During the last weeks of 2021, I decided I wanted to honor my deceased loved ones by making tributes to them via social media in 2022. I have done this on occasion, but generally have refrained from publicly acknowledging every loss because I felt it would be exceedingly sad for those who would view it. I have said goodbye to many people I have loved in my brief time on this planet. Some died of old age or disease, others died prematurely or suddenly. A few deaths I expected and many I did not. I think about them on their birthdays, death days or when life stirs memories of them.
Although I have grown accustomed to grieving and living life without these individuals, I still yearn for them. The yearning is not always sad – sometimes I simply want to share a laugh or story with them. Other times I want to seek them out for advice or just sit quietly in their presence.
I believe no one ever truly dies if they are remembered. Remembering someone helps you to feel closer to them. I will speak to my grandmother aloud or in my head when I want to talk to her. When I feel I am in crisis, I will speak to relatives that I knew in life and those who passed before I was born, because I feel connected to them through the stories I have heard. Besides speaking to my loved ones, I like to engage in activities they enjoyed in life to memorialize them. For example, the elders in my family watched the popular CBS show Touched by an Angel every Sunday night for years. During the pandemic, I was elated to find the television show on Roku. I become sentimental when I watch the show. A few months ago, I realized that it is not only the writing that tugs at my heartstrings, I get emotional because it reminds me of my family. I feel close to my grandmother and aunts (who have passed) when I watch the program. Likewise, when I craft, I reflect on the creativity of my Aunt Meriam. Whenever I play an arcade game or make smores, I recall my Uncle Marshall lighting a fire for a weenie roast outside of his arcade. On the occasion my plants are thriving, I imagine my grandmother and Uncle Al being happy with me. While grilling cheese, I can picture my Aunt Joy teaching me how to do it at ten-years-old. During the rare circumstance in which I find the words to tell someone off (🤭), I acknowledge my grandmother and her sister, Charlene, who both possessed the gift of quick-wit. Whenever I recall my first time in the country, I can remember my Uncle Norman taking me around the property and advising me to watch out for snakes. In the moments I contemplate how to behave or respond to a beau, I wonder what my cousin Chris would say. When I made potato salad for the first-time last week, I thought of my Aunt Betty and the secret she told me to making it well. Sometimes I seek out certain tasks to feel close to my dearly departed. At times I smile and other times I cry. That’s okay.
On New Year’s Eve our nation lost Betty White. Then on Friday, January 7th the legendary Sidney Poitier transitioned and on Sunday, January 9th, we said goodbye to another beloved actor, Bob Saget. If you felt saddened by these deaths even though you never met these individuals, you are not alone. I think we feel a close connection to people who come into our homes every week via the TV screen. They become another member of the family in a sense. In my case, you grow up with them and they play a grandmother, grandfather and father-figure role in your life. As the years pass on, you may come to revere them as you do the elders in your life. Therefore, it hurts when you have to say goodbye even when they live to the ripe age of 99 and 94-years-old.
These deaths can trigger feelings of personal deaths we have experienced and thrust us back into the grieving process again. I am not sure how long the grieving process is. Time helps ease the sting nevertheless, the pain is there, if dull. I think as long as you love someone, you’re always going to grieve them in some fashion. You learn to move forward with time. You learn how to best remember and honor them. You learn that death cannot separate you – it transforms your relationship. My wish is that you continue living as you progress through your mourning and despair. Please let me know in the comments how you acknowledge your dearly departed or ways in which you have bereaved.
Listed below are a few grief resources. Finding a grief counselor, bereavement support group or learning about grief can be invaluable to processing your loss.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration
(877) 726-4727 General Questions
(800) 662-4357 SAMHSA’s National Helpline
*You can search through the “Publications” tab to find articles with grief resources and information.