Reflections for when you’re overwhelmed with loss and change

These days, grief is our companion.

We grieve lives claimed by Covid-19, as well as everything else the pandemic has taken from us – from canceled plans to frayed relationships. 

We grieve our fallen service members.

We grieve for yet others harmed by storm and fire, as well as the homes and livelihoods lost in these disasters. 

Since my father’s death in 2017, I have been writing about my experience with grief and life changes. In doing so, I have come to understand how healing our own hurts helps us repair the world. This is the work embodied by the Hebrew phrase Tikkun Olam. And I hope that what I have learned along the way can be of use and comfort to you, whatever form grief is taking in your life right now.

Hiding From Grief

I have an undergraduate degree in mass communications, a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership — and a PhD in compartmentalizing my feelings. The loss of my father, of course, started to bring up lots of emotions for me. Emotions I hadn’t even realized I was carrying.

At first, I tried to play hide and seek with those feelings. I did what I always used to do: I just kept moving. It’s so easy to not tell a friend that you are grieving. It’s so easy just to not return a phone call, text or email instead of talking about how much you are hurting. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly great for my relationships. With me MIA, some people (understandably!) thought I didn’t care about them. But I was just trying not to fall apart.

Then life stopped me in my tracks. The concussion I suffered in 2019 forced me to be still, rest and give myself grace. This was something I hadn’t done before because I was so focused on climbing the career ladder. As the pandemic continued to keep me off the road for work, I continued to face those feelings, and I began to repair some relationships.

When Loss Is All Around

Anyone who has experienced grief knows that it’s a journey, but not a linear one. I’m feeling a lot of déjà vu myself lately. My grandfather passed away on Easter Sunday 2020. Again, it became easy to not fully deal with grief, especially since Covid restrictions kept me from attending his funeral. Now, a year and a half later, my grandmother is suffering from some of the same health problems he had. After a summer in and out of the hospital, she’s now in palliative care.

Just a few weeks ago, my friend Brent Henley died suddenly from septic shock. That loss was still much on my heart when another friend texted me about the serious health issues she was facing. That was also the same day that yet another hurricane, Ida, made landfall in my home state of Louisiana.

And now I begin to process a new type of grief — and it’s one that I didn’t expect. I grieve the children that I will never be able to carry, as I just learned that I am unable to have children. The grief process begins again.

So much for running away.

May Their Memory Be a Blessing

All of this has me in a very solemn place. I’m not trying to avoid the tears. Instead, I am opening myself up to their transformative power. On the days I feel overwhelmed by grief or change, I always start by going back to the breath. I then try to visualize how I want to feel, where I want to be, who I want to be. I lean on the people who can help me in my journey. Sometimes it’s enough just to know they’re standing alongside me.

Finally, I do the healing work I am meant to do. The game of hide and seek with grief is over. By unpacking all those hidden-away feelings, I am emerging as a stronger person.

There’s also one more thing that carries me through pain. Have you ever heard the Jewish saying “May their memory be a blessing”? I’m choosing to think of the power that all the incredibly inspirational people in my life have given me — the lessons, the stories, the love.

I have written and spoken frequently about the influence my grandparents have had on me. They knew they were here for something bigger, and they taught me to believe the same thing about myself. I’m also thinking a lot about my friend Brent’s legacy. He was a DE&I advocate in the early 2000s — before that was even really a thing. As a White male, he taught me and many others how to think about equity and empathy while being leaders in our community. I use lessons from him every day in my work.

My friend who is in the hospital has given me a gift by sharing her fears and vulnerabilities, both now and throughout our friendship. She has helped me shed some of my own fears and take meaningful actions in my life.

These loved ones and friends have filled me with the positive energy I need to do my life’s work. At times, remembering them invites a me-set. This me-set, a small moment of rest, reminds me of how I can heal the world one movement at a time. And so have the dear ones in your world — the ones you’ve lost, the ones you may be saying goodbye to now, the ones you will never know and the ones you have many more days to learn from and cherish. May we honor them with our purpose, our courage and our joy.

With Faith & Fortitude,

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