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It's ok to grieve...

I wasn't going to post this... I wanted to be all HELL YEAH 2020 is over!!! lets get on with all the good... and just simply forget this trash year.

except, grief is an important step in the healing process. I was never taught how to grieve when I was younger. So when faced with actually feeling grief throughout this year, I was at a loss. My first brush with death was my great-grandfather. I thought he hung the stars and the moon. When he died in 1986, I was a whopping 9 years old - the same age as my sweet Wyatt. I remember grandaddy being just the best thing ever. He would bring me a chocolate glazed yeast donut from Dunkin Donuts every morning for breakfast. He would sit at one end of the table drinking his coffee and reading his paper, I was at the other end, in my uniform that MeMa hand washed in the sink the night before and dried on the oven door, eating my donut and drinking my milk. Grandaddy would peak around the corner of his paper and then quickly go back to reading - playing a version of pee-a-boo. And then he would drive me to school early enough so that him and I could attend daily Mass together. I remember singing “Your are my Sunshine” at his 80th birthday in front of 150 people and him beaming with joy. I was the first great grandchild of the first grandchild of the first daughter… I was special to him, and he to me. I also remember when he got sick. It wasn’t the first time I had heard the word cancer, especially not in my family. I remember that morning breakfast no longer had donuts, milk, and a rousing game of peek-a-boo. I remember sitting alone at the table, hearing my grandmother beg her father to eat something, while simultaneously trying to help me get ready for school. My aunt rushing around to get a newborn ready and me out the door so that I wouldn’t be late for school. There was no daily Mass anymore. EVERYTHING changed. And then it changed again after he died. It was crazy and chaotic at first, so many people in and out of our house to pay their respects, the phone rang off the hook for days. Everyone was doing their thing, their job in the process of getting this beloved cantankerous man buried, settling the estate and all of the business that comes with death. Except teaching me how to grieve. In my 9 year old brain, was confusion, pain, love, denial (even though I didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time) and there was no one there to help me process any of it. So, those emotions were ignored, and I became numb. At the funeral a distant relative remarked at how “stoic” and “grown up” I was because I wasn’t crying. The acceptance of my numbness taught me that strong women don’t grieve, they stuff the not so feel good emotions to the back. They aren’t talked about. We go on about our lives, because it would be disrespectful to the dead to be in sadness. With each subsequent death, that is how I went about my life. For all of the amazing and wonderful things my MeMa taught me all of my life, she really dropped the ball on this one. Not knowing how to grieve, well… it prevents you from feeling all the other things. It makes you angry. And anger - well that just “isn’t lady like”!

“There is no sense in dwelling on the past, it’s done, it’s over, you just have to keep on living”, is all fine and dandy… if you actually know how to grieve and move on. So what the hell does any of that have to do with the New Year? Simply, we have to learn how to grieve the loss of this year. Accept that it wasn’t at all that we planned or thought it would be… Some people will have flourished within this year of chaos, some people will have barely hung on by a thread, sadly… some did not make it. It’s ok to grieve the loss of this year and to also accept the losses. Sitting with that grief allows us to see that the finality of death (in all of its metaphorical constructs) is actually the rebirth of joy.

Most people would agree that grieving the loss of a person is acceptable, but no one really talks about grieving the loss of what could have been. When my great-grandfather, MeMa, multiple friends, Mama Susie died - grief was acceptable even encouraged. And while this year has lost a great many amazing beautiful souls… we also lost so much more in the fire of potential that was snuffed out like a candle, so go ahead and grieve the loss of this year… and then get busy finding the joy and rebirth of a new year.

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