A Triple Dose of Grief (Part One)
Grief is defined as is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. Grief is also a reaction to any loss. Grief is not an easy thing to define as there are varied definitions. Grief means different things to different people. Grieving a loved one is normal. Losing someone you love is traumatic. The death can be expected or unexpected but still hurt no more or less than anyone else’s grief. An expected death is not easy. Watching your loved one die or knowing when they will die is hard thing to deal with. How does one cope with knowing that at any given moment their loved one will die? An illness whether sudden or prolonged is difficult to watch. The time in which a loved one suffers doesn’t make it any easier to accept their departing this life. Watching a loved one suffer is a bad feeling when you know there is nothing you can do to help them or save them. I experienced such pain when my great-grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.
My great-grandmother raised me. Her name was Genevieve. She was a sweet lady. Although she was sweet she didn’t play with you when it came to homework. It was homework first and then go outside and play. I used to get so mad because I wanted to play. I later saw that it was better because do9ing my homework first meant that I didn’t have to do it when I was tired from playing outside. She taught me many lessons throughout my life. I just knew that one day she would see me graduate, go to college get married and have a family of my own. I never dreamed that she would leave so soon.
In my 9th grade year of high school my great -grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know she was sick until months later. She didn’t want to upset me. All of the pain she was in and she was worried about upsetting. She had appointments that I went with her to after school. At the time I had no idea that she was very ill. I thought that maybe there was something wrong but certainly not cancer. Cancer never once crossed my mind. To me cancer was something that I knew existed because a few of her brother’s died from it. I thought that it was just a tragic coincidence. I thought surely my immediate family would not have it. Even though it was in my family cancer still seemed far away and an impossible occurrence. I went to go grieve aunts and uncles. While I was sad and grieved as I was close to some of them it wouldn’t compare to the pain I would experience later.
Once I was told that my great-grandmother had cancer I refused to believe it. I pushed it out of my mind. I refused to acknowledge what they said. I acted like I didn’t hear them. I initially walked away with no expression because surely I was dreaming. I thought maybe if I walked out waited a few minutes and walked back in I would discover this had been an unfortunate case of miscommunication. I asked them again. I said excuse me I don’t think I heard you correctly. I was told that I did hear correctly. At that moment my world began to fall apart. I knew that some people survive cancer and some die. I knew that my great-grandmother would survive. I refused to believe that there was a possibility that she wouldn’t make it. She looked healthy to me. I wondered if the doctors knew what they were doing. I was hopeful that they had misdiagnosed her but they hadn’t. I wasn’t prepared for her journey to heaven. It was painful for her. There was nothing I could do. I watched her get weaker by the day. She had trouble walking. She still managed to sometimes cook. She never allowed me to cook in the kitchen that is partly why I don’t want to cook today. I don’t like it. After a while she was unable to drive. She gave her car to my cousin who was in college. When she could no longer drive I put my honor roll bumper stickers on a door in the living room. She was so happy. I was glad she found joy in the midst of her pain.
Over the next year I watched her health deteriorate. I became, more concerned as the days passed. I decided that I didn’t want to sleep in my room in case she needed me. She was weak and I wanted to be there in case she fell or needed something. took the folded bed and put it in the living room with her. I wanted to be able to hear her. I needed to know she was still breathing. She had her own bedroom but slept on the sofa. The sofa may have been more comfortable than the bed. People always fell asleep on her sofa. For a while she was still able to function but with a lot of pain. During the night she would get up to go to the restroom and would fall. During the first couple of months I was able to help her up off the floor. As time passed she got weaker and it hurt her when I tried to help her. I felt powerless and broken hearted that I was hurting her when I was trying to help her. Luckily our neighbor was a trained in health care. She told my grandmother that when she needed help no matter what time it was she would come over. She is a great lady. She is my best friend’s mother so I’m a little biased. When I could no longer help her our neighbor came over when I called. She was able to lift her up from the floor with minimal pain. I was thankful that she was there. At this point I knew that she may not recover. I was still in denial. I was a difficult child with a lot of abandonment and anger issues. I told myself that if I’d been a better child she never would’ve developed cancer. I began to ask God not to take her. I told HIM that I would be a better person of he made her better, if HE made the cancer exit her body never to return.
Once day I came home from school and I asked my great -uncle (her son) how she was. He just shook his head and said not good. He didn’t have much else to say. Really before I even asked I saw the look of a great sadness in his eyes. I looked over at her and she just moaned in pain. I tried to talk to her and she tried but it was difficult for her. She couldn’t even open her eyes. She just said Tisha hi. I hurried back into my room and broke down. I knew deep in my heart that it wouldn’t be a good ending. The same day my great-great-aunt (her sister) arrived with my two sisters who she was raising. I was happy to see them but not under the circumstances. There was a darkness that surrounded the house. It was as if everyone knew what was going to happen but no one wanted to say it. I sat in the living room with everyone and sat and talked to each other but more to her. I went back and forth between the living room and my bedroom where my sisters were. I cried and cried. She said don’t cry please don’t cry. I said ‘oh grandma’. I told her that I was sorry for not being a better child. I told her that I loved her and that she was my mother. I tried to hold back my tears but I held her hand and said she’ll be all right. I went back and took a seat in a chair. My aunt told me that it was getting late and that I should probably go to bed. I didn’t want to but she was right. I went to bed that night with such a heavy heart. I woke up later that night it must have been around 11:00 pm to Midnight. I walked down the hallway to check on my grandmother. By then her other sister arrived. I looked over and asked them why did they cover her up like that. They said Tisha. I said ‘no no no no no’ and began to cry. One of my aunts yelled for my baby sister to come console me. I didn’t understand how this could happen to such a wonderful lady. I cried myself to sleep that night.
The next day I was told to go to school. I didn’t want to but sitting home was painful as well. I was conflicted. I wanted to be there. When I arrived at school all of my cousins and friends gave me so much love and support. I loved all of them but no matter how many hugs I got it couldn’t fix my heart. I tried to focus on my classes but I couldn’t. I wrote down the homework assignments and put them in the backpack for later. I wasn’t listening to any of the teachers. I don’t remember much about that day. I emotionally checked out I was unavailable. When I got home I helped make phone calls to people informing them of my grandmother’s death. Each time I told someone that she passed away it was equivalent to having ten knives plunged into my body simultaneously. It was as if I was reliving the night she passed away all over again.
The day of the funeral I was calm. I wanted to cry but I thought I held up pretty well. I couldn’t tell you how I got to the church. I don’t remember whether I was in the limo or with my father. Prior to getting to the church I don’t remember much. I do remember people lining up for the funeral and thinking wow she was loved. I don’t remember entering the church. I do remember seeing some people come in and sit down. I remember when the last viewing occurred at the end of the funeral. They went to close the casket and I lost it. I screamed and begged my family not to let them close it. They held me close. I couldn’t take it.
The months after her death were extremely painful. Somedays I came in from school and expected to see her. When I realized she wasn’t coming back I went into my room and cried. I felt guilty. I felt guilty for being in her home while she was in the ground. I felt guilty for being alive. I felt guilty for not being as obedient as I should have been at times. I didn’t know what to do or to think. I didn’t want to talk about it and bottling it up inside was a costly mistake. In 1998 I lost the woman who raised me. She was my mother. She was there when I was sick, happy, sad, and mad. She was there in my brightest and darkest moments. I couldn’t cope. I refused to get help. I thought that if I cried enough I would be just fine. I refused to deal with my grief or acknowledge it. In 2001 I would have to deal with the most unimaginable grief possible to me.