On the subject of grief


photo via Forbes

Here I am again, wearing a black dress and sitting next to my mom as tears flow freely down my cheeks. I stare at the pastor and wonder how he stomachs presiding over funerals, pits of despair and melancholy. In my mind, memories play on repeat. My brain recollects Christmas Eves spent laughing next to him and reading thick books about history together, a habit the rest of the family liked to mock us for. More recently, there were hospital visits and weekends where I kept an eye on him as my Grandma ran errands. 

It seemed inconceivable to freshman me that I would never spend another Saturday nestled into the couch wearing Notre Dame football gear, laughing as Pap called them “Golden-domed idiots.” Even now, a whole three years after his passing, remembering the man I loved is bittersweet. Grief is a funny thing, forcing you to acknowledge it at the most inconvenient times. I know as I was struggling through the first couple months, all I wanted was someone to tell me that I would survive. So, here are my top three pieces of advice for dealing with death:

  • Acknowledge it

This one may seem obvious, but hear me out. Often, the confusing and contradictory emotions warring for space in our brains encourage us to fall prey to distractions. This only lasts so long and before you know it, you’re sobbing in a bathroom as you struggle to stay afloat (I’m guessing.)

  • Rely on others

As humans, we are wary of placing our burdens on others. Trust me, it helps to talk about it. Keep their memory alive by retelling the funny moments and crying about the melancholy ones.  My family is awesome about being there for each other, and every holiday I learn something new. Last Christmas, my cousins and I even engaged in a friendly debate about who his favorite was (I won, obviously).

  • Save tangible memories

Some moments will suck now that the person you loved won’t be there. It is a fact of life. Keeping clothing or other items important to them can make it feel like they are there next to you. I wear a necklace which contains a bead with flowers from the funeral in it. He is always next to my heart.

There is no wrong or right way to grieve. No time limit, no guidelines or qualifications. Do whatever you need to help you begin the healing process, whether that is therapy, visiting the gravesite or praying. Allow those around you to support you and ask for help. Take a deep breath and remember this pain won’t last forever.