No silver bullet
It’s 2019 and I am still writing about grief. “There is no deadline for grieving,” so I was told.
Maybe there’s that one jarring event that elicited a whole new perspective in your life. A single event that challenged you the most. It could be a new job, moving to a new country or getting out of that long-term relationship that wasn’t really healthy to begin with.
In my case, it was the death of my grandmother.Last year, when Lola died, I thought my concept of death was already well-formed, since I had been working in the nursing field for the last five years. “Expired” and “passed away” were euphemisms that I heard every day, such that they would become household terms.
When you are exposed to pain experienced by other people, and it is you they ask intervention or help from, you would think you’d know how to handle yours better. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
In the summer of 2018, I was visiting my best friend who works in the United Kingdom when I received the heartbreaking news that my grandmother passed away. I was set to fly back to Ireland (where I work) when I was informed of the news. The day before that, I remember talking to my mother over the phone.
My friend was inside a clothing store at Piccadilly Circus in London and I called Mama while waiting for my friend outside. The streets were busy. I didn’t realize how sick my grandma was during that time. I talked to my mom, then to grandma briefly, telling her to eat a lot and take care of herself. My mother said that grandma was too weak that her food had to be minced.
Like most Asians, I grew up in a household that doesn’t say “I love you” often. If we did, it would only be on special occasions, and always followed by “hahahaha.” What we lack in affirmations, we compensate with thoughtful actions.
But the day Lola died, I was devastated thinking of all the words I should have said. I should have told her how much I loved her, I should have rung back or maybe stayed on the phone longer. I should have been there on her last months, on her last days, in her deathbed, instead of nursing other people who had the same problem as she had — bladder mass.
I went home to the Philippines for a week to pay my respects and say goodbye. I came back to Ireland and I carried my regrets with me. I struggled with grief a lot; I thought I would never get over it.
The problem with grieving from afar is how everything becomes “virtual.”
There is no physical graveyard you can visit. The people you share your grief with, your sisters and parents, although a call away, are actually 7,000 miles away.
I tried to be as functional as I could be even in grief. I worked a lot, traveled, resorted to running, tried yoga, kept in touch with people I hold dear to my heart, but distanced myself from the rest of the world.
I was thankful for the friends who nagged me to dinner, the friends who didn’t ask what was happening but remembered me in the form of random hi’s and hello’s, the friends who listened when I was on a word vomit, and the family who were right there in spirit to support me.
These are the facets of grief that I didn’t realize existed. I wrote DABDA in my college notes — the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — without really understanding them.
At work, death was too normal that you had to move on within the next 30 minutes, the next 60 minutes or the next day; no one had the time to reflect on the magnitude of what had just happened. But, unknown to us, there was a huge emotional roller-coaster going on in every person grieving. Had we known, would we have been kinder?
It’s 2019, and I am still writing about grief. This time, I am coming from a place of healing. I have come to terms with the idea that Lola is now in a better place, where she and Lolo can dance away.
I went home last November and we paid their graveyard a visit, bringing along Lola’s favorite Jollibee Yumburger and Lolo’s bottle of gin.
We remembered the fond memories and shared laughter over them. This time, no tears. The weight in my heart had been lifted. I think I had finally forgiven myself.
I work in a surgical ward where doctors go around early morning to check the postoperative patients. Sometimes, no matter how much analgesia we’ve given, the patients still feel a little discomfort.
The same words always come out of the doctors’ mouths, and maybe, they’re not wrong: “There is no silver bullet to healing, only time.”
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Reda Regina Galapia, 27, is a Filipino nurse based in Ireland.
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