, and I doubt I ever will.

And my cousin’s death has settled in my spirit — becoming one with my entire identity, and there is no breaking away from it. Upon reading and researching timelines, expectancy dates, and most appropriate grieving process lessons, I came across something referred to as Complicated Grief.

The grieving person must travel through the grief process, and should be allowed to move through it at their own pace. For some people, the grieving process can go on for a long time. This happens more often when a person was very close to the deceased. Sometimes this leads to what is known as complicated grief.

If what’s considered to be “normal grieving” does not occur, or if the grieving goes on for a long time without any progress, it’s called “complicated grief” or “unresolved grief.” Symptoms of complicated grief might include:

Continued disbelief in the death of the loved one, or emotional numbness over the loss
Inability to accept the death
Feeling preoccupied with the loved one or how they died
Intense sorrow and emotional pain, sometimes including bitterness or anger
Unable to enjoy good memories about the loved one

And after going through the explanation and details of complicated grief, I know it does not relate to me. What I am experiencing is just good, old-fashioned grief, coming in waves. Or a continuation or replay of the stages or me getting past one stage and reverting to it unbeknownst to my doing so.

I am still learning to give myself some grace — to be gentle and patient — to feel every emotion as I should and not ridicule or belittle myself for remaining in one stage longer than I believe I should. I am getting through as best as I can, and this is the most important part.


I am protected in my happy place

Earlier this week, I watched Back to the Outback on Netflix and enjoyed every moment. It’s an animated film about several “dangerous” creatures determined to find their way back to lives they’ve never known before being placed in captivity for showcasing to draw crowds in Australia. Hence the title, Back to the Outback.

If I am watching cartoons or animated movies, I am centering myself in my happy place where I feel most safe. It is the place I never want to leave and only do so to continue with adulting.

If I could, I’d be a professional connoisseur of animated films or an animated film critic. I envy people who actually get to explore this type of lifestyle — to do what they love all day long and remain happy during the process.

It is hard to pursue life’s goals, be financially stable, and enjoy life to the fullest when most of your day is dictated by something you used to love, but only do now in order to make ends meet.

Here’s the trailer to the movie, just in case you might be interested:

Back to the Outback, Netflix, ©December 2021

My therapy sessions remind me that life is for the living

And if I am honest, this is one thing I have to link myself to.

I am alive. I should be living.
I am alive. I should be living.
I am alive. I should be living.

I have made it a point to say the above affirmation to myself occasionally. Sometimes, I need a reminder. Other times, I am far too busy doing things that require me to stay above water and in the right frame of mind. I drift into a removed place where I am dreaming more than I am living.

My mind is full of Do This and Do Thats and I rush to make sure I can fit everything I need to do on a common weekday. It is exhausting. This — what I have been doing for the last three years, is not living. I am merely surviving.

“You crossed my mind the other day, Tre, as I was listening to the radio and an advertisement played about a writing group retreat. I instantly thought, ‘This would be great for Tre’!” — My therapist.

And as we discussed the advertisement she heard, my heart became full of hope and determination. But my therapist can get a little carried away and excited and she does not remember the source or any contact information but stated she will have a pen and paper ready to jot it down when she hears it again.

She has been great in circling me back to key points that have been helpful over these last three years, and more importantly, these last five months. I am meant to live. I should be out there living.

Shouldn’t all of us who still have air in our lungs and desire in our hearts be doing the same thing?

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. — Friedrich Nietzsche


Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter via LinkedIn.

I Wish You Were Still Here

A Lamentation for Chrissy

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

And I’m not lying.
I tell people, “I’m trying”
because really, I am.
But my heart breaks every
single day still, and it feels
like I’m watching the
world crumble before
my eyes.

People don’t want to be
around the grieving ones.

It puts them in a place
of discomfort — shifts them
from good times to
“Is this still happening?”
and since I can’t quite
answer their questions,
I bubble up in the safety
of my home and swat
at the hard times slowly
creeping up my stairs.

If you were to tell me
this would be my life
ten years ago, I
would’ve uttered some
common phrases like,
“The Devil is a lie” or
“You can’t predict the
future,” and I would’ve
swiped my tongue gingerly
across my two front teeth.

Nothing can bring hell
like the death of a loved
one — like the sound of
one heart breaking into
a million pieces and scattering
itself throughout your entire
body.

How does it feel to walk
around with your insides
regrouping while you
find your center?

I am told it’s okay
to struggle — to flounce about
with my head bowed, searching
for the writing in the dirt
under my feet.
Where there’s dust, there also
will I be …

I don’t want to dissolve
into the muddy waters
of this stomach-churning
world, so I pull myself
out of the quicksand of
despair and snail on
while I still can.

I wish you were still here.
I am second-guessing myself
again. It’s almost like
a default setting, and
every time I try to move
through it, I sink even
deeper.

I have trouble
seeing past my most
hated self — it’s hard to
shove that part of me
deep into a closet
and throw away the key.

I feel like I have to
soon, though.
Because if I don’t,
the sun will back away
from me and never
lay itself at my heels again.
And that, my beautiful cousin,
would be a life I
don’t want to live.

I love you.
I always will.


Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

The Grieving Room

Photo by Sara Bakhshi on Unsplash

It’s been nearly 20 years and I am drained.

As I listened to her breathe on the other end of the phone while I asked pertinent questions about the radiology procedures I was scheduling for her, I noticed a break in her responses. I paused. I could hear her softly crying and everything in me shifted. This had been a moment for me to turn up the sunshine — to be my whole and empathetic self — not to cry along with her, but to change the atmosphere. It had been my moment, as it has been hundreds/thousands of times, to lift the spirits of another.

When scheduling a newly diagnosed cancer patient, it is almost always emotional for me. The invasive procedures or radiology scans will soon become their norm, but upon that first scheduling experience, there are questions unfamiliar to them. Some things require responses that are sure to open and pour salt into fresh wounds. I could tell she had become exhausted and had probably had her fill with speaking to scheduling staff, medical professionals, and abiding by the oncologist’s recommendations.

It isn’t every day of your life prior to this “new thing” you have been tasked with answering, “Can you sit and stand without assistance?” or “Are you allergic to IV contrast?” or “Have you had any recent scans or procedures related to this condition outside of this organization?” I want to be quick, but I want to be thorough. I want to ensure the details of the procedures have been given, but I also want to recognize and feel where the patient is during our scheduling conversation.

And this lady, at 86, was not in a good place. And why should she be?

Mine was an unfamiliar voice to her. Regardless of how calming and reassuring I had been, I was still a stranger — giving her details for a nuclear medicine whole-body bone scan and a CT chest/abdomen/pelvis with contrast — both to be done in tandem, on the same day. I heard her sniffling and my mind nearly shut down. I had to think of something to get her back with me on the call — back to the place of acknowledgment of this damning reality, and I did it my way — the polite, comedic way.

“Ma’am. You let me know when you’re ready, and we’ll begin looking at arrival times which range from crack-of-dawn-early to just right after sunrise early, and we’ll go from there.”

When I heard her giggle and get herself back in sync with me, I chuckled too. I assured her our technologists would take great care of her and we could take the time we needed for the call. She had the floor. This had been her time to allow it all to sink in and marinate, and I would select the date and time when she was ready.

After the brief comedic segue, the appointment was scheduled, and I had to get her transferred to yet another department for another appointment. But I am not the type to simply cold transfer our patients. I want to be sure someone will be ready for them, and on the line, to get them scheduled. I informed her of this process by saying, “Now that my task is done for your radiology appointments, I will get you connected with another team member to schedule your last appointment. Is there anything else I can do to assist you at this time?”

She laughed — still caught off guard by the description of the times for her appointments with our department. I knew the call ended on the note it needed to when she said, “No, sweetheart. You have done all I need you to do today.”

It has been nearly 20 years in the medical field, and it is weighing on me — breaking me down in ways I never thought I would ever witness. I remind myself I am where I am called to be, but every time I do this, I feel as though I am reassuring myself for what, exactly? Why? If my heart was still truly in it, would I need this reassurance? Would it be required? If I wanted to continue in the medical field, shouldn’t it just all flow rhythmically and naturally, like water?


How a “Stanley Sugarman” quote made me think of her.

After I scheduled my patient mentioned above, I had another patient who had called to see if her orders had been ready for several MRI scans. She began the conversation by letting me know she had just had a stroke several weeks ago and the day before — woke up to complete blindness in her right eye. Her scans, she had been told, would be STAT requests and needed to be scheduled for the next day, which would have been Friday, June 17, 2022.

I had been gathering myself after the previous call, however; I needed to begin the search for her orders. Unfortunately, the orders had not been in the system, and after reaching out to the team to see if they had been in the queue or on the backend awaiting transcribing, they were not there either.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have to say, “I apologize. Unfortunately, we do not have any orders for your scans.” It is not something a nervous, suffering, and anxiety-ridden person wants to hear. What most patients want to hear almost all the time is, “I see your orders right here and we can proceed with scheduling your appointment.”

Upon hearing her orders had not been received, she told me of the suffering she had endured and how she was simply tired and wanted to know what was going on with her. As a patient with multiple sclerosis, having to undergo MRIs would not be her first rodeo, but total blindness in one eye was. How do I make this right? How do I again shift the atmosphere?

Before I could tell her what the next steps would be, she stated she would reach out to her referring doctor and see if they were, in fact, faxing her orders to our organization. I provided her with our fax number just in case the previous submission went to another department. I advised her of our office hours and informed her to please call us back as soon as she heard from her provider so we could proceed with getting her scheduled.

She had mentioned being told she may need to be admitted, and upon hearing this, I informed her the doctor recommending this would need to correspond directly with the admitting team at the hospital. She ended the call with me to pursue further investigation with her doctor’s office.

There are days that pummel me into submission — days when I feel as though I cannot hear about another grand mal seizure, stroke, aortic aneurysm, or the many forms of cancer metastasizing from one site to various other parts of the body. Days that seem to travel alongside each other sizing me up, testing my strength. This past week covered me in so many of these days, and I am just happy I made it through the week.

Last night, I watched the new Netflix movie starring Queen Latifah and Adam Sandler, Hustle, and I allowed myself to get lost in their veteran, consistently on-point talent for close to two hours. Adam Sandler’s character, Stanley Sugarman, says something that made me think of my cousin, and I shook my head as I heard him say it:

There was only one guy who knew what I was capable of, and he died. — Stanley Sugarman

I am capable of so much. I have far too many talents and gifts, and I know I can do something else that doesn’t eat away at my soul as much as the medical field is doing now. My cousin knew this. She drilled it into my head on the days I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. These days, I replay her advice in my head — pulling the love she shared with me from the deepest places within me and allowing it to be a constant reminder.

I can still do what I want to do. I can still make it all happen. The question, though, is when?


When you need a pick-me-up, visit the babies.

I can always count on my baby cousins to light up my world. Spending time with them puts me in a whole other place — one where happiness seems to pull up next to me with little coaxing. Today, though, only one was home, but he was enough. Caison is growing up so fast, and I feel like time is being cruel with just how fast he’s growing. Every time I see him, he looks like he’s grown an inch.

The young one is full of energy, has an in-your-face personality, and still gives the best hugs a four-year-old will ever give. When I need a reminder of just how beautiful life can be, and how I am not meant to wallow continually in the dumps, I spend time with my baby cousins.

His mother is an expert hugger also, so I see where the ability comes from. I am blessed to have an affectionate family — to hear, “Text me when you get home” every time I turn my back to walk out the door. Sometimes, the babies will chime in, “Be safe!” and that makes it sweeter.

Visiting them rejuvenates me — stocks me with the will to go on and be so damn outstanding.


The week was hard, but it didn’t win.

I had a hard week but I am here to share it — I can talk about it. I am of sound mind, I still have a quick tongue, and my heart is full of love. This past week may have had me up against the ropes a few times, but it did not knock me out. We tussled in the ring for 8 rounds, and I lived to tell you about it.

It was a hard one, but it didn’t win.

Death is with you all the time; you get deeper in it as you move towards it, but it’s not unfamiliar to you. It’s always been there, so what becomes unfamiliar to you when you pass away from the moment is really life. — bell hooks


Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday.

©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter via LinkedIn.

The Grieving Room

Getting out of my city for a small adventure

Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

If you’ve ever felt trapped in your own home (Hello! … to probably all of you reading this newsletter) and got out to take a quick road trip by yourself during this pandemic, you’ve probably benefited more from it than you know. This past week has been a topsy-turvy one. However, it has not been one I couldn’t get through without a few short breaths and prayers to God to remind me I am still alive — still “movin’ and groovin’” and making this thing called life work for me.

After only visiting my mom, cousins, and a few friends and teammates here and there throughout this pandemic, I ventured out to a small town about 45 minutes away from where I live. Perhaps you’ve heard of Mount Airy, North Carolina, the birthplace of Andy Griffith? Many have stated the town is the blueprint for Mayberry on the Andy Griffith show. And let me just tell you — you know you’re in the country when a tractor pulls out in front of you to take over the road — never mind the fact you were there first.

Excuse me, Mr. Man on the tractor, please have at the entire highway strip — my pleasure — I do like my life.

During the trip there, I also saw a man riding an ATV 4-wheeler on the highway. No harm, no foul, homie. Please do you on this highway — on your 4-wheeler. I was in a zone, listening to Wale via Pandora, and neither one of these people was going to kill my vibe. I had one thought in mind — make it to my friend/co-worker’s home in one piece, and make it there in one piece, I did.


Friendship — what a beautiful thing.

I pulled up the rock-covered road to my friend Sarah’s place, put my car in park, got out, and embraced her for what felt like at least two minutes. I had not seen her in a year and eight months. I then hugged her mom, whom I probably haven’t seen in just over two years — then her dad, and then I gave my full attention to her sweet Golden Retriever puppy, Lily.

Dogs are amazing beings. If they instantly take to you, this says more about you than it does the dog. And I was truly happy to make Lily’s acquaintance. The excitement she had for me during our first meeting matched how Jernee reacts when I come back home to her. I was putty in her paws, and I believe she knew this.


Sweet Lily and I. She wouldn’t give me enough time to take off my shoes. She is the sweetest pup ever! Photo Credit: Sarah Culler. Used with her permission.

After I settled into loving Lily a bit, we ordered food, went to pick it up, and came back to my friend’s place to eat, chat, and enjoy each other’s company. I love being able to communicate with people freely — love it when there’s no filter and everyone can be expressive. Sarah and I have always been this way — at work — and outside of work. Her mom is just the same — salt of the earth people who do not bite their tongues, but have enormous hearts, too. It is in the hospitality offered. It is in the words spoken. It is in the love that is felt.

We then toured the city, which did not take long. We drove “Downtown” so I could see some of the major sites, the Andy Griffith mural, an old theatre, and plenty of people outside taking advantage of the beautiful weather today lent us. I am truly wary of crowds even more than I was before the pandemic, so this tour was in my friend’s car as we cruised her city without the hustle and bustle of the craziness a Saturday around hundreds of people can bring. I still like my space and I don’t want many people around me.

Time flew by so quickly, I headed back home to be with my own little monster. The trip was well-deserved and definitely long overdue. I needed it.


It comes and goes. I understand now.

I had a moment of wanting to text Chrissy some photos or send her a brief note that said, “Look, cousin! Look at what I’m finally doing,” and it’s almost as if I have to reset my brain every time this happens to me. I know I cannot talk to her anymore. I know I cannot send text messages to her phone number that I simply cannot bring myself to delete from my phone. I know there will never be another hug, kiss, or trip to Florida to bask in her presence. My mind knows this. It does.

My heart cannot catch up. It can’t. But I am still giving myself grace. I am still being gentle with myself. There are better days ahead and getting to them consistently again will take time. It will. I am patient with myself. I owe it to myself to be as patient as I am being — it is necessary.

But I understand now how grief can come tapping at your shoulder when you least expect it. I wave hello to it — offer it some coffee, break out the good china, and allow it to sit for a moment with me. I will play some music for it, cook it a good meal, take it for a walk, but I refuse … at this point now to allow it to drag me down. Could it be Chrissy speaking through me? I know it is. And I am listening.

You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong. — Sue Fitzmaurice


Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room Newsletter via LinkedIn.

I Deserve This Slice of Lemon Cake

And I dare you to tell me otherwise

A slice of lemon heaven? Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

It is almost never, ever just about the cake. There is always something else. And in the current air of things — there is certainly something else. During a time when making a quick run to the store can be a death sentence, worshiping inside the temple of God could be your last prayer to the entity, children are slaughtered before the end of a schoolday on-site, and Black women are violently attacked for refusing to not take up space, it is damn well not just about the cake.

I am exhausted — running on fumes. I often feel like there is nothing in me left worth sharing — worth contributing to this world, and I know I am not the only one.

There are grim reminders everywhere — we have one life — just this one life, and while we are out here trying to live it, someone else is figuring out a way to take it from us. All of us. So when the craving hit me completely out of nowhere like a wrecking ball slated to crush into its next assignment, I pushed my weary body up from the chair, threw on a t-shirt, some pants, socks, and slides, and drove to the nearest Harris Teeter. I was taking a chance — betting big, and the stakes were high. The stakes are always high.

I searched for the one thing I tend not to allow myself to have, waltzed over to the self-checkout lane, paid the tab, and walked hurriedly out of the store, and swiftly to my car. I made it inside and back outside, unscathed — alive — but still fearful.


It could have been me, it could have been you.

This is my thought process of late. Oh, please don’t get me wrong, I have lived with this line of thinking for years, but after the recent deaths of my cousin, my aunt, a writer friend, and a few other people who were near and dear to me years prior, I hate feeling like I’m rocking the boat — testing the waters. I don’t want to live in fear. I shouldn’t have to live in fear. But you take a global pandemic, mass shootings, an infant formula shortage, the harassment and outright killing of people of color, and finally, you have a goddamn scaredy-cat in your midst, and that scaredy-cat is me.

When I think about the tragedies that make up this nation’s current events, I am overwhelmed with sadness. It could have been me, it could have been you. Although I count my blessings daily, it angers me that so many people will never again hug, kiss, and be with their loved ones because of the mindless and heartless acts of those who lack something they need or want or just want to take.

When did we become so incredibly selfish? Can anyone remember? It dates so far back. I am sure I’d get the timing wrong, but help me out — throw me a damn bone. When?!

I will forever have this thought in the back of my mind whenever I venture out to any store within a 10 mi radius of me. I will forever be reminded of children so violently taken away from their families when my little cousins and nieces and nephews leave home in the morning. I will shudder just a little if ever I set one foot back into my church. I will force myself to bite my tongue instead of rebutting when a privileged angry, White man feels the need to flaunt his arrogance and ego at the gas station.

I am surrounded by things that scare the hell out of me, yet I am obligated to move forward — to continue as if none of these things ever occurred. So yeah, you damn right, I bought the slice of cake.


A photo of my dog, Jernee in an e-collar. She is a brown, white, and black Chihuahua/Yorkie mix.
Jernee Timid Loadholt in her fancy-schmancy e-collar. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

My dog is old, going blind and deaf, and clings to me like a second skin.

For fourteen years, I have had a fur baby who has been more than the beauty of a noon sky to me, and she is moving through this aging phase of life in a way that is breaking me down. I don’t have the words. There are none that can properly describe watching her deteriorate right before my eyes. Perhaps you’ve read about Jernee, perhaps not. There is only so much I can share in an essay without going over the word limit most people care to read, so I won’t waste your time with any of the fat — we’ll just get straight to the meat of the situation.

Jernee has cataracts, she is losing her hearing, and has a cystic tumor on her back right paw that the vet feels he should not remove because it requires putting her to sleep, skin grafting post removal, and a ton of other off-the-wall things that would cost me both my arms and legs and she may not even wake up from it all afterward. Yet, if you saw this sweet baby, you would not know much of what I detailed unless you spent more than a few moments with her.

I have had to think about the inevitability of her death — it is imminent and in the near future. Many of our lives could be described this way, but I have spent much of mine caring for, loving, and being with her. I envision scraping my limbs up from the floor and removing anything remotely close to my living self from the dumps I will probably meet once it takes place. Death comes for us all — it has to come for her, too.

She is still eating — still enjoys a little exercise — still likes to be cuddled and kissed, but all in small doses. If we go overboard with any of these things, her breathing becomes labored and she will sleep for the entire day. Since I have been working from home for the past 19 months, separation anxiety is an understatement.

She bites her paws or attempts to harm herself if I am not within earshot or directly in her line of view. I’ve begun placing an e-collar around her neck and putting her in her crate if I need to run a quick errand or spend some time away from her enjoying someone — anyone else. It hurts like hell, but I am protecting her from her, and how do you explain this to a senior dog who just wants you to stay put and never leave her?

Well, you don’t. You can’t. It’s just life, and it’s the part of life no one ever mentions to you when you look for a companion to keep you sane enough to stay alive.

So you see, that’s why I bought that slice of cake.


We have been through enough, and there could be more on the way.

Even though we’ve waded through the murkiness of the rough waters, we’ve placed ourselves on lockdown and in quarantine, we’ve worked when we should’ve rested, and we’ve fought for our voices to be heard, there could be more of the same on the way. No one can know. We can all sit back and pretend we’ve been through the worst of it, but the state of America will only fester and become an even crueler and more aggravating boil on our collective asses if something drastic and onboard with positive change does not occur soon.

I have met my fill of deaths. I have cried rings around my eyes and lost my voice. I send text messages to friends and family as check-ins. I stop by my cousin’s place to make sure she and the little ones are okay. I call the elderly in my family to hear their labored breaths on the other end tell me, “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.” I live in 15-minute increments because 24 hours is too long to pray for continual life.

I have been eating home-cooked meals catered to me and my loved ones, drinking more water, exercising (walking holes in the soles of my shoes because of the frustration welling up within me), and I have lost 12 pounds. I’ve done all of this and I intend to do more. However, will America let me live? Will you see my name pop up in your feed this time next year? Will you even be around at that time? We don’t know. We can’t know.

Because your local grocery store could be your memorial site. The nearest gas station might be the place you land a black eye and multiple bruises. Church on a Sunday morning with family and friends may end up being a crime scene. And you may count 19 dead children and 2 teachers in your sleep.

Sure as shit, I deserve this slice of cake, and I dare anyone to tell me otherwise.


Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.