This blog post isn’t going to win me any points. After all, it’s been a full year since I’ve shared anything here, and to come back with a blog post about grief?
Following holiday gift guides and makeup tips, maybe it’s not the best approach.
In any case, might as well put it out there: I’ve been dealing with the passing of my grandmother (oh, and the slow deterioration of my grandfather – but that’s another post).
It started falling apart in July 2018. I was hot off a work trip in coastal Italy, arguably the best trip of my life (fireworks, and all). I called my mom from the top floor of a cramped 2-family Astoria “home,” sharing my plans to come to Jersey and surprise my dad for his 60th birthday. My mom fell silent.
“Actually,” she said, “I don’t know if right now is the best time.”
Confused, I wondered what the reason might be not to celebrate the milestone. If there’s anything we celebrate in this family, it’s a birthday.
She went on to inform me that my paternal grandmother had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They didn’t want to tell me while I was gone, because there was nothing any medical professionals could do, let alone me.
They do this a lot, actually—not tell me.
Sometimes I grapple with their decisions, but I’m self-aware enough to know I have a tendency to stew and stew until it takes over everything. It creates a fog over my life that’s hard to see through.
The last thing they would want is for it to affect my “condition,” which it most certainly would and 100% did.
I cried more that night than I had in years: a deep, painful cry. It wasn’t only that my grandma was leaving this world but knowing the unavoidable pain my family would go through.
I swiftly made arrangements to move back home for good. I would be there for my family. Always looming in the back of my mind, though, was when.
The doctors said she had 5 months left, and that was in July.
I held my breath when I was traveling, assuring my family that should anything happen I would drop it all and come back home. Family first.
Milan – nothing.
Paris – nothing.
My birthday – nearly.
On that cold day in December, I was woken up an hour into my sleep with the news and started shaking.
As my parents went to the assisted living facility to make arrangements, I went downstairs and just sat in her room – a room she hadn’t occupied in years. Grazing my fingertips against the perfume bottles, old CDs, drugstore beauty products that piled up on her bedside table, I couldn’t hold back.
Tears flowed until I pulled myself together, ran up the stairs and whipped out my laptop – the only thing that made sense at the time.
And I worked.
I fired off emails, made arrangements (the formulaic and cold “sorry can’t make it, my grandma died”), set my out of office, notified my boss, learned how to spell “bereavement,” cleaned the entire house, washed the dishes, swept and vacuumed the floors, consoled my grieving family members until I ultimately collapsed sometime around 5AM.
Then the crowd poured in like a scene out of mother. I reluctantly hugged relatives I didn’t care for, served tea like a dutiful homemaker, and snapped at everyone around me.
From her, I got my love for lipstick, knack for cooking, and my intense mood swings (to put it lightly).
Over the next few days, I poured over old photos, told old stories, and took phone calls in broken Farsi from her old friends in Germany and Saudi Arabia—my grandma had a global presence.
At a point, my dad decided, it was time to get back to it. The benzo-fueled coping would need to come to an end. It was time to get off the floor and wipe the tears away.
He would go back to work, and so would I. And so we did.
I made a choice not to be there at her funeral – that would make it real and honestly too much to bear. I know my limits.
I spent the weekend of her funeral watching over my young cousins and meticulously working on strategy. And it felt great.
In hindsight, the timing couldn’t have been better. Amidst all the changes in structure, conference planning, and last-minute photoshoots, I could pour every bit of myself in there. The conference required attention to detail – attention that I was more than happy to give.
Reporting required combing through the numbers manually for hours. I remember one Saturday looking up from my home office, hour 6 and smiling for the first time in a long time.
Doing this, I felt functional, normal, back.
And so I poured, and I poured, and I poured. At night. Through weekends. Through holidays.
Following the high of the conference, I felt it. I felt it at the diner after the wrap party.
Back on the east coast, I rolled my four bags into the quiet house after my red eye. The house felt emptier than it ever had before.
In my head, something in me shouted that all of this happened. This happened. And with that the pain started c r e e p i n g back in.
I pushed it down.
I’ll face it when I’m stronger.
I grabbed my laptop. It’s time to prepare for the next project.
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