How a Chicago Public Schools student dealt with grief

Lidia Lemus is a junior at Hancock College Prep High School on the city’s Southwest side.  Earlier this year, she faced the death of a loved one for the first time.  While everyone’s journey through the stages of grief is different, Lidia offers this reflection about her experience.

On Wednesday February 11, 2015 I received a text during my fourth period. “Hey honey. I’m sorry to tell you this but grandma just passed away. You know she was really sick but she’s in a better place now.” My vision was getting blurry and I knew my tears were going to start pouring out any second. I asked Mr. Salazar if I could go to the bathroom before anyone noticed, but when I blinked the tears were already running down my cheeks. Rushing out of the classroom, I thought, “This has to be a nightmare.”

Have you ever denied the truth so much just so you won’t get hurt? “This can’t be happening,” echoed in and out of my brain causing me to grief just thinking about it. I’d never been in a situation like this before. It was so overwhelming trying to face reality so I started to avoid it. I became numb to the feeling. When dealing with loss, I eventually realized that it’s important to face reality and not hide from the facts. HelpGuide resources explain,”It’s important to be strong in the face of loss.”  As much as I wanted to avoid everyone as if they were my problems, I couldn’t. I knew if I wanted help, I was going to have to talk to counselors, friends, and family members. HelpGuide states, “Draw loved ones close and accept the assistance that’s offered, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or help with funeral arrangements.”

After awhile my thoughts changed to, “I know whose fault this is.” At this point, I was feeling an overwhelming amount of anger. I believed deep down the doctors taking care of my grandma were to blame for everything. They weren’t checking in the right places and when they finally discovered the problem, we were out of time and she only had days left. I literally felt as if I were a bottle of Diet Coke with Mentos shoved inside of me. Why are they even doctors if they can’t do their job correctly? Whether it was or wasn’t their fault, I was angry with the fact that this had to happen to my family and me.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way; she was only 65 years old and should’ve lived her last couple of days happy. Instead, she was pale and in pain in a hospital bed. In the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t take my anger out on anyone or else. I would deal with the consequences in the end. American Psychology Association resources clarify, “Use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is ‘not out to get you.’ You’re just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it’ll help you get a more balanced perspective.” It’s important to remember that being angry will only make things harder for us and the best way to release that anger is by doing activities that’ll distract us.

It didn’t take me long to get over the anger but I did begin to feel extremely vulnerable. How couldn’t I? My grandma was never happy; she was always left alone inside that worn out, gloomy house. In fact, she couldn’t sing “Happy Birthday” to me because she couldn’t stand up. It was impossible for her to get up anymore. It’s not fair; she never did anything wrong. I swore I would never be an ignorant person to anyone and I would never talk back to my parents if she could just be given back to us. I was bargaining and didn’t realize it. I thought, “There’s so much we would sacrifice if God could just let her stay a little while longer.” It was really difficult trying to get past this stage.

I blamed myself for her unhappiness. I was always too busy or just didn’t bother asking my mom if we can go check up on her. I deeply and sincerely regret it. Joseph Goldberg, from WebMD points out, “If this stage of grief isn’t dealt with and resolved, the person may live with intense feelings of guilt or anger that can interfere with the healing process.” The best thing for me to do was understand she was gone.

Not too long after blaming the world, I just kept my mouth shut.

“Do you want to eat?”

“No.”

“Want to go shopping?”

“No.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Are you okay?”

“Sure.”

Lying was all I could do to get people to leave me alone. Was this depression? Was this what hitting rock bottom felt like? I have to say it didn’t last very long but it did keep me from leaving my bed. I had to miss school and when I returned the following week, I just didn’t care about anything. The fog I was in made me extremely uninterested in everything. By the looks of it, the pain was certainly catching on and it was eating me alive. I yearned for help every day but how could anyone fix this? It was definitely impossible.

This stage was like a rain storm you couldn’t escape from but only wait until it passed. WebMD resources justify,”Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. Isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.”

Is there really always a light at the end of the tunnel? I believe so. Finally accepting the truth felt like finishing a 26 mile marathon, wanting to give up so badly before getting to the finish line. It’s the most strenuous thing to conquer. This was simply the part I felt the rainy cloud finally dissipate. Everything seemed clear to me and I learned an important lesson from this.

Whether you lose your grandma, grandpa, friend, father, brother, or aunt… it’s an obstacle we face everyday. “Remember, throughout a person’s lifetime, he or she may return to some of the earlier stages of grief. There is no time limit to the grieving process. Each individual should define his or her own healing process,” WebMD advises. A student from Hancock, Alexandra Fragoso explained, “I think it’s okay to grieve but it isn’t right to be obsessed. Accepting that they’re gone is important to do so your loved one can rest and you won’t weep and lock yourself up anymore.” `

I realize now, it’s okay to feel what I felt before. That doesn’t mean I didn’t move on. These tragedies we come across are nightmares. Nightmares we are able to escape, but it’s up to us whether we wish to wake up and face them or not. Some days I still wake up into this nightmare but I find an anchor that’ll keep me sane and grip onto it.

The way I find peace is to go running or isolate myself and read. This puts me at ease when I’m stressed. There’s so much going in my head. When I’m running or reading, I let myself calm down because I know I won’t listen to anyone else.

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