Pasta & Uno w/ a Side of Grief
The other day I started to play Uno with my daughter. I had also begun warming some pasta for her, when I sat down and casually stated, "It's so weird that Granddad died. Isn't that weird?" I raised my head a bit to connect with her eyes, longing for someone to not necessarily feel my pain, but to really comprehend and acknowledge in that moment how unfathomable it is that my dad is gone. My father, a constant, a fixed variable, a foundation, the most dependable, firmly independent. Gone. --- "People die everyday. Young and old; it's a natural part of life, and we've all got to go." --- But when you've lost one of the closest people to you, and you're grieving, it's hard to reconcile and make sense of it. In the kitchen with my daughter, as we shuffled, dealt, exchanged cards, and repeated, I sobbed and tried to verbally reason with his absence... I ranted and quietly cried and stirred pasta and played cards. Five minutes? Fifteen minutes? Ten minutes passed? What is time when you're contemplating the loss of a loved one? My daughter calmly asked, "Are you okay?" This sweet little ten year-old knew how to allow me this moment of vulnerability, while she remained composed, yet compassionate with just the right words to say at just the right time. I paused to put some genuine thought into my response. "I'm doing better, much better. I don't cry everyday like I did when he first died, remember?" She agreed. Not that grief or healing or whatever is done as one progresses through life after the death of a loved one, is measured by the frequency of tears or other outward displays of emotion. But my daughter's ten. And I wanted to express myself in terms she could relate to. And I do cry less. And I am doing "better". I grew up in church. I've visited a lot of sick people and attended a lot of funerals. One of the consolations I loathe the most is: It will get better with time. To my own amazement, I tranquilly assured myself, "It will get better with time." From my two years of grief, I've realized that there's more to that statement. There are other things that work together along with time to help grieving people function and create a new normal. In the 2 years since my dad's last breath, I've written and journaled about his life and passing and my life BD (before my dad's death) and AD (after my dad's death) - two acronyms I borrowed from my bestie. Writing has been one of the things that have worked with time to help me through this process. Friends and family are two others. Remembering my dad is the most painful and ironically the most therapeutic.
Kashanna Eiland is the co-founder and Executive Director of Empowerment through Education and Exposure, a nonprofit agency that promotes post-secondary education and career opportunities for Chicago youth. She is also a Social Impact Strategist and Speaker who helps socially conscious individuals and organizations bring their bright ideas to fruition.