By: Fazeeda Shamshuddin
My therapist often shares with me the metaphor of; while you can’t control the waves,
you can learn how to surf. It’s so fitting to use this in the context of grief, as it is typically described as coming to you in waves. Ultimately you just have to learn how to live with it, and even embrace those fickle waves.
Grief, in general, is difficult, confusing, and Earth-shattering.
Grief amidst a worldwide pandemic resulted in having to absorb personal heartache, along with the collective global community pain and having to navigate a new, strange normal.
My Nannie (maternal grandmother) immigrated to Canada in 1995 when I was ten
months old and lived with my family for 24 years until her passing in March 2020. She was my caregiver and was resolute in her devotion to her children and grandchildren. The last few years of her life she faced significant health challenges which allowed for a role reversal, wherein I got to be her caregiver. Just writing that brings a smile to my face, knowing that I was able to give back to her in that way. Her passing was a shock because as a family, especially in the months leading up, we were used to her going in and out of the hospital. This time, however, due to the pandemic none of us were allowed to go into the hospital with her.
It breaks my heart each and every time I think about it; just knowing I couldn’t be there to comfort her in her final moments.
It was the first time in my life that I had lived my life without her by my side, and I couldn’t fathom all of the firsts I would have without her. My first birthday without her was probably the hardest, knowing that our birthdays are two weeks apart. Those waves just kept on crashing.
Nearly a year later, I find myself coming to terms with the loss of an influential life figure but it hasn’t gotten easier as much as I wish I could say it has. What has lessened the pain is finding ways to incorporate her in everything that I do, and the picture that accompanies this text highlights that in the most beautiful way. Nannie used to refer to this corner of our house as her office, wherein she would take all her very important calls from Guyana, or the United States from. I’ve now turned it into my actual office space since working from home and having her picture hanging in a frame next to makes each day bearable.
As I wrote this blog piece, I played her favourite songs on repeat to have those lovely, happy memories with me.
It’s the small things that I try to enjoy and live in those memories, and on the days that sadness takes over—I journal and cry it out. I can’t bring myself to walk past her room door, and if someone’s accidentally left it open, it hurts still. And that’s okay. If you take anything away from this, let it be that caring for yourself, being kind to yourself and giving yourself permission to feel all the feelings you have during the grieving process will make it better or at least manageable, I promise.