My Creative Key to Coping

The summer months were some of the most joyful for me all while processing the grief of losing one of my best lifetime friends, my grandmother.  While I was totally at peace with her passing, I was not always at peace with her decline.  She was such a vibrant woman and so full of spunk that she was off-putting to those with more docile personalities.  

She easily offended because she did not mince words and she certainly did not ignore the elephant in the room.  When the dern elephant was taking up too much space, she was the one to march to the front of the room in spite of the elephant’s butt pushing her to the side, and announce that the unspoken would be spoken. 

I recall when she announced to me she was retiring from her job at the Dallas Urban League.  

“Huh, why are you doing that mama?” I asked over the phone during our morning call on my way to the office.  I called her just about every morning after I dropped my kids off at school.  If did not call in the early, I called when I hopped in the car for the commute back to their school. 

“Whaddya mean, why? I’m tired of working.” she answered with a pop. 

“What are you going to do then? I mean every day.  What are you going to do?” 

“I don’t know.  Whatever the hell I want to do.  I’m tired of dealing with other people at work.  They getting on my nerves and I’m tired of mincing words for the sake of someone’s feelings.  They all need to do what the hell they were paid to do and stop making my job so hard,” she lit into another rant about office politics.  

And so it went with her prepping her finances for her retirement.  Several family members attended the retirement party, although I can not readily recall who.   What has stood out so much more about her retirement is how she just stopped.  She stopped shopping for gorgeous clothing that she was known for wearing. She stopped going to see people.  She stopped traveling. She just stopped.  

Initially, I did not think much about it because we were spending so much time together.  Even though I was married, I still spent the night at her house. When I began having kids, she kept them – after some great debate – once a week while I worked an afternoon girls’ group.  And she cooked an occasional meal for us.  

Instead of doing, she started waiting.  She wanted so many things for her life and for reasons that are far too great to explore in this particular blog, they simply did not manifest in the way she would have preferred.  However, many of them weighed heavily on her and I believe contributed to her early choice to stop living life to its fullness. 

So, for years, I wondered about how quickly she was declining and saw it all as pressure she was under to have something that was not instead of creating something that could be.  Maybe not with who or what she wanted it to be, but something nonetheless.  Eventually, I relinquished my heart’s desire to hold onto my last Rosye for all the might I could muster, and settled into loving the time we had.  

When she passed the night of her 82nd birthday, I knew it was coming.  I cried in my husband’s arms two nights before and told him I needed him to go with me to see her.  I needed him to accompany me because I was fearful that I would not be able to stand ten toes down and tell her good-bye.  Fearful that I would not be able to hold her hand in my hand over her heart to feel the last rhythm to our love.  Fearful that I would scare her in my sorrow of losing her.  Fearful that in all my strength passed from her very essence into my being would escape me and keep me stuck in her presence unable to walk away from what I knew would be our last moments together.  And so we went.  And I will always treasure God giving me the time to tell her goodbye. 

Being a clinician does not afford you the ability to process grief neatly.  I would even say it complicates the process because you know how many different ways it can go and you’re steadily running interference attempting to create a nice compartment for it to rest so you can move on with your life. 

So, my silver lining of COVID was the ability to have an extended period of time to grieve her transition.  The outlet for me to process the energy was in the soil.  The energy was so powerful during those first few months of digging and tilling that I would just sit on the ground and absorb the sun ray’s to feel every ounce of the heaviness within me.  When the intensity passed, I resumed my freshman attempts at creating a garden.  Day by day, I went outside at the beginning of the day or the end of the day – depending on my clinical schedule – and worked in the garden.  

To convey how healing the process of starting a garden from dust would take far more than a blog post.  Suffice it to say that whatever growth you see in my garden, is an assortment of petals in my healing and coming to terms with the separation of spirits as one sailed away to spend eternity with our father while the other serves the remainder of her time on earth serving our father.  And everytime I sit in my garden, I feel that much closer to the memories and the essence of who she is in my life. She will never be a “was” because I carry her inside of me.  

Now that summer has come to a close, I am more at peace at this point in my grief. Nevertheless, the creative medium of gardening I chose – well, I did not choose.  I say that because I did not consciously choose gardening as a conduit to processing my grief – it just became evident that it was the perfect option for me because everything was responding to the energy of my hands.  That under the blessing of our God as he embraced me in his early morning sun rays and wisps of wind, the garden flourished.  It is now dormant with the exception of the last few leafy green veggies yet it is not dead.  Even without the bursts of color, it is a balm to my soul because I will forever remember how much healing took place.  

John 16:24

Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 

You deserve the same in your life.  Find a creative medium to serve as an outlet for processing the emotions that make it difficult for you to feel your joy.  Yes, your joy! It is in there.  In John 16:24, it says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  The joy belongs to you!  Dig in and get it just like you would anything else your heart desires.  If you are so burdened that you can not do it alone, get you some help.  Do not steal your joy and ignore your joy.  Do what it takes to get it so that you may be full!