I lost my dear brother, Lamonte, three weeks ago to a massive heart attack at the age of 38 years old. I am finally at a point where I have somewhat accepted it. Or either I just realized there is nothing I can do to change the fact that he is gone. The funny thing about death is that we all know that everything that is living must die, but that doesn't make the pain any easier. I have never felt sorrow like this before and I have never hurt like this before. It is an emotional pain that hurts physically. I really feel at times like I am trying to breathe under water. It’s suffocating. I feel as though I have been changed on the inside, never to return to the carefree person I was before. I have had to find a new way of existing. Lamonte is always on my mind or not far from it. Through this journey I have learned several things about grief that I would like to share:
1. Everyone grieves differently. Some get angry, others withdraw, others are expressive in their grief. There is no cookie cutter way to handle it. Grief handles you.
2. Grief makes people uncomfortable. It’s like they think that grief is contagious. I have had friends who have totally ignored my pain and continue on as though nothing ever happened. Which is okay because honestly this pain is not happening to them. I’m sure others just don’t want to say anything to set me off into a crying frenzy. Truth of the matter is that it’s awkward any way you look at it. It’s awkward to me to not mention my grief as much as it’s awkward to you to mention my grief and witness my pained expression and tears. Plus, it feels good to know that you are acknowledging a significant part of who I am right now. And on top of all of that, ignoring it is pointless because I think about everything like a record stuck on replay. I think about us growing up. The laughter and even the fights. I think about our last conversation. Reread our last texts. I think about where I was when my dad called me with the news. I think about how he looked lying in the casket. I think about how my mom looked touching him for the last time at the funeral home. I think about it all. His wife, his kids. Everything...constantly.
3. I often wonder if people really want the truth when they ask how I’m doing. The truth is not pretty and it will make you uncomfortable and/or sad so don’t ask unless you really want to know. I have however, come up with a generic response for those who I know can’t handle the truth and who are just asking to be polite. At least they are kind enough to ask.
4. I’ve become a great actress. I can fake it like you wouldn’t believe. If you look at me you won’t see a despondent Shanita. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer after all. I've learned how to look the part. I laugh at jokes, I even make jokes. I listen during meetings. I smile when appropriate.
5. People say the darndest things to people who are grieving. I’d like to think these comments are coming from a good place. But I have wanted to roll my eyes at a few people. "You should get on some anti-depressants." "At least he died quickly." or my personal favorite "Was he on drugs?" are just a couple of the off the cuff comments I've had to endure. The only words I am able to take comfort in are scriptures. Scriptures...not clichés. "The Lord works in mysterious ways" is not a scripture. "Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4 is a scripture. One helps, the other is just annoying.
6. The world is just a little bit scarier. Almost like I've been living in a nice little bubble free from the injustices of this life only for that bubble to pop and leave me exposed to all the not so good stuff. I want my bubble back!
I know that the pain will ease and that life must go on. People have been losing loved ones for years. I'm not the first nor will I be the last. But right now my heart hurts as I struggle to find my new normal.