I’m no expert and yet I feel like I should be at least of my own, but I am not.
Grief is a crazy thing everybody says it’s OK to be this, it’s OK to be that, it’s OK to be whatever, do whatever, feel exactly what you’re feeling, but nobody really can tell you HOW you’re supposed to behave, where you’re supposed to go, what you’re supposed to feel and do. Then there is the underlining expectations to heal faster, to suck it up and keep living.
My first grief experience was April 2015 with my grandmother. She was taken to the hospital on a Friday, and she died on Monday. I was there for every step of the way, and I remember I was more concerned about her comfort and happiness in that moment than I was that she was leaving this earth and all of us behind.
She had six daughters and every single one of them was brokenhearted by the news that we received. They all wanted more time with their mom, I just wanted my grandmother to be at peace and happy. We were all behaving so different, worrying about completely different things and yet I just wanted to get my grandma a drink of water, food and frankly take her out for a cigarette, I felt no one was respecting her and she was the mother to all of us and deserved more dignity than what I felt she was getting. This is my viewpoint not that of others I am sure and possibly not even the truth, just my feelings and memories from those four days.
That was my first experience losing a loved one but mine and my grandma’s relationship was different, I was so sad and heartbroken for my mom and all of my aunts. It was horrific to watch her body give up and going through the emotional roller coaster for four days was draining. It was an insane concept to me to think she was just here at Easter cooking in the kitchen and now she’s gone this week.
I remember the week of planning her funeral, I just felt like my job was to be one of the peacekeepers between the family and focused on what needed to be done to lay my grandma to rest. I also clearly remember that once we laid her to rest, I thought “OK, it’s time to pick up my big girl panties and move on!” No more tears, don’t be a whiny pee pants that appears to be looking for attention! Grandma Jean is gone, time to move on.
November 1st, 2015, I woke up to a text asking me if I knew what happened with Billy. Billy was one of the most special people in my life. We did have a romantic relationship but even past that he was a best friend. He loved me unconditionally and I loved him greater than any friend can love another. His soul was one of the gentlest ones I’ve ever known. Then that text came in and my world was rocked he committed suicide and didn’t even say goodbye.
I was beside myself, but somehow I got ready for work, went to work and could not function. I told myself I have to be here; I didn’t even feel like I could speak to anybody about it. Although the closest people to me knew who Billy was, I truly don’t even know if they knew what we meant to each other.
I cried for weeks and weeks probably months, I drank myself to bed every night wanting to know: why? how come he didn’t come to me? how come you didn’t say goodbye? Could I have saved you? worse than that…did I fuel this pain that was too much for you to bear anymore? Then the flood of anger! O, the anger… I would Voxer him a lot and share my anger with him.
March 4th, 2017, we are at the movies as a family one night and I realize I had missed some phone calls, when I called back was told by the vet that my lady dog had been hit. They said I was too late that she had passed away on her own from the injuries. “I am sorry ma’am would you like her cremated and if so, would you like her cremated with other dogs?” I buckled at the knees and my husband took the phone and took charge of the phone call. I have learned that these kinds of questions must be asked and answered but I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the fact that my ladylove would be gone when I walked through the door.
I remember the next day like it was yesterday; I was cleaning the house, we now only had two dogs, but we still have three food dishes that I am moving to vacuum. Little reminders of her were all over the house all throughout the day, my other two dogs who she had mothered as pups laid in sorrow for days, my kids stayed in bed for the whole day as well. All I could do was clean and all I could feel was anger and I was completely lost! Losing a pet that I had cared for, for 10 years, who was as much apart of our family as anyone else, had never happened to me. When my sister-in-law and brother stopped by with flowers to give me their condolences, as they had loved her as well, I choked back the tears. I told myself it was just a dog stop making a big deal out of it, stop looking like all you want is attention.
September 10th, 2020, I was getting my nails done, my phone rang and it was a Colorado number. My heart sank and I answered it on the first ring with a hello, this is Tiffany, with so much panic, I almost forgot my name! The lieutenant explained who he was and asked if I was Kevin’s mother as that is what he listed me as on all his paperwork. I clearly remember that I felt it necessary to say "well ya but technically his aunt". He then proceeded to ask if I knew where he was and that he didn’t check in at their morning roll call. My heart fell into my lap, I knew if he wasn’t at roll call he was either injured…or worse. I gave them as much information as I could. I called his wife at work told her she needed to leave and go find him now. I called my husband I told him I knew something was wrong, something horrible. The rest of the day is a blur… except for the phone call that said: “Tiffany, Kevin hung himself…”
I watched as my whole world, family and friends all became foreign to me, they were all upside down and nothing was making since. I don't know how long I laid on our back deck after collapsing, I don't know when people started showing up, Im not even sure how I went online and booked a flight for the next day, but all of this was happening and I had no part in it, but yet I did.
See if you asked Kevin, I am his mom and if you ask me Kevin is my eldest son. If you ask the children, I birthed and the child that is mine through marriage, he is their brother! Technically he is my nephew. But he is my son, His baby is my grand baby, and his wife is my daughter (“in law” I guess). I bring this up only because it was a huge hurtle in my grief, you see I didn’t feel like I could honestly say my son died, I felt like a liar and once again just begging for attention. This left a disconnect between my grief cycle and my heart!
I Don’t even know if I want to share much more about this journey as it’s almost too much to relive….
I don’t remember much about September, I don’t remember October, I don’t remember November, I don’t remember December, I just remember wanting to be done with this world myself. I remember if one more person asked me “how are you today?” I might just scratch their eyeballs out and kick them in the teeth, while screaming “I am fucking great! My son just decided to leave us, to hang himself without a second fucking thought about us left here to put up with your chipper, fake as self!” Fair, no…My truth, absolutely!
I do remember a point where I also felt like I needed to pull my shit together. This was around January, maybe February when my other children were flunking classes and I didn’t even know! It seemed so stupid to even be worrying about school, everything became so small in comparison to the pain I was in. This was about the time when I realized that I couldn’t remember a day that I did not drink myself into bed.
When I called a counselor, it was because I needed to figure out how to continue to live, continue to be a mom, a wife and a grandmother even in my grief! What I discovered was, I hadn’t even started the grief process yet. This was a bummer, because somehow at 5 months after his suicide I was just starting the journey!
I remember watching everybody else in their grief process and just moving through the motions to care for them and their needs and what they’re going through. I was ok with everything they were feeling, anything they were saying, and in any way they were acting out. I could not give myself permission to do, be, or act in any way I needed to. Everything was grey, everything was moving in slow motion and taking any action throughout the day felt like walking through knee deep mud, thick mud. It felt wrong to laugh, it felt wrong to cry, it felt wrong to be living my life on this earth without him. All issues, things, people, thoughts seemed so fucking stupid, pathetic and mundane!
Every day that we move further away from the day that he was walking this earth with us was more and more painful. I just wanted to hold on tighter, hold on stronger, if I could just stop the earth from turning the pain could stop, but wait I don’t want the pain to stop because somehow this pain is my connection to you!
February 2022 we were with our dog Emitt roo as he left this earth and buried him. We were thankful he was free of his 12-year-old crippled body and could run free again. But losing a sweet soul like his in our home still left a hole. It was his time, but it was still hard.
September 3rd, 2022, I rushed my lover’s kitty to the vet and ultimately had to lay him to rest at a young age of 5. This was not supposed to be! This is my daughter’s best friend, he is her comfort leading up to the 2 year anniversary of Kevin’s suicide. Now I must tell her, her kitty is gone! Hell, No! No Way I’m done throw in the towel; I am not doing this any more! I did…It was horrific, it still hurts seeing her face, the tears, the pain…I’m sorry baby girl, I wish I could take it back, I’m sorry that any of my other children have had to deal with loss so early…I really don’t have the words as a mom to express the pain when your kids are in the grief cycle.
After laying Lovers to rest I was sitting there telling myself that I did not need to mourn my kitty, this is nothing in comparison to past grief, do not act like you are suffering you know real suffering! The only thing that I felt ok with was the heart ache of having to tell my daughter. Some how in my messed up head it was perfectly fine and expected that my daughter could have a broken heart and I was ready to be there for her in anyway she needed it, but me, no way. Pick up those big girl panties and keep moving!
Side note it was hard to write “suicide” or state “he hung himself”. Literally physically painful, it feels better to say his passing, or even death. Why is that? Because shame is all around “suicide”. For me, I have searched deep in my soul and know that I don’t feel shame for Billy, or Kevin I feel shame around myself! I was not enough in their life to keep them on this earth! I did not save them! I was someone they both loved so I probably played a role in their decision to leave…right? Who knows...That’s the difference in suicide and death in general, the unknowns, neither is easier but it is for sure a whole different grief process.
So where am I going with this… honestly, I have no idea, I just knew I needed to put words on paper. So here it is, my journal entry.
Grief never looks the same, not in the same person, not in different people living out the same nightmare of the same lost loved one, not with similar situations, not a year later, not 7 years later, NEVER!
For those of you who looked up grief on Google because you are searching for a way to help someone else with their grief here’s my one piece of advice, just hold space and unconditional love with ZERO expectations of how they should be acting or feeling! Seriously, I was getting blown up by people wanting to share in this time with me and it just made it worse trying to talk, respond, be kind all of it sucked! The greatest thing I heard from a friend was “I wanted you to know that I love you and I am here. You do not need to respond in any way I just needed you to know that I love you!” That “You do not need to respond” was a small light in my dark world!
For those of you who are going through your journey with grief looking for help. I am sorry but there is nothing I can say, there is no advice to give not if your loss was yesterday or 20 years ago. Here is what I want to say to you though: “I love you; I am here, you are here and it all fucking sucks! You are right where you should be, feeling and doing everything right. You don’t need to respond, just know that my heart is reaching out to yours and I love you!”
There is not time limit on grief and there should be no expectations around it either. To try and make sense of it is foolish. Be present, be patient and kind. Feel your emotions and pain, cry, laugh, punch shit, scream at the top of your lungs, numb out even if that is all you can do in the moment. Sleep the entire day away, but do not Judge yourself! When you see a dim light in the darkness follow it! When you want to talk about it all to someone you trust and who can hold a safe space for you, do it and dont sensor your words for the others sake, speak it, speak your truth.
Today is September 9, 2022, and it has been 2 years since you walked this earth with me. It has been 2 years since you decided that you were done on this earth. It has been 2 years since I didn’t know the greatest pain of my life. The hardest part about today is all of it….