Death is just as much a part of life as living. There are many ways to grieve and everyone has their one way of doing it.
Fortunately, I have only dealt with the loss of a loved one three times. At the age of 13, I lost my Papa to a long battle with lung cancer. Following, I lost my great-grandma when I was 22, and just a week ago I lost my Mema.
Many other people older, and younger have experienced more loss than I have. For that reason, I am fortunate that the loved ones that have passed in my life had lived a full life.
When I received the phone call from my parents, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. I was frozen, paralyzed even. I told them I was going to be okay and hung up the phone. That was the moment I called my girlfriend and told her about the news, so she would be prepared but I also needed someone to confide in.
I had finally allowed my emotions to catch up with the news. I sat in my room alone, and I cried. The tears couldn’t stop flowing from my eyes, no matter what I told myself to attempt to calm down.
The typical sayings you hear in a time like this weren’t helping. The “She’s in a better place’s,” or the “It was her time’s” didn’t console me. I knew she was sick, and I had visited with her in the hospital only two weeks before knowing this could be the last time I talk to her, because I was leaving for school that next day.
The weeks to come I was preparing myself for the news, but no matter the amount of preparedness I thought I had done wasn’t enough. I was anything but prepared to hear that my Mema had died.
I felt alone, I was at school in Kansas while the rest of my family was preparing her funeral arrangements in Texas. Mentally I was in Texas, but physically I was in Kansas feeling helpless and lost. So I did the only thing that I could to keep me from thinking about it. I worked, and I worked hard. I piled on homework assignments, and projects to the point that I forgot to eat, but it worked. It probably wasn’t the healthiest way to grieve but it was my way and it was working.
The nights were the worst part. When I was done working, I got home and thought the most selfish thoughts. Instead of being happy for Mema to be reunited with Papa, being pain free, and being at peace, I was thinking that she wasn’t going to see me graduate college in three months. The first of her grandkids to do so. If I hadn’t dropped out for two years and graduated when I was supposed to she would’ve seen that, but I felt as though I took that away from her.
I wasn’t done talking with her, I wasn’t done having her cook for me on holidays, I wasn’t done with her telling me how proud of me she was, I wasn’t done with her yet, but she was done with life on Earth.
Throughout the day, I was trying to suppress these feelings, but these waves of emotion could not be tamed. It was like I could compose myself for 10 minutes then out of nowhere the lump in my throat and the bubbles of tears in my eyes would resurface.
The next thought I thought was the amount of guilt I had for my dad and his four siblings. They had now lost both parents. Their parents were gone, and I imagined a life without the love and support of my parents. Who do they go to with questions, or whose going to be the first person they call when they get good news? That wasn’t an option for these new five orphans.
I continued to tell myself to stop blaming yourself, and stop wallowing in self-pity. I told myself countless times to stop making her death about you. That this isn’t about me, but my heart couldn’t help but ignore my brain.
I have no idea if anyone else has ever felt these feelings over the death of a loved one, but if you have you’re not alone, but I do feel alone with these thoughts.
However, I have the love and support from my family, and friends. They surround me with reinforcing encouragement that it will get better. That I am not alone, that it is nearly impossible to get through the hardest time in my life without the ones you hold in the highest regards. I could not have gone through this alone, and I didn’t.
Everyone grieves in different ways. There is no right or wrong answer to these situations in life, or in death. My only advice to give is to just accept the emotions of your own being, and to accept those emotions of the other people it affects as well.
Although, I miss Mema like crazy already, and maybe I did take her presence in my life for granted at times, but for everything I do in the future will be in her memory. I know she will be looking down from her heavenly life, proud of the accomplishments I have yet to achieve.
Tanner Carlson is a senior majoring in communication. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.