Post- Magazine

grief in practice [narrative]

on finding ourselves through loss

While spiders have always paralyzed me, my greatest fear appeared when I least expected it, looming over me during moments of great happiness and great pain. 

In the month of June, my mother and I explored Asia, passing first through Japan, then Taiwan, China, and ending with Singapore. One of my favorite moments was witnessing Mt. Fuji in its full greatness, happily recording the breathtaking view on my GoPro. I will also never recover from the divine and diverse cuisine I devoured in each country. From the most affordable and fresh sashimi to savory dishes of roasted eggplant and minced pork, my Asian stomach will never grow accustomed to salad again. 

This trip was also planned around seeing my grandfather, whom I had not visited since 2019. The video calls on WeChat and exchanges of scattered messages over the years couldn’t measure the connection I felt with him. This visit will be the greatest surprise he’s received yet, I thought to myself, imagining our reunion as I boarded the plane. 

With the lack of turbulence, the airplane began to lull me to sleep. There was a comforting paleness in the air, the noise soothing me after days filled with bounds of excitement. Just as I was drifting into a deeper slumber, my mother gripped my arm. To this day, I can remember the intensity with which she grabbed me, parts of my arm turning white from her clawed fingertips. 


I turn to find her eyes already brimming with tears, and see the message on her phone: “老爷不行了.” 

 “The old man is gone.” 

I thought that when this day came, the nightmare I had conceived in my mind, that I would have no thoughts at all. Instead, among the thoughts swimming in a sea of panic, with my mom collapsed against me, I knew we would never recover. Through processing my grandfather’s death, I never imagined the progression of thoughts that occurred: 

Will there be dinner tonight? 

Are my mother and I going to eat?”

How long will my mother be leaning against me, gripping my arm?”

How are we going to fit all the luggage in one taxi?” 

Am I selfish? A horrible person to have feelings other than immediate sadness about my grandfather? Was I not as close to my grandfather as I thought? Did I not make enough of an effort to talk to him? Am I broken to not immediately mourn his death?

These thoughts consumed me completely day after day as I stood, paralyzed, next to my crying mother, watching the funeral progress. I was afraid that I was unable to mourn for the death of someone I loved. The emotions that continuously washed over me were not ones of complete grief or despair, like those of my distraught mother. Instead, I thought of continuing to follow my standard routine, completing the tasks on my to-do list. Attempting to find normality at the cost of everything else exhausted me.


Two months later, my mother walked into my room with a worried expression on her face.

“You had a good day today, right?” she asked me slowly, as if testing the air of the tense room. 

I nodded hesitantly, unsure of what would follow. 

“I’m not sure if I should tell you this today or tomorrow then. P’s mother passed away in her sleep last night.”

I laughed. I was genuinely amused and confused with how ridiculous this idea was. P was one of my best friends, and I knew her mother well. She would rise at sunrise to run before working at her law firm. The woman I had greatly admired for her endless happiness had passed away at age fifty? 

There are those specific, powerful feelings that seem to hit me at the most unexpected of times—similar to the sudden crippling thoughts that come to me mid-shower, that force me to sit down, and turn the scalding hot water shivering cold. Tears stream down from my face. And now, I feel the full impact of the death of my grandfather. 

As I embrace P, I feel the weight of the sorrow I have for my mother the day my grandfather died, and all the hugs I won’t be able to give to my grandfather.

As I give the care package I put together to P, filled with her favorite candies and a white orchid, I think of the peanut candy my grandfather would, without fail, share with me, and the white bouquet of flowers I placed by his bedside for the last time. 

As I watch P’s family members and friends embrace her fully, I think of how I cared for my mother, heating up her favorite leftover pork buns and slowly walking with her through local Shenyang. I watched as her eyes softened at the sight of the tattered swing set and convenience store she frequented during school, and as I watched her select her red bean popsicle from the icy fridge, a piece of me broke. I realize just how much older and younger my mother has grown over this time. 

I now notice the constant hand against her back, or the slight lift of her heels when she spots a gentle sunset. I see now that times of unwarranted crisis are when we grow up the most. I now understand that each person deals with grief differently, from my mother to my friend to myself. My mother is reminded so early of her own loss and has to find space in her brokenness to be sympathetic of others. I mourn for my friend and the fleeting time she has to navigate the loss of her dearest person before leaving for college and making the right impressions on new strangers.

Times when life seems unbearable, constantly full of mundane tasks, can also yield to moments spent with loved ones. Watching P surrounded by triumphing love after her mother’s death is a reminder that through grief, there is hope. As my mother and I continue to navigate the unpredictable future, I know for certain that our feelings of loss are temporary in our healing.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.