The photos in this post were taken a few months after the death of my grandmother, Marie Antionette Thomas in 2007. When you look at these photographs the smiles are apparent, but a camera could never capture the hurt, pain, and anguish that comes with loosing someone so close. When painful situations happen to women in my family, we have a tendency to handle it one of two ways, both which are extremely unhealthy. The first unhealthy option is to completely shut down, get in the bed with the covers over our heads and let life pass us buy. We shut down rather than cope with the changes in our life.
In the beginning of my grieving process, I wanted to be without being interactive with the world. My life changed so drastically, within a few months I just didn't know how to handle it. I was uprooted from my norm. I went from being a care free college student, studying during the day partying at night to a broken young adult forced to deal with the challenges of mourning an immediate family member. I was forced to not only mourn the loss of my grandmother, but to mourn the loss of freedom and independence.
I do not profess to be a psychologist, but after doing a amateur psych study in college, where I surveyed 100 students and asked them questions pertaining to depression and its relationship between loss and frequent change over a short period of time, I am convinced that it is exceptionally challenging for young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 with rapid change in their lives to cope with the situation, which can ultimately lead to depression or mood swings. Depression may not be immediately seen in all young adults, but I do not believe that our coping mechanisms have developed adequately enough to make us fully capable or competent in dealing with frequent change making us more prone to fall into a depressed state.
In my case, I firmly believe that my shut down, was a form of depression, but this was not the end of my unhealthy grieving process. After I shut down, I did the second thing that women in my family do when coping with grief, I got busy. I did everything to keep from thinking about and dealing with my grief. I got a job teaching abstinence around Detroit, volunteered at my church office several times a week, joined media ministry, worked with the youth department, let a friend come stay at my house while having family struggles, and got in an unneeded relationship. I had heard the phrase, "An idol mind is the devils workshop," and I took it literally. This schedule continued for five month, until I decided to transfer to a local Christian college. You would think that my busyness would stop there, it didn't. After enrolling in school I immediately joined a children's improve group, held bible studies in my room, worked at a local retail store, and went to class. Two semesters later I added to this rigourous schedule by becoming an Assistant Resident Adviser (ARA), working an additional job on campus, accepted a position as Student Body President, and was in a relationship with my now husband. (The later part turned out to be benificial, I will update in a later post.) Do you see anything wrong with this picture. Not only was I not sleeping much, I had not dealt with my initial hurt caused by death the year prior. I jumped into the ocean without my life vest on and was sinking fast.
If I knew then, what I know now I would have taken time to cope. I would have only took on one activity at a time,and only worked a couple days a week, because ultimately my body and mind forced me to deal with it. One day after working both jobs, going to class, doing my presidential and residential duties I collapsed in the middle of the hall way. There I was right outside my dorm room, keys strewn on the floor, backpack and books to my side, grungy clothes and dusty converse exhausted, overworked, overtired, hurt, angry, and lost. Not only had I lost my physical balance, the balance in my life was completely off. I was Christian so I didn't want to "fall into the devils trap," but somehow I feel like I did it anyway. In becoming to busy to fast, and not dealing with hurtful situations in my life, I allowed myself to loose focus of who I was and who God made me to be, and did not allow God to heal me. I tried to save everybody, when I was sinking myself.
After dealing with grief over the past four years, I believe that it is important to face the situation head on, rather than shut down or become a busy body. Grieving is healthy, but the way you do it makes all the difference in the world. You will never forget that person, they will always be with you, but you must let go in order to move forward.
I know I am not the only one who has gone through this. How have you dealt with grief in the past? Was it unhealthy or healthy? Have you experienced any of the challenges that I have had when dealing with grief?
Peace and Love,
Najeema Iman, I AM Curly Locks