Grief sucks. Even though I imagine most, if not everyone who reads this blog post will agree, I feel the need to say it anyway. You see, last Friday my grandfather passed away. He spent roughly twelve weeks in the hospital fighting and attempting to recover from open-heart surgery. Over the last six years, he experienced ups and downs resulting from a nearly fatal heart attack, often referred to as the widow maker.
After receiving the news that my grandfather passed away, I spent most of the next several days ugly crying. I can say that without a doubt, this last week has been one of the most emotionally tolling weeks I have ever experienced. Not just because of the death of my grandfather though. I knew before he went into the surgery it would be a challenging road to recovery. Though difficult to sit with, I knew intellectually and emotionally that he might not survive the surgery or recovery process. What makes the news much worse is that I can’t be with my family during this time since many of them live on the west and east coast. To make matters worse, we are living with COVID-19, so it’s almost too dangerous to travel to one another or even have a funeral.
As a therapist, I am aware that grief is more challenging than usual during COVID-19. Many people, especially those who have had family members pass away due to COVID or COVID-related illnesses, have experienced struggles around grief and safety. It was not until my grandfather’s death that I really began to understand the emotional challenges of losing someone you love during this time. I have found a few things that have helped me cope.
One of the first things I did after hearing my grandfather died was to name that he had died. By naming it, I mean using words that identify that he had died. Although it can be difficult to do, naming that a loved one has died can help us begin the steps to accept that they are no longer living. I allowed myself to feel whatever emotion I needed to feel. Accepting and feeling my emotions enabled me to sit with the pain and sadness. For me, this resulted in several days of intense sadness, often resulting in tears. I found this helpful because by allowing myself to express my grief, I was able to begin the grieving process and let go of some of my sadness.
I also connected with my family members and reached out for support. This involved my immediate and extended family. Once we connected, we were able to grieve together. We shared memories and stories about my grandfather. One example of this type of conversation for me was talking with my mother about the fact that my grandfather was the one who gave me my name. We also laughed about me being like my grandfather in needing to be early everywhere I go. Connecting with family in this way reminded me I was not alone. While on the phone with family members, particularly my grandmother, we talked about a plan for post-COVID-19. Discussing with her what that plan will be helped me know that there will be a time to formally grieve with my family.
After speaking with family, I reached out and connected with my social support group. I sent text messages and called the friends who I know are there to support me. While speaking with them, they offered a listening ear, emotional support and reminded me that I had loved ones outside of family who could also support me. I found this extremely reassuring because, for me, it is nice to have support from someone who is not as invested in the event as I am.
Finally, I reminded myself that grief is not a linear process. This means I can give myself permission to feel sad and miss my grandfather whenever those thoughts and feelings come up, even if it is a random Tuesday.
I recognize that I will continue to struggle during my grieving process, despite all the things I have mentioned above. That is why I have also made it a priority to speak about my grandfather’s death within my own therapy. If you or anyone you know is struggling with their own grieving process, please feel free to contact us to assist you in your grieving process.