What Experiencing Grief Taught Me About My Mental Health

Author: Gary Taylor, MSW, URMND Contributor

It was Monday August 6th. I had just finished at the gym and headed to work. I felt amazing that day. I got to work ahead of time, (I’m lying) but it was close. Then my phone rings and and the conversation made my heart drop. My mother tells me that my grandmother, whom have been sick for some time, was not expecting to live and they were calling the family in. Ten minutes later, my mother texts that my grandmother had passed away.

This was my first time dealing with grief as an adult, therapist and Christian to someone I was very close with. As I tried to remove myself from the world, wanting to crawl up in a ball under the covers and stay in my bed all day. I found that I did too much thinking and ruminating on the passing of my Nanny. It would come in waves, I would be fine one minute, then upset the next, which is normal. I was fine with death as I prayed and held on to a scripture I taught on the weekend prior (Psalms 34:18).

However, it was the absence of my grandmother that was troubling and will continue to be an issue. It was at this time, I found that my encounter with grief called for me to maintain my daily routine. I did take a day off after the passing just to reflect, but it was that day off when I realized it. I kept reminders of my grandmother and for most of the week. I didn’t even do any posting on social media which is unusual. As I got back into my routine, what helped me was processing with my wife but still going on with our life, talking with friends talking about everyday stuff with room to talk about the loss if necessary and maintain my daily routine, gym, work, family time and decompress.

It was tough to continue writing, but I eventually wrote through it. My grandmother was a very strong woman, and she loved and cared for people so much. She knew the type of work I did, and was proud to see me do so. It is of my belief that her love of people was gifted to me and one of the reasons I chose the field of Social Work. As a result, once I processed all of this it reminded me that the only way I could grieve appropriately on my terms was to utilize the gift my grandmother has given me into action:

Love and her love of people.

I had to continue to do my job as a social worker, community organizer, change agent and mental health advocate, which I did the day after her funeral.

I know grief is different for everyone and everyone handles it differently. I encourage those who are reading to use my story of how I dealt and continue to deal with the passing of my grandmother as a way to help you process a loss of a loved one. Maybe you are a friend of someone who has lost a loved one and don’t know how to support them, I hope this can help you as well. The best thing from what I have experienced during the grieving process is the space yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to feel every emotion, it is truly ok. My wife told me the day when she passed, “It’s ok if you are upset, It’s ok if you are sad”. Those words helped a lot because I was allowed to feel every emotion, and own it during that time and still am.

I think sometimes during the grieving process we are not allowed the space to own those emotions and feelings, which never gives us the proper time to process. Allow space to maintain daily routines and time to heal, friend supporters also allow for this in conversation. These are all things that can help with your mental health or someone you are supporting. Never put a timetable on grief. I encourage you to lean on your own things that make you happy, and helps maintain your mental health to keep you balanced. I still went to the gym and I still played basketball, it helped me dearly.

It was tough but I forced myself to do so, in order to keep my mental health intact, and manage the grieving process. Lastly, as always remember your loved one at their best and cherish those memories it will keep you smiling when you have low points. Remember the gift they bestowed upon you during their time here, and utilize it to its fullest capacity. This article here is healing for me, and I hope it is to you as well.

Rest in Peace to My Nanny, Lucy Mae the REAL OCG.

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