My first encounter with grief

by Jan 16, 2023

Two years ago, I went from living my best life ever to the most painful year in a matter of months after losing my grandma and soul dog back to back. 

Mother’s Day forever changed 

There’s a certain cruelty in life when a celebratory day is marked with a sad event. I received a call on Mother’s Day that my grandmother, the woman who had raised me since infancy, slipped and broke her hip. It was bad. She was a diabetic and in frail health already. Against all odds, she survived her hip surgery, and I survived the hours of waiting by writing into my journal and taking two shots of tequila. This relief was short-lived. 

On a morning, at 5:35am a couple of days later, I received a call from my mom. I knew — no one calls with good news at that hour. I reached for Bo, he gazed into my eyes and then nuzzled his head against my chest, to hold my heart. In tears my mom said, “Mom is gone, honey.” 

I closed my eyes, held on to Bo even tighter and tried to go back to sleep. I desperately hoped it was all an ugly nightmare. Eventually Bo needed a walk and I woke my partner to the news. He hugged me and then asked what I needed. I told him I needed to keep moving, I did not want to feel my feelings.  

The rest of the days were a blur – I flew to Peru. We buried grandma and the whole time I felt like I was no longer in my body – it felt like this was happening to someone else. 

A second unexpected goodbye 

A day after burying my grandmother my partner called saying that Bo was unable to walk. He didn’t want to worry me, he was going to take him to the emergency vet just in case. Hopefully it’s nothing babe, try not to worry.

Minutes later I got second call. Bo collapsed, we need to prayHe was crying. This man hardly ever cried. 

For a minute – I forgot about my mom’s own loss and hollered for her in between sobs. The rest of our extended family rushed to my room too, and we all prayed together. I will never forget my mom’s words (this is a woman who sees pets as pets, not a furr babies)

God – we’ve already had a big loss. Please, look after Bo. He is my daughter’s light, she needs him more than ever.

A third call came in.

He has cancer. It’s terminal. I don’t think he can hold on until you’re back.

A book I wish I read sooner

The months that followed these losses were a blur. I became a different person. I wish I’d found, Grief Is Love sooner. My professional motivations failed me. Reading, the antidote to hard shit, failed me.

I know now, I had to move through it, on my own timeline.

When I was not crying, I was angry. Angry at God for taunting me with 3 months with my grandma, 3 months that left me yearning for more. Angry for taking away Bo, I’d only had him for one year. Bo was around 5 years old and had been in the shelter for 9 months before we rescued him. It wasn’t enough time.

But even a lifetime is not enough with the ones we love. 

Reaching acceptance 

During one of my road trips from Maryland to Atlanta, I was crying and speaking to God. I had not spoken to him in many months. I was calling him out again until I recalled a memory. A painful one.

My grandma suffered from diabetic neuropathy and at times the pain was uncontrollable. I remember witnessing her in pain, feeling helpless, and coming really close to asking around for a drug dealer. Maybe weed would help? Nevermind that weed in Peru is not legal.

I went to the bathroom, locked the door, and sobbed. I remember telling God:

Give me the pain. I can handle it. I’m young, I’m strong. But please, don’t hurt make her hurt anymore.

There it was. The pain of losing her — that was my pain to carry but it meant she did not have to endure any more pain. That was my introduction to grief. When I’m in pain I often ask, what is this experience trying to teach me? 


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