Keeping It Real by Lyla Kiel
Buckle up! I am about to do just what the title says – keep it real.
In the beginning, if someone asked me how I “got through” my mom’s terminal illness and the grief associated with it, I would give them what I deemed “good for me” things. These “good for me” things helped to clear my mind, center me, and bring me back to the important things. My “good for me” things included, therapy, self-help books, going for walks, talking about feelings, and spending time with family and friends. At the time, I always tried to focus on the positive things, which did help. But, looking back, I now think that keeping it real shows the good, bad, and the ugly. Not everything has to be sunshine and rainbows, because in all honesty, cancer sucks. Grief sucks. Let’s all talk about it.
During and after my mom’s battle, I did all the things from therapy, grief group work, going outside and working out, to crying on the floor in my closet in the dark, ordering frozen yogurt for dinner AND eating it in a dark room, drinking wine from the bottle (I was 21+), binge watching tv, and only getting out of bed to go to the bathroom.
I am a firm believer that the grief journey spans a spectrum much like everything in life, so, let’s talk about it in a REAL way. Let’s hold space for all of your feelings because all of your feelings are valid. I am not saying to tell the random acquaintance (unless you want to) any or all of these experiences. It is YOUR journey so you get to pick and choose what is best for you. Maybe sharing the highlight reel is what you prefer. Maybe sharing your in-the-moment-feelings is what you prefer. Whatever your style, let’s not hold back. When I decided to talk openly and honestly about my feelings, even the ugly ones, I started to feel better.
What if I told you that I have never been more exhausted than after a few nights with my mom in the hospital. I had not washed my hair in 6 days, but that’s okay because my mom needed me. When things got to be too much, I would find a corner and cry so she would not see. I would then pull myself together again to show up for her. Sometimes, I wish I would have cried in front of my mom, with my mom, and shared our grief together. Side bar - I swear hospital tired hits different, if you know you know and I wouldn’t wish knowing on anyone.
I had more vulnerable moments in the months after my mom died. Sometimes a lucky waiter would ask if I wanted a drink (my mom LOVED an unsweetened Arnold Palmer) so naturally I would spontaneously sob and proceed to tell them why through sobs. I wish I was joking… I am sure that made them ridiculously uncomfortable, but on the flip side there was no controlling the tears because I felt like my mom should have been across from me at the table ordering her Arnold Palmer and the grief hit so hard that I had no other choice than to cry hysterically.
Is that a fun story to share? Absolutely not…but do I tell it and own it? YES. So, all of this being said lets share our stories and hold space for each other and our feelings, whatever those feelings are.
-It is okay to cry in public (it gets less embarrassing over time).
*If you are in the throes of it and crying constantly, keep a hand towel with you for these occasions.
-Do not judge yourself. Instead, treat yourself like you would a best friend.
-Frozen yogurt for dinner is acceptable.
-Dry shampoo is your friend.
-Speaking to a professional helps.
-Speaking to someone who has walked this journey before also helps.
-Closets are great place to have a cry. 10/10 recommend.
-You can hold space for happiness and sadness at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.
-Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing your best.
-We love you.
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