Embracing Uncomfortableness: Life Without You
I remember the day I got the call. It was Thursday, July 26th, 2018, the day after my birthday and I was in Chicago for an orientation to prepare myself for my future job. That was the day my world took a turn for the worse. I was in sessions all morning learning things that would help me navigate my new job and I missed a lot of calls from my mom. Because of the busy schedule, I was not able to call my mom back until the end of lunch. When she picked up, I knew that something was wrong by her voice, but was not expecting to hear what she had to say. She said, “Phyllis, your Nana has passed away”, and I could not control myself. It was like I was having an out of body experience. It was a mixture of shock and pain, the only thing I could do was cry. All I wanted in that moment was to believe that it was not true. I could not wrap my head around her passing because I talked to my Nana the previous Sunday and she sounded like she always did — happy.
How could someone with so much life, love, and happiness be taken away from me? She was the woman who was there for all my big and little moments, how could I live without her?
Flying home a few days later to be with my family was when it became real. I could no longer go through the motions that everything was okay, I had to come to terms that my Nana was really gone. Being face-to-face with the pain was something that I was not ready for because I was comfortable avoiding my feelings. It was easy putting up a front that everything was okay, until I saw my family unleashed all the feelings that I kept inside. My favorite artist, Kehlani says that, “God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And as much as anyone can say how invincible I seem or how fearless I am or how brave I must be, I'm still human”.
These words got me through all the feels during the days after her passing and funeral. Reminding myself of my humanity was not always easy because it forced me to be real about what I was feeling and let people in. I wanted to be the girl who had a strong exterior during adversity, but knew that I could not keep up this facade. In order for me to honor my Nana, I had to let myself grieve and be connected to the people who love me. I was becoming okay with letting people in and carry some of my grief when I could not carry it all by myself.
George Bonano, a professor of clinical psychology and author of “The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss”, says that grief is not a steady process, but rather an "oscillation, like everything inside of us". In the time since, I have definitely had a lot of good days, but also my fair share of the bad. Luckily, my family and friends have been there for me every step of the way.
Fast forward to the present, and I am currently spending most of my time with family and friends before my big move to Peru. Serving as a post-grad volunteer was always my plan, but Peru was something that I knew would give me a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I deserved after receiving my degree. My Nana had always supported my decisions, so I knew that this was the right move for me to be taking. Although it has been months since my Nana has passed, not a day goes by when I do not think of her. I know that she is smiling down from heaven at all of the things I am doing. She has made the woman I am today: resilient, proud, and ultimately happy.
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