My Experience With Processing Grief

I never had to properly process grief until last year when a close relative of mine was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was heart breaking. I remember I found out when I was driving home from work one night and my sister had called me. Hearing the words, I had to stop and pull over into a chase parking lot. I didn’t respond much to my sister on the phone because immediately the instinct was to stay cool, and pretend like everything was okay. As soon as I hung up, I remember yelling and screaming with pure rage at the universe, at my luck, that someone who I’ve known to be so innately good would see such an unfair ending to their story. For hours, after getting off the phone I just remember repeating to myself: ‘this is so unfair’. Looking back, I realized the anger that consumed me for weeks was just the first step in processing the grief.

The grief felt by everyone caused a serious rift in my family because no one was expressing what they were thinking, so there would be a lot of angst looming in the air when I would go home. Bringing up anything other than my sick relative was not an option because no one wanted to be accused of having moved on with their life already. This was stage two, and I define it as being ridden with utter guilt for pretty much existing. I was moved out of the house and life around me hadn’t slowed down so I had to keep up with going to class, seeing other people, going to work etc. This was a good thing, but I didn’t see it that way at first. I admonished myself for seeing a friend for dinner, or for needing to stay at my apartment instead of going back home, or for merely having a laugh with someone. The guilt was the toughest and longest stage to get through. This is true mainly because you eventually grow tired of holding on to anger, thus can let go, but surrendering yourself of feeling less selfish goes a lot deeper.

Eventually, I moved past the guilt because I was able to remind myself that we’re reaching an age as a generation where our parents and loved ones are getting sick and facing these harsh realities is a part of life. I can now go out with my friends and not feel like an utter shit for having a good time. And I would say that being honest with myself also immensely improved communication with my family.  All of this is to say that everyone has gone through or will go through heart ache in their life at some point, but recognizing what your mind and soul needs is just as crucial as visiting home four times a week (even if it is to save face and appear as the dutiful daughter).