7 Days and 7 Ways of Coping With Grief, Death and Dying
Homegoings, repasts, gospel music, preaching, reading of the resolutions and the black church..rest in heaven Auntie.
My aunt passed away and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I vowed to honor her life by honoring her death for seven days.
As a child, I had some of the most powerful memories in what was then a relatively quiet little town called Aberdeen, Maryland, home to Oriole’s legend Cal Ripkin Jr. and the infamous Aberdeen Proving Ground – my dad’s former workplace. Whenever I knew that a trip was in order, my hometown of Baltimore became nonexistent. Why? Because I knew that my little sister and I could get into mess with my cousins without my parents knowing. Shoot, when my sister and I were dropped off to stay with our Nana in what we referred to as “the country”, all hell would break loose. (Sorry Mom. Sorry Dad). Going on walks to the corner store picking out our favorite flavor of Bubble Yum bubble gum, Now & Laters candy and candy ring pops were the highlights of our day.
My Nana had seven children, three boys, and four girls; three remain. When her two sons and daughter passed away, I didn’t get to attend their funerals or in other words, “I was young, selfish and into myself and sent my love from a distance.” Honestly, I used to loathe funerals. I attended five of them before I reached the legal age of drinking.
My Nana died of a stroke at the age of 54 when I was nine,at 16, my former boyfriend died of a rare illness, my 15-year-old cousin died while diving in shallow water and lastly, three of my friends were tragically murdered (two of them siblings).
At some point in life we will experience grief and loss, whether it’s due to an illness, natural causes or even a tragedy - we WILL experience it. While in my twenties and thirties, I can honestly say that I didn’t want to have anything to do with death. I fled family funerals; I had enough! I wanted to move on – away from death but little did I know that death had followed me to Charlotte, knocked on my door and took my husband’s life February 24, 2012. What seemed like a stomach ache, turned into a tumor, turned into Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, then finally turned to the long wait for the shutting down of his organs once the life-support was pulled. My anticipatory grief swung into action, if only for a few hours. I grieved in the only way I knew how – through music and anger.
Fast forward ...
She has now joined her siblings in death. We recently connected on social media (yes, she opened a Facebook account!). When I realized it was her, I felt like a little girl getting her first taste of Dairy Queen ice cream that I grew to love as a child during my many visits to see my cousins. It was then that I first coined the revamped catch-phrase of a salutation that has now consumed many Millennials. For every reply, I ensured my ‘auntie’ knew that I loved her. So this is where I’m at. I’m in a place of hope, love, and honor. My hope is that others will acknowledge that death is real, it’s inevitable and it’s also a part of life. My love for my auntie will always remain, ‘til death do I part. In honor of her life, I grieved death for seven days and in seven ways. This is what I did:
1) Stayed off of social media – I found a quote on an article by Harvard Business review, Branding in the Age of Social Media, which defines this social media as "bind[ing] together communities that once were geographically isolated, greatly increasing the pace and intensity of collaboration." Let’s admit, this can be a struggle for many. It was a struggle for me.
2) Meditated and prayed – I knew that prayer was one of the most important ways for me to cope with her departure. I used the Abide app to guide me through in prayer and meditation.
3) Attended the home going – I actually couldn’t wait to see my mother’s side of the family who I haven’t seen in years.
4) Informed my children - Share with your children about the good times you had with your loved one.
5) Reconnected with those who have lost loved ones - Reach out and let them know you were thinking about them.
6) Honored the deceased – You're reading it now.
7) Live – don’t take anything for granted. Live each day as if it were your last.
Miss you, Auntie!