How to Deal with Grieving and Loss

We are currently towards the end of week 5/6 depending on location, of the coronavirus quarantine. And while we can finally start to see some light at the end of the tunnel, as a society there is a myriad of challenges that we should be gearing up to face as social distancing guidelines begin to ease up. In addition to the economic ramifications of the disease, I am a strong proponent of addressing the impact on mental health that the coronavirus can also have.

Covid-19 has proliferated in such a way that statistically, by the end of this, we will have either come in contact with the disease ourselves, or have known someone who has. There are currently almost 1 million cases in America, 2.7 million worldwide, with a subsequent death toll of 50,000 and 190,000, respectively. And with these numbers continuing to grow, there is a good chance that some of us may be grieving a loss before all of this is over.

In the last two months my family has experienced five deaths seemingly in succession; two of which were coronavirus related. Because of the timing of the passing’s, we did not have an opportunity to properly grieve everyone. In lieu of the coronavirus pandemic, several people who have lost someone have not been afforded the opportunity to properly grieve them. In China, the Chinese government has been cremating individuals that pass due to the coronavirus; in New York, they are storing people in deep freeze trucks, and morgues are either at or passed capacity.

The few memorial services that are being held, are being done with strict social distancing guidelines including: a nontraditional grave side service with a time cap of less than an hour, and a highly restricted number of potential guests, around 10. With such harsh stipulations, families are being left without their usual outlet of a proper funeral to facilitate their grieving process. In these extenuating circumstances, there is value in knowing what we can go through while grieving, and how we may be able to better facilitate the process for ourselves.

The Five Stages of Grief

Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross developed the five stages of grief model to explain what it is we experience when we go through loss. Her model identifies denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as the main stages or phases we go through while grieving. Keep in mind that the grieving process, is the healing process.

Denial

This stage helps us to survive the loss. We deny our reality. We numb ourselves to what we are experiencing and try to carry on business as usual. The goal in this stage is to just get through each day. Ross believed that this stage is nature’s way of helping us cope, by not allowing us to get overwhelmed.

Anger

Anger is an essential part of the healing process. We get through our anger at the loss of someone by leaning into the fact that we are angry. We must be willing to feel our anger. Our anger during this stage can express itself in a variety of different ways that are unique to everyone.

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We may find ourselves projecting, putting our feelings on to someone or something else. We may also find ourselves getting upset over things that normally would not elicit a vitriol response. The fact of the matter is, anger is a response to the pain someone begins to feel once the denial wears off, and reality starts to sink in. Do not be afraid to be upset, real healing comes when we allow ourselves to properly experience the emotions that come with our anger.

Bargaining

Bargaining presents itself as a desired escape from reality. We wrestle with “if then” and “what if” statements and try to quantify the loss in deeds. It is almost a state of delusion that we find ourselves in as we try to negotiate the terms of which our deceased loved one can return to life.

We long for a return to normal and run through scenarios in our mind that we think would have potentially prevented our loved one from passing. This stage is particularly turbulent as we may vacillate through the other stages while bargaining, as well as bear the weight of guilt. While bargaining, all we want is for the hurting to stop.

Depression

After being overwhelmed with our emotions and coming to grips with what we are experiencing, we may find ourselves in a depressed state. Depression is normal when grieving a loss and should be treated as such. It is just a phase, and no matter how long it takes for someone to get through it, they will.

The self-blaming, the low energy levels, the sadness, the loneliness, and withdrawal, it all may feel insurmountable; Know all of that is part of processing grief. It is important that while in this stage, we allow ourselves the time necessary to explore and understand our depression; and to not allow ourselves to be ostracized by it.

depression, anger, acceptance, grieving
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Acceptance

Acceptance is us finally acknowledging our new reality for what it is: our loved one is no longer with us, and they are not coming back. This is when we learn to live with our new lives. The adjustment may be difficult at first, but we learn to manage. This does not mean that we do not ever miss our loved one; they will always be a part of us, but we learn how to live and miss them at the same time.

This will most likely be a gradual process as we must acclimate to a new normal, some more drastic than others. It is encouraged to not neglect our needs during this time. Its important to be in tune with our feelings and be able to process them reasonably and give ourselves what is necessary for our needs to be met. This can look like anything from more time to ourselves, joining support groups, therapy, or leaning into already existing relationships.

How to Grieve Well

Typically, a funeral can usher us in and or through these stages of grief. However, with limited access to such gatherings it is important that if we find ourselves experiencing a loss, that we can first identify where we are in the stages. Let us not be afraid to ask ourselves: “What stage of grief am I in?”.

By knowing what we may be experiencing at any given time, we allow ourselves to identify our emotions and mental state of being. By knowing where we are, we can begin to change how we are. Given the previous example, we may want to ask ourselves instead of what stage of grief am I in, what stage of healing am I in? Controlling the narrative can be a good way to self-manage and facilitate personal healing.

During the various stages of the grieving/healing process that may also look like becoming better at knowing when we may be angry and how to manage that behavior; or applying different mental health strategies if we find ourselves in a state of depression.

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Grieving well requires that we be honest with ourselves and our loved ones. It means that we are willing to yes express, but also challenge our emotions. It also means that we do not rush through our process.

I know for me, when I grieve, historically I tend to spend a lot of time in the denial and depression stages. What those stages look like for me, may be different then what they look like for someone else, but by being able to pinpoint where I am, I am allowing myself ultimately, to be found. That is what grieving well is: acknowledging that we need time to heal and putting ourselves in a position that gives us both the time and resources necessary to do so.

While none of us anticipate being in a situation where we are grieving a loved one, grief and loss is a part of life; and has been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic. Knowing what to expect while grieving and being able to grieve well by knowing one’s self while going through the stages, will allow for a better more fulfilling healing process.

Join the conversation and share your perspective in the comment section below!

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The Marijuana Stigma

Michael Boeseman Author of The Marijuana Stigma

Authored by: Michael Boeseman

What if I told you pharmaceutical scientists just invented a magic pill that offered a miracle cure? This pill could help people with life threatening illness with nearly no side effect.

Now what if I told you the government declared that magic pill as an illegal drug? And simply possessing it would have you arrested? Why would this be the case?

What if the magic pill wasn’t actually magic or even a pill, what if it was a natural plant? What if it was marijuana?

Marijuana in America

President Franklin D. Roosevelt first made marijuana federally illegal in 1937. The justification behind the decision was that it was dangerous. He said it was what was best for the country. But was it really?

White and Black Americans use marijuana at about the same rate. Black Americans however are four times more likely to be arrested for it. This raises the question, what was President Roosevelt really trying to protect?

Was this decision truly in favor of the people? Or was it covert racism aimed to suppress Black Americans and other minority groups? Or maybe it was in protection of the margins of Big Pharma.

The Marijuana Stigma

For generations society has been taught to believe negative stigmas and attitudes revolving around marijuana. I remember when I was a kid my mom would tell me that if my friends ever offered me weed, then they weren’t true friends.

man smoking a cigarette
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You would think that society would scrutinize the use of alcohol or tobacco in a near similar manner as marijuana. But that is a wrong assumption. More people die from drunk driving accidents and lung conditions each year, than they do marijuana related incidents.

The Opioid Epidemic

Another generational taught attitude is trusting your doctor and what they prescribe you. In realty this is “trust Big Pharma”. Countless pill are being over prescribed to patients everyday and they are taking them without question. Pills that have nasty side effects that can often be worse than the reason they were taking them in the first place.

We live in a society that is currently battling with an epidemic. The Opioid Epidemic kills 130 people each day. Most of these deaths are from heroin or fentanyl.

For many, addiction starts in a doctor’s office. With pressures from Big Pharma, doctors over prescribe powerful painkillers. And the patient takes them without question.

This cycle leads to people becoming addicted. Why don’t doctors offer patients medical marijuana instead? I’m willing to bet, for many the outcomes would be a lot better.

Is there a Solution?

I’m sure people will agree when I say marijuana does more good than harm. And I think there is a valuable lesson in all of this. We as individuals often times give into stigmas or attitudes created by society.

As a result, we do not question “norms”, and we blindly subscribe to false notions. Whether it be the negative connotation around marijuana, or our countries history of discrimination.

Over the years, the legalization and cultural acceptance of Pot has taught me a lot. Above all however that change will not be made, unless you allow yourself to think and believe for yourself.

For more from Michael Check out his social media:

The Soundtrack to My Life

I’ve been seeing this trend circulating on the internet recently of specifically artists sharing the music that influenced them through the years. I think it would be fun to chime in, so in no particular order here are the top ten songs that are on the soundtrack to my life:

No 1. Practice – Drake

So back in middle school/high school, I got exposed to parties, and I mean like sweaty basement parties. And everyone knew it wasn’t party if “Back that Ass Up” by Juvenile didn’t come on. Prior to hearing “Practice” however, I was not a Drake fan at all. I thought he was trash and over hyped. But with the Nostalgia and replay-ability of “Practice” in addition to the song’s contrast from it’s source material, I was hooked. Because of this song, “Take Care” became my favorite album of Drake’s and the reason why he is one of my favorite artists period.

No 2. Just What I Am – Kid Cudi ft. King Chip

“I’m just what you made, God not many I trust
I’ma go my own way, God, take my fate to wherever you want
I’m out here, on my son, won’t stop ’til I get me some
Club-hoppin’, tryin’ to get me some, bad bitches wanna get me sprung”

OH MY GOODNESS!

The first time I heard this song, it was my junior year in high school and I was with my close friends at the time smoking for the very first time. This was a big deal because I was a prick back in high school. So for me to loosen up and be willing to get high, showed gradual growth. The people who I smoked with would always have this song on rotation at some point during the session and all I could think about is the melodic beat, how Kid Cudi came on to it, and the chorus. Everything about this song spoke to me, even more now that I’m older.

No 3. Baby – Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris

Funny story about this song. This is the song that made me a belieber, and at the time I had a lady friend. So when I first heard this song I showed it to her and told her how much I enjoyed it. I told her it could be our song. Me not paying attention to the lyrics at the time did not realize it was a breakup song. a week later we stopped talking, so in the end I guess it was our song LOL.

No 4. Irreplaceable – Beyoncé

I was and to a much lesser extent now still am a huge Beyoncé fan. That being said, it was not an instant love affair. As a matter of fact prior to Beyoncé there Alicia Keys. I was a huge Alicia Keys fan until she and Usher came out with “My Boo”. I remember watching them perform it on TV at some awards show and being fed up with her.

My young self thought she was actually cheating on me when in reality, she had no idea of who I was (I had mommy issues back then, see “A Letter to My Mother” for more insight). Funny thing is, I did not like Beyoncé’s debut Album “Dangerously in Love”, which had been out for about a year at the time. It was not until “B’Day” and specifically “Irreplaceable” that I became apart of the Beyhive.

No 5. September – Earth, Wind & Fire

My birthday is in September and the title of the song is “September”. Not much else needs to be said on this one.

No 6. Fade into Darkness – Avicii

I went to a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) for undergrad, and my freshman year, EDM/House was all the rage. Come to find out, that the party boy also liked to rave. This was the first song that introduced me to that world. I remember my freshman year going to my first rave party and getting the full experience of this song with the strobe lights, bumping base, the beat drop, people jumping and dancing all around me, it was euphoric! Oh how I’d love to relive that moment, not a care in the world.

No 7. Thinkin’ Bout You – Frank Ocean

The main memory I have about this song is that it came out a few weeks after “Novacane“. I did not get on to “Novacane” until later but my friends at the time were on it from the jump. I remember when “Thinkin’ Bout You” came out I was on it pretty early, and I asked my friends if they heard it/what they thought about it. They said that they weren’t actually fans of Frank Ocean, and that they just liked “Novacane”. Not a big deal but in hindsight definitely a sign of false friendship/acquaintanceship. Real friends at the very least should have similar music taste.

No 8. Girls, girls, girls – Jay Z

My cousin actually put me on to this one. Prior to hearing this song I was not the Jay Z fan that I am now. I remember Being in the car with my cousin, this song coming on the radio, and she going in. That experience definitely revealed to me the diversity of Jay Z and made want to explore his catalog. He is now one of my favorite Rappers, and definitely on my Top 5 (topic for a later entry).

No 9. XO TOUR LIF3 – Lil Uzi Vert

My Best friend put me on to Uzi early in college back when he was just a SoundCloud rapper. At the time however, Uzi was not really on my radar (for the most part my taste is very trendy/pop/billboard top 100). It was not until song came out and became a big hit that I became a huge Uzi fan.

No 10. With You – Chris Brown

Before I die, I want to learn how to sing. Since I was young I always thought that if I tried hard enough I could sing a song relatively well. I’ve gotten better at singing and started taking lessons but when this song came out, you couldn’t tell me nothing! I thought I sang it just as good as Chris!

Check out the full playlist here: https://open.spotify.com/user/coolkid021/playlist/7oim7tWfa83leFFdIdOSAR?si=LGP2mj8wSFachU4quI8RFQ

Join the conversation and share your perspective in the comment section below!

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A Prayer of Consecration

Dear Lord, thank you. If I stop this prayer right there it would be more than enough.

Thank you.

Thank you for who I am and where I am. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I do not deserve to be here. Thank you for making your blessings and mercy’s known unto me. Lord I ask right now in the name of Jesus that you forgive me of any and all sins and that my heart and mind be fixated on you. Thank you for the conviction of your Holy Spirit that leads me closer to you every day. Even when there are things that I am unsure about, He is sure.

Lord I thank you for all that was revealed to me this week in my time of focusing on you. Thank you for your provisions. I will never forget what it was like to be sitting in that quick check parking lot and coming to tears over just how blessed I am and how you’ve been providing for me every step of the way. Thank you for making me more aware of you.

Thank you that I do not do the things I use to do. Thank you that in my growth and maturation I have not lost myself, but have become my own best friend. Thank you for the relationship we have. It has become one that I value even though I do not always act like it; I am glad I can call you my homie.

Thank you for this season of stretch, and that in the stretch is where my faith grows and where you make your presence known. Thank you for trusting me, even when I did not always trust you.Thank you for allowing me to stretch my faith over this past week and daring to believe.

Even though not everything I asked for came to pass it felt good just to know that if you wanted to you could have done it one, and two, you have something better on the way. I thank you for this season of triumph and victory. I thank you that you hear my prayers and are truly a prayer answerer. I thank you that you know me and lead me.

Lord I declare and receive everything you have spoken over my life and that my best days are not only ahead of me, but they are here right now. I declare that the only way to go from here is up. I declare your word over my life that says you will never leave me or forsake me.

I declare your word over my life that says no weapon formed against me shall prosper. I declare your word over my life that says all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord. As I continue to grow continue to help me love you.

Show me the true daily value in loving you. Lord I pray you continue to help me to be a good steward of what you have given me. Lord I believe you can take my little and make it much, and that you will do just that.

As this season kicks into high gear Lord, I just ask that you raise my expectations and that you help to not be complacent. You know my goals and vision for this year those spoken and unspoken, those written on paper and those that are just written in my heart; because you put them in me. Allow them to come to pass in Jesus name.

Hallelujah!

Lord thank you that I enjoy writing and that I’m good at it. Utilize this skill for your glory. Show me how to be a good steward of this gift to impact lives. Provide unto me narratives, ideas, proposals, journal entries, research articles, Op-Eds, speeches, and whatever it is you see fit. Do not allow me to let my skills or talents, this or any other one to go to waste. Put me in a position to execute to the highest standard I am capable of.

Lord I love you I thank you and am eager for what you have next for me; Your will be done in Jesus name, Amen.

A Letter to my Mother

Dear Mom,

I miss you. Funny, how can I miss someone I don’t even know? You’re such a mystery to me. You know to this day, I still don’t know your cause of death. You’re like Pink Diamond and I’m Steven Universe. It’s a cartoon mom, no I’m not too old for cartoons, you’re never too old.

People tell me stories about you, and it’s always the same narrative: your mother had a great personality, she was a hard worker, she had an infectious laugh, she was a straight shooter, and she loved you very much.

I’ll be honest, those stories have gotten old.

I want to know about your life before me. Not to put you on blast but I know you were married before, and for a period of time estranged to the family. That’s the side of you I want to know about.

I know how you presented yourself to others but who were you really? Its been hard without you, mostly because I’ve been misunderstood by others and by myself.

Its been like putting a puzzle together without all the pieces. I will say though, I’ve lived a full life. It hasn’t all been extravagant, I’ve had my struggles with depression, suicidality, and substance abuse.

I’m glad you were not around to worry about me on all my drunk and blacked out nights, or when I went to Brazil and Asia on a wing and a prayer. I’m glad you didn’t see me when I was on life support with a tube down my throat; but I wish you saw me off to prom, or when I walked across the stage to get my degree.

I wish you could have heard me speak at church. I wish I could tell you all the cool stuff I’ve done over the last 18 years. There is still so much of my life that you’re going to miss out on and I don’t know how to reconcile with that.

I guess I miss you being here.

It’s been so long since you’ve passed, and I was so young, I hardly remember anything about you. I wonder what you’d say to me now, I literally have no idea what I’m doing these days. That being said God’s been holding me down, and until we meet again,

Happy Mother’s Day mom, I just wanted to let you know, I’m doing alright,

Love you.

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