Here’s my truth: over the last two weeks I sat down to write this and then rewrote it and then wrote it again. (Sound familiar?)
Nothing written here can be found in my initial pieces and honestly it’s because I’m not in a place where I can share that part of my story just yet. Until today, I wasn’t even sure I was going to publish anything at all. I’ve had a hard time making sense of my thoughts enough to be able to explain to others the way I see the last year. Below is where I try.
On Tuesday the 10th it was a year since my grandma passed away. Since I started Too Damn Young I’ve had many conversations with teens and adults, therapists and non-therapists, and all of their opinions vary on what one year means to them.
For some, the one year anniversary is this weight that arrives on their shoulders the minute the clock strikes twelve because the world around them expects them to be over it. Whatever that means.
For others, the one year anniversary is simply (and not so simply) a reminder of all the firsts your loved one missed. It’s a moment you live in your head because maybe the words aren’t ones you can say out loud, or maybe no one’s asked to hear them.
For me the last year is a combination of extreme highs and extreme lows.
My grandma died. She died on March 10th, 2014 at a little after 2pm. For the last two weeks I’ve been reliving her going back to the hospital. Her struggling to breathe in a hospital room. I’ve relived conversations with doctors. I’ve gone back to that moment, that hallway, that vastness of the ICU that managed to make me feel like I was standing in a 4×4. I replay myself giving my “okay” for things I never thought I would have to give my okay for.
I hate certain words now. (I didn’t think this was possible.) I hate the words palliative care, quality of life and comfort care because no matter what synonym is used the subject of that sentence is in the process of seizing to exist.
I have hard moments and sometimes I have hard days.
On the flip side I’ve gotten stronger. I’ve found my voice in ways I hadn’t a year ago. 80% of the time, I no longer fear saying the words, “my grandma (aka my second mom) died.” I no longer feel like I have to cushion it for the next person to hear because I deserve the opportunity to not live in my own head with this, if that’s what I want. (20% of the time the struggle is still very real.)
I’ve received many emails since I started Too Damn Young and they have all contributed to my highs. I officially launched this website a day after I graduated from college, but I really started this website in my head days after my grandma died.
I needed an anchor in my otherwise shifting world and that anchor became Too Damn Young, it also became the window God cracked open for me in a closed off room.
Since I graduated, people’s favorite question to ask has got to be — “What do you do for a living?”. My response varies, but for the most part always comes back to, “I run a website for teens and young adults who have lost someone they love.” Most times this helps me start a thoughtful conversation on why it’s so important to talk about grief and loss with teens.
What I don’t tell most strangers, but I do tell my friends (a lot) is that the real reason I started Too Damn Young was probably a selfish one. I’m the young adult who lost someone they love. I am the young adult who really, really needs a place that could make things a little easier. I need to be reminded I’m not alone.
The fact that I spend most of my days working on a site that focuses on grief means that my friends are constantly reminded that I’m living through this. I’m lucky because this makes it 1000000xs easier for me to be honest about when I’m sad and when I’m just having a shitty day because this one thing reminded me of my grandma. Or about how uncomfortable this one person made me feel because he just didn’t know how to see the strength behind my scars.
I’ve been so open with how sucky these last two weeks were for me that my friends, for the most part, felt comfortable approaching the topic. They offered shoulders and burgers because they know there’s no way to fix this but there are ways to live through it with more ease.
In the last year I’ve learned that it’s VERY important that I’m not the only person who can speak about this openly with my friends. The general public has to get to a place where a teen or young adult feels comfortable speaking of their loss because the alternative is isolation. It’s depression, it’s loneliness and it’s nonexistence.
I’m sad. I still feel my grandma’s loss. This will not be the only time I live through firsts. I’ll miss her when I get my first apartment, get married or have my first kid. Crap, I’ll probably miss her when I file my taxes for the first time because sometimes this is just how this all works.
My first year without her and the first year since her death are in my eyes two different things. One demands tears and sadness, the other expects moments of life and progress. My life will forever be a combination of both, I’m okay with this. I’m not in remission of my grief, I’m just learning to live alongside it.