Tag Archives: grief

Black Girl Grieves

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At my grandmother’s repast, someone with a camera snapped a picture of me that perfectly captured the face of grief.  Over the years I have worn that visage many times.

Today is the one year anniversary of my mother’s death.

Today marks three months for my husband, too.

I miss them so very much!

Men and Grief

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My first encounter with men and grief was at my grandmother’s funeral.  My uncle, an imposing figure sheathed in dark sunglasses sat solemnly.  I could hardly contain myself and screamed like a banshee periodically throughout the service.  That was until my uncle slowly turned to me and said No more outbursts in a slightly menancing tone.  I knew he had had his own private spell the night before as I overhead his wife telling my mother and her sisters all about it.  I cried silently for the remainder of the service. 

Over the years I’ve observed the males in my family and the way they handle grief.  Some avoid funerals.  My cousin did not attend my mother’s and when I inquired why, he shrugged and said I can’t do it–too many in this family.  Other cousins missed funerals I guess for the same reason. 

At the hospital when I talked to my siblings about the severity of our mother’s illness, my brother (Jazmine’s father) immediatedly asked that someone take him to the store.  By the time they returned to the hospital, my mother had died.  His responded to the news by walking the halls taking long swigs from a fifth of gin.

The night my husband died three of his very closest childhood friends met me at the hospital.  I knew there would be tears but I was surprised by the depth of emotions emanating from them.  All I could hear were loud, heaving sobs coming from the trio.  One of my coworkers who attended the funeral said that she was astounded at how many of my husband’s friends were openly crying.  That’s what broke me down; seeing all those young guys crying like that she said to me days later.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

So why is it uncomforatble for his friends and male family members to hear me grieve?  They call and check on me and stop by on occassion.  But I can tell they can’t handle the tears.  They don’t know what to say to me.  Last night his friend Corey called but I didn’t bother to answer the phone.  I don’t want to pretend that I am okay to spare anybody’s feelings.  Why they would even think I am okay puzzles me.  I want to scream to them all–NO, I AM NOT OKAY–SO STOP ASKING!  IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE ME NOT BEING OKAY, THEN DON”T CALL TO SEE IF I AM OKAY!  But I know that they mean well and I appreciate that they are even checking on me at all…

My SIL texted me last night to see how we’ve been getting along.  She said she was doing okay.  I replied that I was glad she was because I wasn’t and I let her know how I was REALLY doing.  She seemed relieved and responded that she wasn’t doing well either, but she didn’t want to upset me.  I feel more comfortable sharing my true feelings with the women that I am close with because they can handle it.

I know males are reared in a society in which they are often told that men don’t cry.  This has always been silly to me because most beings with tear ducts cry.  Crying is cleansing.  It is a way to purge the soul of toxins such as sadness. 

While I try not to cry too much in front of my son, I do let him know that it is okay to cry and that some things are worth crying for.

The Widow Maker

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Today I took my kids on a field trip to see Bodies…the Exhibition.  They really enjoyed it and were quite intrigued by the wonderous complexity of the human body. My students (of course) were eager to see the sex organs!   

I, on the otherhand, was very interested in viewing the heart gallery.  But looking at the display of  arteries strongly reminded me of my husband, so much in fact that I could not bear to look at the one aptly called the widow maker.  I hate that terminology! 

Today, it has been two months.

Be There

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Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep..For none of us lives to himself…

Romans 12:15,14:7

As death is apart of the life cycle, it is bound to happen.  This is the one fate we all have in common.  I’m sure many of you have been in the seat of mourner.  During my period of mourning I have had some great support.  Death leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.  Sometimes you don’t know what you can do to help the person through their period of sadness and loss.  Here are a few things that I think are helpful to consider when helping those you are close to are grieving:

  • Silence is for Lambs: Always acknowledge the loss of the mourner’s loved one.  This can be done without words in the form of a simple hug, a greeting card, or a heartfelt smile.  Pretending like nothing has occurred is rather callous.  My own brother (Jazmine’s father) did not bother to attend the service or even acknowledge his death.
  • Practical Makes Perfect:  It was so helpful (and much appreciated) when friends, relatives, and coworkers provided me with meals!  Cooking is the last thing on your mind.  And of course, this is really a time that you need to nourish your body with good food.  Nicholas, Jazmine, and I were often invited to breakfast and dinner by family and several coworkers bought my lunch everyday or prepared it themselves.  If it wasn’t for these people, we would have starved! My cousin also volunteered tireless hours driving me around.  She made the roundtrip so that I could talk to Evan about his dad, too.  Another practical form of help is to assist in addressing thank you cards.  This is something that I didn’t feel like doing but my good manners would not allow me not to.  I even had several babysitting offers when I needed to take care of business.
  • 21 Questions is a Game Not to Play:  I say this because I have been asked some rather insensitive questions, such as was my husband overweight (no, he was not), did I cook healthy meals, (mostly) or was he ill (no again).  Allow the mourner the opportunity to grieve first.  They may or may not feel like divulging details of the death, and if  they don’t, then that’s okay, too.
  • Lipservice is Not Service: “If you need anything, let me know” is a common one.  Now I know people mean well and  hate to see a person that they love or care about hurting.  But only offer services that you are  truly capable of or are willing to lovingly provide.  One day, someone just might take you up on your generous offer which could create an ackward situation for both parties.  Also don’t offer simplistic platitudes such as “God needed him more.”  Even if it is true, that’s not what a grieving spirit wants to hear.
  • Rose-Colored Glasses Don’t Look Good On You:  One of my coworkers who is a wonderful man, is determined that I will not be sad.  He does everything to try and make me laugh.  However, it’s annoying.  I’m sad–sadder than sad and will be for quite some time.  But I have every right to be.  I don’t feel like laughing even when others think I should.  It is totally alright for people to experience a wide range of emotions while mourning.  Please give them this gift without the pressure of feeling that they need to “get over” their loss and be happy again.  I will be okay again one day in my own timing.
  • Disappearing Acts Are For Magicians: This is one of the most lonely and vulnerable times of grieving.  I imagine one could really lose their minds without proper support in place.  So don’t “go missing” after the service!  Grief is not something that ends with the funeral.
  • Use Your Ears for More Than Hanging Earrings:  I am so thankful to my friend Stacy, whom I met through blogging.  She listened to me cry and babble one night for over three hours!  I am grateful that she cared enough about a perfect stranger to sacrifice her time to make me feel better.  My friend Angela was wonderful as well.  I can’t stress how important it is to be a listening ear. 
  • Jumping to Conclusions is Not an Olympic  Sport: Don’t assume that a person grieving is “okay”  because they may appear to be fine. I am a perfect example of this because I hide my emotions very well.   Tears of a Clown is my theme song at the moment!  Check often on the person via email, text,  personal visits, cards, voicemail, or telephone calls to let the person know you are concerned about their wellbeing.  Also, don’t forget to include the mourner in on activities that you normally would.  It is eay to make the false assumption that “they won’t feel up doing anything.”  This is hurtful and not always the case.
  • Uh Huh…Okay…Shut-up: I have had several people tell me that I am “young and will marry again” or “you’ll be fine after a few years.”  Sometimes the best words to say are none at all.  Our society is so used to idle chatter that people are under the false impression that they have to say something when they don’t.
  • Be Clueless:  Feel free not to have a ready explanation as to why their loved one died.  We don’t know the answers to God’s many mysteries of life.  Just be there, your presence is enough.
  • Don’t Tiptoe Through the Tulips:  It is okay to talk about the deceased.  I’ve had a few of my coworkers look in horror when my students discuss the many times they saw my husband and I out.  He was alive once and it doesn’t bother me when people remember him.  Our family talks about him all the time.
  • Lace Up Your Nikes:  Don’t ask IF the grieving person needs something because you know they do!  Even if it is something as simple as a hug.  If you notice they haven’t been eating, buy them lunch.  Invite them to your home, baby-sit for a few hours, offer to run errands for them.  Most people are too shy/proud to admit that they really need someone to lean on.  Most mourners won’t interpret this as being intrusive.  I view it as people wanting to do something to help ease my pain.  The point is don’t wait for a vulnerable person to make a request because that may never happen–just do it! 
  • Orisons Are Awesome: This is the most beautiful and lasting form of support.  I know many of you have sent up prayers for me and I am in awe.  When I feel so low, which I often do, I can only wonder how much worse off I would be without the prayers of family, friends, fellow bloggers, perfect strangers, and coworkers to help keep me afloat.  I am so very grateful for all of the comments and warm thoughts left on my postings!  Thanks to all who have been  grieving with me.

Griefcase

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I don’t think most mental health professionals support compartmentalizing emotions.  However, as a way to get through the day, I pull out my “griefcase.”   I am constantly in and out of it to examine and understand the following contents:

  • My husband:  Memories of love, laughter, and life…why so soon?
  • Nicholas:  I refuse to let him get caught in the mayhem as he has suffered a major loss as well.  I’m trying to shift my focus onto him and tend to his needs more.
  • Jazmine:  She misses him but is finally to the point where I think she understands that he is in “the sky.”  It just breaks my heart that she has to live without his gentle spirit.  He was definitely a father figure to her.
  • Ethan: I hope he believes (I have a feeling that they and their mom for that matter were told something contrary) that it was not my choice for them to leave.  I pray he feels our love and uses it to help him endure
  • Evan:  My baby…I miss him…I truly hope that his time in treatment wasn’t in vain.  I want him to know how much he is loved by us.  I hope Evan knows how much we were looking forward to him coming home!!! I’m so sorry that he didn’t get to make it!!!
  • Eliza: I have many hurt feelings about her.  Call me naive but I thought I was making a breakthrough with her.  How she was so willing to throw her own kids under the bus to punish me totally befuddles and saddens me.  I feel like I have no closure because I was carelessly discarded when my husband died.  Maybe I should try the letter writing thing where I get my feelings out and then don’t actually mail it.
  • Her brother and sister:  Oh my goodness, evil is alive and well!  People never cease  to amaze me!  And they keep wanting to interact with me for some strange reason.  Her brother called on Christmas Eve.  Her sister called twice the day after Christmas.  Neither the twisted sister or the demented brother will leave a message.  I’m sure you can guess what the brother wants.  Now the sister, who knows?  Unfortunately, I am not stable enough at this point to converse nicely with these lovely people so I continue to ignore any attempts at communication.  I just can’t tolerate any tomfoolery or malarkey.
  • Me: It’s probably more of me stored in the griefcase than anything else.  Am I still a stepmom I wonder frequently?  What do I do with myself?  I don’t want a new life–I liked the one I had.   I’m still a wife it’s just that my husband is dead.  Needless to say, I’m one mixed-up Ms.
  • Our house: Of course everything is just as he left it, especially in the garage.  The Mountain Dew that he was drinking is still in his cup holder.  I don’t want to touch anything and I can’t bear to part with his stuff.  I could try selling the house but I almost feel like I would be leaving him behind.

Coach should add the “griefcase” to their line-up–they would sell well!

Left Behind

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I feel like we have been abandoned, me, Nicholas, and Jazmine that is. 

The very same day of my husband’s death from a heart attack, Eliza’s brother came knocking.  I saw him approaching the walkway and became anxious.  His arrival portended evil.   He was his usual pompus, surly self.  Luckily my aunt and cousin were home with us so I didn’t have to face him alone. 

When my aunt answered the door he demanded to speak with me.  She informed him that I was not feeling up to seeing any visitors so he asked to speak to my husband.  She told him that my husband was not available.  He then asked if he had passed–not your logical follow-up question.  My aunt acknowledged that he did in which he replied, “When he die, a month ago? Did he committ suicide?” 

I was stung by his indecency and began screaming and crying for him to leave.   He yelled that Ethan was his blood and that he carried his last name (he doesn’t).  My cousin ushered him away from the door.  I grabbed the phone and called the police.  I wanted him away from our house ASAP.

When the police arrived he stood outside attempting to manipulate them into believing that he was only there to console his nephew.  He claimed he had no idea that my husband had died.  Two big, burly guys joined his side.  The police  didn’t buy his story especially after eyeing his bouncers and wrote up a trespassing report.  They also put extra patrol in our neighborhood.  The rest of the night him and his sister called without ceasing.  She left many ridiculous messages stating that she only wanted her nephew because I was not “family.”  Wow and ouch was all I could think.  Just a stepmom…

I also received calls from Eliza’s aunt and cousin, who both said that they felt the boys rightfully belonged with me as did the rest of their family.  I asked why the aunt and uncle were behaving like vultures.  Her cousin replied that they probably wanted the money that the boys would draw from his death.  This thought never occurred to me.  The aunt also felt that they were probably carrying out Eliza’s wishes–another troubling thought.  How could Eliza not know how well I cared for the boys?

Monday morning I called the court and informed them of our situation.  The clerk expressed her sympathy and told me that she would do all she could to help keep the kids with me.  She felt that the judge would not want to move them anyhow.  The clerk also told  me to quickly file a document with my intentions.  I had an appointment with the funeral home so I figured I had time to go on Tuesday.  How wrong was I!

Later that evening I got a call from the residential facility saying that  Evan’s aunt and uncle were on their way to discharge him from the hospital.  According to the director, they had valid court papers.  They had went to a probate court judge and was issued an emergency order.  I was dumbfounded, especially considering that our particular case was only to be heard by one judge because he was so familiar with it.  When I broke the news to Evan on Sunday, he was so broken that it was obvious that he was in no condition to leave at such a crucial time.  Evan had asked me to take him home immediatedly, but I was able to convince him to wait until they adjusted his medicine.  I promised that I would pick him up in two weeks.

I called their uncle and pleaded with him not to take him out because he was not at all stable.  He finally relented.  A few hours later he called so that Evan could speak to Ethan.  He lied and had discharged him despite my pleadings!  He then demanded that I hand over his other nephew at almost 12am.  Again, I begged him to wait for a decent hour.  He hung up on me.  A few hours later I heard a lot of banging on the door and saw bright lights  shining into the house.  I became very afraid and called the police.  The operator checked to see if it was the police and determined that it was.

When I opened the door I recognized one of the officers who had been to our house frequently for runs regarding Eliza.  He greeted me and showed me the paperwork.  He seemed bothered that he had to do this particular task.  I had Ethan come out of his bedroom and he looked very scared.  They walked  him down to his new guardians.

I considered fighting them in court, but decided against it.  The probate judge who issued the order died two days after signing the paperwork.  I have been threatened so much that my family and I determined that for our safety I should not.   Their uncle told my SIL that bad things would happen to me if I tried to fight for the kids.   And I know that my husband would not want me living under such fear and pressure. 

It was and still is a difficult decision that I have yet to come to terms with.  I really wanted them here with us.

Two days after the funeral their uncle had the nerve to call and offer his condolences because he said he “liked me!” Once again I became undone as I heatedly inquired why the boys were not allowed to attend their father’s service.  He offered a few lame excuses and I hung up midway through his glib speech.

I have not heard from the boys or  Eliza.  I suspect that they may be in another state with their aunt.   

It’s been a long, hard, mournful month.  Jazmine constantly asks about my husband.  Nicholas has kept pretty quiet.  I don’t think any of us understand, but I do know that we sorely and surely miss all three.