Grief is such an interesting concept, let alone process, made up of multiple phases and steps and overlapping emotions. I teach about grief in my health care and sports medicine classes; about the phases and emotions; about how necessary it is to allow individuals to feel and experience whatever it is they are feeling but to also share those emotions and feelings with friends and family or others close to them. This last year has provided many life experiences of learning and growing and leaning into the stages of grief.
In one word, grief is vulnerable. Vulnerability is something that is so powerful yet so challenging in a time of grief. We wear sunglasses at memorial services and gravesides for a reason and it’s not just the beaming sunlight; we hide our tears for a reason—being vulnerable and allowing others to see raw emotion can be both extremely difficult and scary. And to be honest, grief can be quite conflicting and confusing, to say the least.
Yesterday my family came together from Arizona, Texas & California and celebrated my Nana’s life in various ways. Last Monday, she took her last breath at 86 years old. Unfortunately, the last eight months have been an uphill battle for her with health issues, hospital visits, and finally an assisted living facility before returning home to spend her final months of life. As I reflect on yesterday and all it entailed, it was quite a different day for me. It was one filled with a multitude of emotions, some of which I did not fully expect.
We arrived at the graveside and my Aunt Heidi welcomed us with a beautiful and heartfelt commemoration of Nana. Family and friends were invited to share thoughts or memories and it was a beautiful moment in time to just be present with family as we reminisced in memories both recent and of years past; but to be honest, it is all such a blur now. It is hard to remember much of what was specifically shared. What I do remember vividly is what followed our shared family memories: bubbles. Nana would have absolutely loved this. We had multiple great grandchildren present for her memorial service and my aunts and uncle thought it would a sweet way to have them included and keep the mood light. We had bubbles of all sizes blown at Desert Lawn on that scorching hot September afternoon, and I can honestly say I have never experienced a memorial service where both children and adults were allotted the ability to experience such a vast array of emotions: sadness, joy, heaviness, peace…it was beautiful. What started as just children blowing bubbles turned into some of the adults blowing bubbles, too. Emotional releases and laughter and salty tears all mixed together somehow worked. And that seemed to be the theme that carried throughout the day.
We arrived back at my parents’ house to have a celebration of life reception with Nana’s favorite: Mexican food! She sure loved her Mexican food! We decided another way to commemorate a life well lived would be to do a balloon release (yellow balloons, of course) in the back yard. As dozens of yellow balloons were let go into the sky, we looked around at one another and just smiled. The great grand children loved watching them float away in the bright blue sky as a huge cluster together, trying to pick out which one was theirs. Balloons: something I had never experienced at a memorial service or celebration of life reception, but a tangible moment of joy and a moment of symbolism that I didn’t quite grasp until now. Pain-free and no longer suffering, Nana is released from earthly disease and ailments and has been welcomed into her Eternal resting place. I pray it is the sweetest of reunions with Grandpa and that the two of them are waltzing together again, on the streets of gold in Heaven.