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:
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?
I follow her on Medium as well as LinkedIn. I do so because her voice is a powerful one, and she advocates for self-love, self-care, anti-racism, and anti-ableism, among some other important causes near and dear to me.
I am not big on listening to podcasts or watching a large number of TED Talk videos, but I do enjoy her videos and her memoirist-like essays that have been featured all over the internet.
I am a purposed woman. I know I have a purpose. I am inclined to believe we all have a purpose. However, I struggle to recognize, grasp, and embrace exactly what my purpose is. I know my strengths. I know my weaknesses. I can tell you all the things that make me uncomfortable and put me in deep states of anxiousness, yet I can’t quite place a finger on a solitary thing to cause me to erupt more than something else. I have faults and flaws — upswings and downswings — brave moments and fearful ones. I am a walking contradiction who lives down the street from super-inflated candidness wrapped in a slice of humility.
The seasons blur. I cannot find my way through spring shifted from winter second-removed from autumn or passed down by summer. Every season carries its own pain and its own special directness as they enter my realm. Who should I be now? What should I learn today? Where will any of this lead me four to five years from now?
It is the tail-end of spring and the birds sing their joyous songs just outside my window — a congregation of like minds willing to harmonize their thoughts and feelings.
When a bird sings, it is lending its heart to you.
I tell myself this . . . that birdsong is God’s feathered creatures sharing their heart. Am I a great keeper of it? Can they trust me with it? I am not a bird person, per se, but I enjoy listening to their musical offerings. I carry their songs with me throughout the day. Sometimes, they are the only thing that can lift me out of a frigid mood — warm my soul. These days, I’ll take what I can get.
I have a mean gift of gab — I do.
If I am not willing to point out what I do well, who will? Without boasting or sounding arrogant, I remind myself occasionally, “You are an incredible words-worker. You can create anything using words.” And I can. I have. I hope to continue to do so as each year passes, but the world is shifting from what it used to be, and I fear many of us no longer want to sit with words. We want to be spoonfed by two-minute reels of one’s forty-year timeline or audiobook everything, including the Bible. We want the diet version of a memoir and the cliff notes to epic poetry and . . . I fear I will move out of my league with this new normal.
But, I have a mean gift of gab. I can land a poetic punch or comedic comeback in a heartbeat and not blink an eye. One thing I love most about working from home is sharing with my co-workers via Teams. At roughly about 11:10 a.m. every workday, one of my Workforce Managers will tag me in a Teams group chat casually blaming me for the call queue increasing because I took a break. I, of course, upon returning from break, will see my name tagged with the statement of blame and our tit for tat in comedic exchanges will begin.
Several co-workers will say in the chat, “I wait for this every morning! It’s one of the reasons I’m excited to log on!” or “Y’all two are so funny. This is better than my soaps.” I have to admit, on some days, this same Workforce Manager will give me a run for my money via a verbal comedic lashing, and I’ll humbly bow out. If I had to guess, though, I’d say we’re neck and neck.
But these exchanges and how good they make my co-workers feel are reminders of what I have done and can do with the English language.
I motivate others to be better versions of themselves
When I am at my highest level of confidence, I can motivate others to be better versions of themselves. It is not finger-pointing, and it is most definitely not, “Look at what I did — you can do it, too!” It is more like me simply listening to them, knowing what they can do and how often they have overcome obstacles to get where they are in life, and reminding them of this. It is me sounding a bullhorn in their ear that they have the power to be exactly who they wish to be. They must recognize it.
I take what I say to them and turn it back on to myself as well. I am not a stranger to self-reflection or honing in on integrity. We all have a little of something in us others want — they may even need it, and most times, it makes them happy for us to share whatever that little something is.
I struggle with my gifts and talents — with believing in myself
Knowing all that I know about myself and how I operate, I still struggle with believing completely in myself — with feeling as though I can be more — do more; provide more for my life. I have goals I would still like to meet and I aspire to be a better version of myself, too, but the weight of the world and some of my negative thoughts can create a conflict within me, and I play tug of war with myself.
Although I’ve been down the road of my life and have seen my many accomplishments, there is always this nagging voice poking its way into my thoughts if ever I stumble upon a new idea. It creepily says, “Are you sure you can do this?” And sometimes it gets rude with its statement and spits a, “But you’ve already failed at this before” at me, and I stutter-step with my next moves. It is up to me to continue to pour positive energy into this being of mine as I grow older — as I seek opportunities out there I know are meant for me.
I am going to be just like the birdsong — soon, a piece of my heart will be with you.
Friday is most often my favorite day of the week, but today, this Friday feels special. I woke up long before the cock of the crow–body clock had its own plans. There was a light mist in the air before the impending rain. A short walk with the dog presented a sense of presence–a sense of #relief.
I could feel it deep down in my bones–today is truly going to be a great day. I say so. I’ll make it so.
May Friday grant you whatever you may need today. I am claiming my happiness–I wish the same for you, too.
*The last five days have been the break I needed. Sometimes it’s best to step away from everything and feel EVERYTHING while it’s fresh and painful. I allowed myself the chance to move through the weight of bad news and still grieve without shame–without harming myself or others. A breath of fresh air is often more than simply inhaling the gifts around us. Thank you everyone for your kind words, thoughts, prayers, emails, etc. This is such an awesome community, and I’m grateful for it.