My maternal grandmother died just over 5 months ago--on March 10--two days after my birthday.
It was about 5:45 p.m. when the call came. I was looking forward to an enjoyable birthday weekend and saw my dad's number on the iPhone. He rarely calls--let alone at this time--so I knew it couldn't be good news.
Unfortunately, I was right. How I wanted to be wrong.
The weeks and months since have been intense, in spite of starting a new job which is relatively low-stress. This is a welcome respite from working in the behavioral healthcare industry when the phone could ring at any moment with a crisis.
It's been the dreams of her that jar me the most. She's normally in good form, smiling, and looks even more radiant than she did in life, her hair coiffed to perfection and skin smooth and clear. Whether it's how my subconscious chooses to see her or a glimpse into the afterlife matters not to me, it's just good to see her. Then I awake and realize it was just that: a dream.
Also difficult is the occasional void that hits when I least expect. Like a deep, dark chasm swallowing you whole. There's no light of day there, nor goodness. Just existential dread that we all may end up in that black hole separated from the ones we love.
It comes with the desire to pick up the phone to call her and the sudden realization you can't. It comes when you are walking through the store and spy the chocolate chips that remind you of her chocolate chip cake. It comes when someone at work mentions red hair. It comes when you lie in bed at night and the only option is to let the tears carry you into a state of sleepy disconnect. But the feelings indeed do come. They are faithful reminders that she is gone but so, so remembered.
For years I've conducted grief counseling for individuals and groups. I've taught on the subject. I've developed curriculum to help people move through grief. Move through it, not get over it. While I've had grief, I question now if I really helped those individuals as much as I may have thought. Deeper grief gives you a more profound connection to this human experience of impermanence, death, and suffering.
I suppose the greatest impact of the grief has been my inability to write for the last five months. It took my creative voice for a while. I've sat at this computer more than once wanting to compose a post for this blog. I open the laptop to write, and nothing comes.
But gratefully, today isn't the case. The words come. The emotions flow. The heart aches for connection. And I'm okay.
The difference now is that the grief doesn't overtake with such ferocity as before. It may come in again. More than likely it will. But hopefully not with the frequency, intensity, and duration as before.
I'm thinking more these days about the need for rebound. Some call it emotional resilience. I've written and lectured on it. It's that thing that some people possess that allows them to bounce back a little more quickly than others.
I've learned it's an emotional muscle you train. Just as in weightlifting, it only comes after some ripping, stretching, and pain. But it does come.
The pain comes and may even remain just out of sight, but resilience gives you the ability to rebound a little quicker than you did before.
I think that's what my grandmother would want for all of us who miss her so dearly. She'd feel the pain and then get busy with the rebound--probably by baking a chocolate chip cake, calling her nursing home volunteers, checking in with family, or going to the salon and Chik-fil-a with her sister and friends.
May I rebound as well as she did while on this earth.