Today I want to talk about grief. I have had my fair share of grief in my life mostly from a young age actually. Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK)- “The “third culture” to which the term refers is the mixed identity that a child assumes, influenced both by their parents’ culture and the culture in which they are raised” (Merriam-Webster). TCK’s often deal with & go through there a lot of grief. Grief when people you become close with as a child leave to move to another country, grief when your best friend moves away for a few years, grief when your family moves & the list could go on. Not only did I have to grieve from what was part of being a TCK but I also grieved the death of my mother. When I was 2 ½ years old my family was involved in a tragic car accident that killed my mother.
Grief is complex & never easy to understand especially when you are in the midst of it. Honestly, while I was only 2 years old when my mother passed away I spent my whole life grieving the absence of a mother figure. And as I said grief was not easy & was complex in how I was grieving. In fact it wasn’t until I pursued my Master degree that I realized that I had grieved my whole life from losing my mother. And along with that grief was also the grief of people coming in & out of your life. It was never easy & it was never talked about as grief within the outside community. Thankfully, I had a father who knew that grief was not a one-time thing but something that we may experience in different scenarios & was able to explain to a very young Esther (every time it came up) that it was okay to be grieving. Often times I felt that I just did not have the right to grieve my mother. In my mind I would wonder “why should I, I only knew her for 2 ½ years” however, 2 ½ years is long enough to build an attachment to a primary caregiver. And beyond that regardless of how long she was in my life I had the right to grieve such an incredible loss. While I have spent most of my life being faced with grief on various levels I had not experienced major grief until January of this year. Let me start by saying this. I am telling you how I have experienced grief & where I am currently at. Know that grief shows up in many different forms & there is not an equation to “heal” from grief, so my encouragement to you is to allow yourself the time & space to grieve.
My hopes in writing this out is that if this can help one person than that is great but most importantly this is for me!
In January of this year I was informed that a very dear mentor & someone that cared deeply for me during a very rough season in my life had passed away in a tragic accident. And boy let me tell you this shook me to the core. While I had experienced the grief of losing my mother at a young age I had not experienced losing a mother figure in my mid to late 20’s. As a psychotherapist I felt I knew how I should feel & knew all the right things to tell myself, except this didn’t work. I learned that I needed to let myself just grieve how I needed to grieve. For me this meant ugly crying & questioning why this happened, it meant being upset & angry, it meant being in denial, & it meant coming to terms with what happened & her death. I listened to songs over & over that we used to listen to together or songs that reminded me of her. In fact to this day I can’t listen to those songs without thinking of her & ultimately crying. I have learned to be okay with my grief & allowing myself the time, space, & opportunity to grieve. I will be the first to admit that I wanted with everything in my being to be able to go to her funeral(s). However, there was a part of me that would just not allow myself to go. I struggled for days & eventually decided against going. I can tell you now that I regret the decision to not go, as hard as it would have been to be there. I know there is healing in celebrating the life of a woman loved by many & who touched many lives. While I did not attend the actual funeral I was able to join online for a memorial service. Kim led a life full of adventure. She saw the potential in others & not only pushed them but was right there beside them to go on life’s journey with. I have been encouraged through my process of grieving Kim to live a life of adventure, to love effortlessly, to give my all every day, to not live in fear, & to be the best me I can be! Kim has left a void in my heart that I know will never be filled. What I do know is that void has allowed me to grow as a person & to love more deeply. I do not expect that my grief will subside anytime soon but I am taking it one step at a time. I encourage those of you who are grieving or who have lost someone or know someone who has lost someone to allow yourself the time to grieve without thinking or forcing yourself to feel a certain way. And to respond to the people who often say “oh, you’re still sad about that” with grace, love & compassion. Grief is complicated, grief is hard, and grief is not easy. When you grieve give yourself grace & compassion. I want to leave you with two quotes that I often feel comfort from.
“Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love” – unknown
“When you survive loss… everyone is quick to tell you how strong you are, and how tough you must be. But actually, no one has a choice to survive grief do they…it’s not optional. You just have to cry in the shower, sob in your pillow and pray you will make it” – Zoe Clark-Coates