Funny how when you lose a loved one, grief takes on a different form for each person going through it. Although there are certain stages and general characteristics of grief, no two experiences are the same. Each individual most go through their own journey in order to grieve in the best way possible for them. There is no right or wrong way to experience grief. You are the one in charge of how you grieve and in what way works best for you.
When we lost my grandmother, I found deep comfort in being with family and surrounding myself with her memories. For me, that brought peace and healing. After her funeral, my cousins and I sat in her room and talked about the life we had lived as children. We sat in the room without her there, yet her presence was somehow still close by. The room where we had been on so many occasions before for sleepovers when we were giggly young girls, as hurting teenagers when we needed a grandmother’s touch and as adults bringing in our own children to experience the wisdom that only a grandmother can give. Growing up, we had all spent countless days with her and with each other. Her love for us and her faith in God molded and shaped each of us into who we are today. She was the glue that held our family together. A strong woman, larger than life, hidden beneath a tiny frame.
As a child, I always admired her style. She was a classy lady, an artist, soft spoken and gentle. During sleepovers at her house, I would immerse myself in her closet and try on as many of her articles of clothing that I could manage to put on in one setting in an attempt to imitate her. When people would comment that I was like her, I would beam with pride. As a teenager, I found that I could finally actually fit into her clothes and we began the clothing trade that went on for many years. Fortunately, for me, my grandmother had impeccable taste and her clothing was always well thought out. I thoroughly enjoyed taking home a sweater, dress or a pair of her shoes after a visit with her. She loved to share her belongings with her grandchildren and for me it always seemed as if when I wore her clothes that I had her close by even when we were apart. I also brought her clothing items of mine that I thought she would like. It was a fun trade and I think we both enjoyed the variety it offered to each of our wardrobes over the years. When I moved away, the visits became few and far between and each piece of clothing from her became more and more valuable to me.
After my cousins and I had sat in her room for sometime, sharing stories and shedding tears as well as a few laughs, my cousin Lisa suggested we go through Grandma’s closet. At first it felt odd to be going in there without her present, but as I stood in her closet looking at her well organized array of clothing, it felt like she was with me. Just as I had tried on her clothes so many times before, it brought back warm memories of days gone by. I could remember when she wore each outfit, for she saved everything. Being in her closet was like a final goodbye to the woman who had helped raise me, the one who not only clothed me in a physical way, but who clothed me in her her love and wisdom. As I wrapped myself up in her sweaters and shirts, cherished memories of when she was alive and here on earth began to surface, allowing me to experience grief in a way that I needed to at that very moment.
For some of my family members, those that had been taking care of her during her last days, their grief looked different as she had become very ill during her last months. It is always difficult to see loved ones suffer, so to them, her entrance into heaven was a welcome homecoming. They had already processed her loss, but for those of us who hadn’t been able to be close to her in her last hours, we needed to find something tangible to hold, touch and see in order to process our grief effectively.
For me, I found solitude and comfort in her closet. Even as I write this now I am wearing one of her sweaters. Although I am still grieving her loss, I am thankful to have had the privilige of having a close relationship with her growing up. She was more than just a grandmother, she was my mentor and friend. Each time I wear her clothes, I can’t help but smile. Knowing that each piece of clothing is a gift from her, helps me to stay connected and to not forget how much she meant to me, which in turn allows me to grieve in the best way possible for myself at this time.
For those of you have have also lost loved ones, may you find peace and comfort in the midst of your grief in whatever way suites you best. May you not gage your grief by someone else’s, or try to emulate what media and others may tell you about the process of grief, but may you find your own path to healing. Lean on others at this time and allow God to surround you with His divine love and peace, for blessed are those who mourn.
In His Love,