“If we don’t explore grief and go into it, we will never be able to touch that edge of the depth of our love.” — Mark Groves
When I heard these words in my favorite Podcast last night, I quickly wrote them down so I could remember them forever.
I often feel like grief is my story. It doesn’t define me, but it has been such a huge part of my life that it has shaped me into a different human. Someone who is a little more broken, a little more sensitive, but also someone who feels more deeply, loves more deeply and lives with more passion and gratitude.
I’ve been in therapy for most of my life to work through this grief. As a child, I sat on the floor every week with a woman named Mercedes who played board games with me like the “Thinking, Feeling and Doing” game but also asked me questions about my mom. I loved our sessions. They even started with picking a snack from the kitchen. And I didn’t know it then, but she provided me a safe space to share my grief over a mother who wasn’t capable of loving me or caring for me the way that I deserved.
It was my first experience exploring my grief and it was also my first experience having a human who felt like they held space for me to speak my emotions without any judgement or expectations.
I wish I could say that I successfully worked through that grief and shedded the pain as if it was a coat I could leave at my door, but I carried it with me in a way that often made me feel like I was not enough for this world. Like I was not worthy of love or happiness. Like I was not smart enough, successful enough, beautiful enough or good enough. I never sat with whether I was enough for myself and continually questioned whether I was enough for others.
As a teenager, I struggled with major depression and would shut my door after school everyday, put my headphones on and cry. I had trouble connecting with people and although I couldn’t recognize it at the time, I was facing the grief of being raised by grandparents who were never in good health. My Grandpa was a stroke survivor who had lost the ability to speak and walk and my Grandma was in and out of chemo and radiation for Lymphoma. I fought with her constantly because we couldn’t see eye-to-eye but I often cried behind that door because I had an immense fear of losing the two people who were, quite literally, my entire world.
At the age of 27, in 2012, my world broke apart in a way that changed my life forever and once again, I found grief in the drivers seat.
That analogy feels quite literal because I was driving when I got the news. It first came as a text that I didn’t see, and then the worst call of my life. It was Sam’s best friend. “Blair. Please tell me it’s not true. I heard Sam died.”
I pulled into a parking lot and called my Grandma immediately. “Please find out. Please find out.” I had a difficult relationship with his family and I couldn’t bare to make the call - so she did. I will never forget the sound she made when she called me back. There were no words and it was a sound I had never heard her make before.
I screamed. I sat in that parking lot and screamed. And for the next few years, grief took the wheel and I was simply a passenger in my own life.
I went to therapy twice a week and would share my pain and my stories and would often spend the entire hour crying. I started seeing a Psychiatrist who over-medicated me but gave me the capability of attempting to function in a world that didn’t stop for my grief. I had shared my life with Sam for almost 8 years and although our relationship hadn’t worked out, he was my very best friend and often felt like the only person in the world who truly understood me. For several years, I simply existed. I got into another relationship without the capability of even loving myself. And in retrospect, I did what I had learned as a child from my grandma who had a very difficult life and I pushed through.
Two years after Sam died, I watched my Grandma die too. And I don’t mean that I watched her in the sense that I was with her when she died, because I wasn’t. But she was sick for so long and as she had always told me “death isn’t easy,” it did not come easily for her. Four nights before it finally took her from this world, I listened to her scream all night and I found myself on my knees, praying to a god I had never even believed in to end her pain.
She told me “I’m scared to die because I’m worried you won’t be okay.” I said “You raised me to be a strong woman and I will be okay.”
But I lied. Her loss took the light from my world. I stepped into a deep depression and although I was functioning, I lived in that darkness for 3 more years until eventually reaching out to a therapist that specialized in grief and PTSD.
That therapist later told me “Your grandma was your life raft in rough waters.” Her words brought an immense amount of emotion out of me because I had felt like I was drowning since she died and barely keeping my head above water.
I started doing the work. It was hard work. But we started at my childhood and worked through the years that broke me. She helped me put the pieces back together. I wasn’t the same anymore. I felt like a puzzle with missing pieces. Like parts of me had gone with the people I loved.
And I learned to fill those spaces with my own love. A new love. Not for anyone else, but for myself. I held space for myself, I spoke gently to myself, gave myself grace for the things I had done to survive. And I loved myself.
I spent the next few years focusing on my relationship with my grandpa. I visited him at least twice a week at the Veteran’s Home and although he couldn’t speak, we formed a new relationship and those years were a gift to both of us. When he passed away in 2018, it was really hard, and I grieved deeply.
But it didn’t break my world apart. And it wasn’t because I didn’t love him. Losing my last parent was a new level of grief. But I had learned to do the work. I sat with my grief. I held it. I worked through it.
I loved myself and I asked “What do I need?” and my heart responded.
I booked my 10 year dream trip to Everest Base Camp and 6 months after he passed away, I stood at the base of the highest mountain in the world and I cried in a way I had never cried before. I was proud of myself for the first time in my life. I felt surrounded in love and although the people I loved and lost had carried away pieces of me - I felt complete.
As I tied a prayer flag up for each of them, I spoke to them softly. “I love you so much. I miss you so much.”
And I spoke to myself softly.
“You are enough. You have always been enough. I love you so much.”