Forgetting My Father Passed Away Taught Me Something Real About Processing Grief
Death is inevitable, how we grieve is where we have power.
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I was driving home after visiting my newest nephew at the hospital and was just thinking. I began to think of my upcoming relocation and who I still needed to see before leaving. Before I could even catch myself, I thought, "I need to go spend some time with my dad." Immediately, like all the other times this has happened, I was quickly reminded that he is no longer alive. Grief began to sit on my emotions and I automatically started to encourage myself to snap out of it, to shake it off. "It's been three years, Ciera, why are you doing THIS to yourself?!", I questioned myself. I let reality set back in and pulled myself together as I made my way home. I released a deep sigh, fixed the countenance of my face, and moved on with my day. See, this wasn't the first time this type of thinking happened. Earlier that week I thought about him being at my son's 6th grade graduation and quickly remembered, he's gone. Then again, the same week when my nephew was born, I thought to ask my brother if our dad has called him to check in and again, reality suddenly checked me again.
I've come to realize that no matter how long I live, these "moments" will happen for the rest of my life. My heart and soul will always feel the pain of my dad not being alive and well. My mind will continue to have mental hiccups at times, allowing me to think he's alive only to abruptly correct my thoughts and say, "No, Ciera, he's dead". I'll always cry at the end of Say Yes to the Dress when the dad looks at his daughter for the first time in her wedding dress and I'll always dread my wedding day because I know my dad won't be there to walk me down the aisle. Every time one of my children achieves an accomplishment or reach a milestone, he will not be there to cheer them on. With every holiday or family gathering, it will always be a repetitive, stabbing pain in my heart that reminds me my dad is gone. And if I'm not careful, the thoughts overtake me and tears begin to fill my eyes as grief overpowers my faith. My faith in Christ tells me that he is in a better place, but my selfishness tells me that better place is here with his loved ones living a longer human life.
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Eventually, I pray and ask God to give me strength to press through the down moments, but I can't lie and say they do not happen. It constantly reminds me of King David in the bible. His son falls ill and David prays and petitions God to heal his son. He fasts and prays for days only to be told his son died. The part that always astounded me is when II Samuel 12:20 says, "So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate." I often wonder how he was able to just get up and move on. I wonder if he ever thought about his son or had moments like I do now. I'm sure he did because grief is not only for a set of people. Everyone experiences it with loss. We may not experience the same severity but through life we all we come face to face to grief. King David's faith was so strong and rooted in God that he understood that God had the last say and whatever he chose to do would be sovereign. While my faith is continuously growing, my spirit understands that God is God and that all His ways are good. But that does not mean that my humanity always understands.
I am sure that others have found themselves grieving the loss of a loved one too, even years after they have passed away. I want to encourage you and say it is okay. It is okay to feel their loss. It is okay and normal to wish they were still here with you. Taking a day to reminisce on the memories is not a bad thing, it is a part of healing. I understand now, that we, especially the Black community, are taught whether by words or actions, not to show weakness. We are groomed to believe that weakness is not tolerated, even when it comes to grieving a loved one. We let their memories fade away and expect our feelings to do the same. Not only is this unhealthy to the mind, body, and soul, it is toxic. We have been beneficiaries to toxicity passed down as inheritance. This is a "gift" we should all nicely decline.
Allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to say I'm not okay today. Pick up the phone and cry out to a trusted friend. Pray and be honest with God that it hurts and you do not understand. Healing is not a one and done occurrence with it comes to death. You have to purposely and continuously heal. If it took a lifetime to know them and experience life with them, why think that it would take one moment to heal from their impact on your life? It is unrealistic to think that grief has a timeframe. You must respect the process of grief or it will swallow you alive, literally and figuratively.
So, again, I encourage you to feel. Be okay with expressing your hurt. Seek counseling if you must but you have to heal. Whatever you must do to heal without causing more wounds, do it! While death is inevitable, healing is essential to continue living your best life, even after a great loss.