I have suffered several losses—some of them within the same year. I can tell you with certainty that for each loss, the grieving period and process has been different. Grief and tears are not synonymous. Sometimes grief involves anger. Sometimes it involves depression. Sometimes it involves anxiety. And sometimes it is an all-consuming fire.
When I lost my grandmother Minnie Mae Goodrum in 1992, I was in middle school. I watched my mother and her siblings grieve. I watched each of them fall apart in their own way. At that time, I didn’t know that my longing for her was grief. Even now, I long for her.
My brother Fabian passed in 2014, a few days before his 40th birthday. I was in shock. I did not cry. My mother was my concern. I attempted to shield her, tried to give her what I thought she needed. I wish I’d captured the moment my daughter Zoe grabbed her uncle’s beard. She smiled. He smiled. They shared a laugh. Losing him stung. A lot. But there was no time for grief. My unsettling depression and newfound anxiety proved to me that I, in fact, was grieving even if I didn’t say it out loud.
When my grandfather Edgar Sr. passed in 2016, I was physically in the car on the way to see him. Literally driving. He was in the hospital but was doing better. The expectation was that he would be getting out of the hospital soon. My aunt called while I was enroute to tell me he’d taken his last breath. That pain. That one I wasn’t prepared for. When I arrived at the hospital he was still warm. I hugged him, kissed him, and sat next to him until he was taken away. I broke. But not for anyone to see. I felt like I had to be strong.
I allowed myself a few tears, but at this point my mother had lost both her parents and her son and she was not okay.
Neither was I. But my grief had to wait. I convinced myself that if I did not allow myself to feel, I was not grieving. My depression hit an all-time low and my anxiety was through the roof. My chest would pound uncontrollably; I would get dizzy spells. But I was okay, right?
Over time. I would have moments when I missed my grandfather’s wisdom. Moments when I missed his singing. I missed his old dirty truck. I missed the trips to Wendy’s to get a frosty and a six-piece nugget. I missed him. The pain of that loss has not found a home. It floats.
When I lost my father Robert in 2021, I was a bit more prepared. He allowed the doctors to tell me about his diagnosis in February. He passed in May on Memorial Day. With my father, I grieved the entire time. I cared for him and I grieved. I brought him food and I grieved. I made sure he ate and I grieved. I spent countless days and hours in hospitals and I grieved. I watched him slowly fade and I grieved. When he went to hospice, I grieved. And when he took his last breath, I completely fell apart. It all came rushing in and I. Just. Broke.
In that space, I did not grant myself grace.
I cut my grieving short to protect myself, protect my family, protect my daughter. She watched me, and though she cried at the thought of losing her grandfather, she told me she wanted to be strong for me. I gave her permission to feel her feelings because even at the age of seven, she wanted to cover me—much like I covered my mother.
There was a cost.
When I lost my uncle Edgar Jr. in 2021, my heart officially broke. I was no longer able to hold myself up. My uncle was everything to me. When he went to the hospital for pneumonia, there was no doubt he would get better. I went to see him every day and I kept my visitors passes from each day. I have them in a journal. I wasn’t prepared to lose him. I have officially lost every male elder that loved on me and protected me.
I learned during this process that grief is not linear. It is minute by minute. Day by day. Second by second. There are times when I am fine, and then there are times when I am not. I realized over the years that grief has no time limit. There is never a moment when you “get over” the losses.
My biggest loss was losing myself. I was too afraid to feel my feelings. I wanted to “keep pushing.” And I did—for a time. But then, it all came crashing down. My husband saw my brokenness, depression, and anxiety. He saw the emptiness. He tried to fix me, but he could not fix the voids.
They exist. And that is okay. I learned after my breakdown to give myself grace to grieve. I’ve learned to feel my feelings, cry my tears. Most of all, I’ve learned to love with every ounce of my being.