may is not a month i typically enjoy. in recent years, it also is not a month that i look forward to. in fact, i now dread the month of may.
over the four years i was in grad school (2013-2017) and working in the car business, may was absolutely slammed. tons of exams, papers, projects and work at the dealership was insane, especially with memorial day weekend being one of the highest volume weekends of the entire calendar year. i knew before may arrived that it would be far from easy and would require an unreal amount of work. sleep would be limited and iced coffees would be exponentially increased. as if this time was not crazy enough, i received a call while at work at the dealership on may 27th of 2016 that would change the lives of many.
i was working in my office at honda when my phone rang. i have very few unscheduled calls, this applied even more while i was in grad school. it was a call to tell me that one of my closest friends, gracelyn, had lost her dad unexpectedly. i was in disbelief and simply wanted to figure out how i could show my support even if we were living on opposite ends of the state. while it is not easy to lose a loved one (regardless of the circumstances), i think it is even more difficult if there were no warning signs. gracelyn had no idea that when she saw her dad the previous weekend for her brother’s wedding that that would be the last time she would be able to see her dad in the flesh. how does one prepare for something that hits you like a ton of bricks?
a little less than a year later, in early may, my grandmother, connie, or grammy as i called her, passed. while she had cancer, just a couple of weeks before, there were talks of discharging her. so even though when someone has cancer, the normal thing to do is to start to prepare, with talks of discharge, that is not the route i took. flying home on may 7th of 2017 and getting to the hospital less than half an hour after her passing is the most devastating thing i have ever experienced. i do not know that there are words for it.
just a couple of months ago, a dear friend of mine, tierra, lost her mother. similarly to my grandmother, it was also to cancer. just like with my grammy, tierra’s mom was one of her best friends – they had the luxury of truly experiencing one another as adults and getting to know and love all pieces of one another, flaws and all. while it may be standard to have to bury a parent or a grandparent, the grief that is endured is not lessened.
while all three of us were supported by some friends and family, all three of us also encountered a great deal of people who tried to rush us through our grief process. whether it was by telling us this was normal + the cycle of life, dismissing our feelings all together or telling us some generic one liner, we all endured more pain from people we thought would be supporting us.
when i came across this quote, i thought about how it was applicable to so many parts of life, and especially to grief:
“psa: please don’t tell people to heal from something you’ve never been through.”
i do not know who said this but they deserve all the fucking recognition in the world.
there were so many people who had never lost a parent who were telling gracelyn how she should be grieving. rather than letting that take over in the worst possible way, instead, she started two amazing projects – luna peak is a company founded with her aunt based around cancer survival and snapshots of life after loss is all about grief and loss over time whether it be one month or 10 years; it could be a friend, a spouse, a child or a sibling – all types of grief and loss are covered. all types of grief are covered because all types of grief are significant. that is something that is not said enough and needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
with the loss of grammy, it was clear that plenty of people in my orbit did not get it. why was i taking the loss of a grandparent so hard? grammy was not someone i saw just on holidays or had a surface level relationship with. for six years of my childhood, i lived with her. my grandmother was at every major event at my school. my grandmother directed the gospel choir i sang in as a child. my grandmother was the first person i called in a state of crisis. my grandmother went from being my grandmother to one of my best friends as i entered adulthood. no topic was off limits – work, school, family, friends, sex – you name it, she could speak on it. i found it (and still find it) incredibly frustrating when people would try and tell me how to heal. how could they when they were comparing it to surface level relationships with their own grandparents? i had to resist yelling not to speak on shit they could not relate to.
most recently, watching tierra take a risk to be vulnerable about her grief process with her mom has been both sickening and beautiful. it has been sickening to see people who are close to her try to dictate what grief around her mother should look like. it has been beautiful to see other people let her be raw and even more beautiful to see her blossom and be unapologetic when expressing her grief. some people trying to dictate what this should look like still have their mothers here. i cannot even fathom what it will be like if/when i lose my mom but i imagine myself being a fucking wreck. watching tierra still do day to day things, especially being a registered nurse (where her job is taking care of people every single day) is mind blowing. i am constantly in awe of her strength. similar to gracelyn, they are both still finding out ways to really honor their parents in their deaths.
something all three of us share is that we do not want to be told how to deal with our grief, especially by people who have never experienced loss to this degree. while this might be an extreme case, i want you to ask yourself if you have ever asked someone to heal from something you have never been through?
or better yet, have you ever been asked to heal by a person who has not experienced the same thing?
i would love to hear about it below.
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