All Articles Tagged "mourning"
We all know Ty Alexander as the vibrant personality behind the beauty and lifestyle blog, Gorgeous In Grey. But what about the entrepreneur’s life as a woman, friend, and daughter? In Alexander’s debut book, Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mother Died, fans, followers, and the world at large get an intimate look at the inner workings of Alexander’s life and her insights as she works through the grief of losing her mother.
Here she talks with us about choosing to open up about grief and her hope that we all learn how to “love up on people” while they’re still alive.
MN: What made you decide to write this book?
TA: My mom passed away three years ago, and I shared it on the internet because I didn’t know what else to do. I was feeling all the usual things associated with the loss of a loved one: sadness, hopelessness, vulnerability, etc. Because of that, people began reaching out, asking lots of questions in dealing with loss or terminal illness. And while that was great, there came a time when I needed to focus on my own grief. Responding to everyone caused me to lend my energy out to others instead of working on myself. With a book there would be something I could refer to when people asked me something. Especially as women of color, we don’t really speak about grief, maybe because we don’t see people like ourselves talking about it, so I wanted to open that dialogue.
MN: The book is written in a very casual tone, was that intentional?
TA: Yes. If you’ve read my blog, you know I like to call myself your digital best friend. I want people to feel they are sitting down with me, having a conversation. This makes the book an easy read as well.
MN: After each chapter there’s a sort of things to think about section, why did you add this?
TA: These sections are meant to be little tidbits of what I want you to remember most about each chapter. I wanted readers to have a space where they could take notes, highlight key points, and more. This way there’s somewhere to go quickly whenever someone needs to refer back for any reason.
MN: What are you hoping people will get from the book?
TA: I am hoping that anyone who is either grieving or loves someone to infinity and beyond, won’t take their loved one for granted. The truth is, like I said in the book, everyone dies. We’ve been duped. And I just want people to love up on their people while they’re here. Yes, I was able to spend time with my mother during the eight months before she passed, but had I spent my whole life treating her as if tomorrow was never promised then our relationship would have been different. It was good, but it would have been so different. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned from my mother dying. I learned what living and loving really means and what you can get out of it if you put the most into your relationships. Most people don’t get extended time before your loved one dies and end up filled with so much guilt and what if’s.
MN: What other lessons did you learn from your mother passing?
TA: Not only did I learn we are not promised tomorrow, I learned that not everyone is promised a great love. I realized not everyone had a mom like I did. My mom sacrificed everything for us and some people don’t have that. I’ve had women contact me saying, ‘I admire the relationship you had with your mother; I haven’t talked to my mother in years.’ So I learned that love is not something everyone experiences, and that makes me sad.
MN: What can people expect from the book?
TA: I talk about how my mom died. I speak about my family and how her passing affected each of us. What I learned was that we each have a unique relationship with a person. So while I felt like, “my mom is dead and everyone should feel a certain way,” I realized everyone’s relationship with her caused different reactions. I also talk about pain versus suffering. To me pain is normal. We go through life and things happen that hurt. But the suffering part, the part that says I don’t deserve this, and all those inner thoughts that beat us down, that’s optional. I explain how being aware of the difference helped me grieve better. I talk about the stages of grief and how they look. They repeat. It’s not a linear process.
MN: In conjunction with the book, is there a space where people can go to continue the dialogue on grief?
TA: Funny you should ask! I started a Facebook group called Destination Heal where we’ve been chatting and sharing with one another. I’d like to expand it to a website and a podcast where we can continue healing. I’ll also be doing a Mother’s Day annual brunch where people can get together to connect and celebrate their mother’s life.
MN: How did being such a public figure affect your grieving?
TA: Oh girl, it was hard. It’s still hard. I make it a point everyday to get up and be happy. It’s a job for me, in addition to being an author and an influencer. If I forget that that’s my job, that’s the day I’m sad or angry or depressed. Another thing is, not only do you expect to be okay when the word mom comes up, but friends and the public will as well. But in all honesty, I put the most pressure on myself. I expected it to go away. It took me time to realize that the sadness is not going to go away and it shouldn’t. This was the first love of my life and they’re gone now. I would be doing an injustice to that love if I pretended it didn’t affect me.
MN: Did you ever feel the weight of being the example in this arena?
TA: I think because I started off as an influencer, whether it was for grey hair or being plus sized, it didn’t feel that different. I do have to be careful about what kinds of things I share. For example, once, early on, I shared I was depressed. When I did that I began getting responses like, ‘you should have never said that’ or ‘you should have gone to a therapist.’ But as long as I’m prepared for the judgement, it doesn’t feel as bad. I’ve also learned that I can’t take on someone’s grief. I may read their grief and their story and want to go fix it. That’s not my job. I’m not a therapist or Iyanla Vanzant; I can’t fix it. I’ve been learning to practice being sympathetic without offering ‘here’s what you should do’ and ‘here’s five tips.’ Because while my book offers what I’ve learned while grieving, by no means am I giving you the doctor version of how to cure your grief.
MN: What would you say to people trying to get to where you are?
TA: The first thing is to identify your skills, and you won’t know those unless you try. I tried copywriting and quickly realized, nope, don’t like that! While I was good at it, I hated it. I think as adults we forget we used to do that as kids. We would try ballet and gymnastics and piano. We would try whatever. But then we become adults and forget that trying is how we figure out who we are and what makes us tick. Don’t be afraid to find out what makes you, you.
A co-worker was telling me about a best friend of hers who has been struggling with finding closure when it comes to the death of a past love. The woman is in her early 30s, married, has a child, a fine job, and is in a really good place in her life. Still, every now and then she gets really sad on the birthday or the anniversary of the death of her ex-boyfriend. She dated the guy when she was in college, but they eventually broke up. They were able to be friends and support one another as they finished school. And then, the unthinkable happened.
Just recently, that young woman told my co-worker that she had been thinking about the guy again. To that, my colleague responded by saying that she should take a trip to her ex’s grave so she could do whatever she needs to in the hopes of letting some of that sadness go and finding healing. While it didn’t sound like a bad idea to me, my co-worker said that her friend furrowed her brow and shook her head to say no. To the friend, as a married woman, returning to her ex’s grave would be disrespectful to her husband. She actually already felt bad about the fact that she felt such sadness over the loss of someone who wasn’t just a significant other at some point, but also a good friend.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death. The rapper was very close with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, and if you bring up Shakur to her, she has nothing but beautiful things to say about her friend. But they were just that — friends. Friends who loved one another, but just friends.
She once said, “We knew us being together in a romantic way would destroy everything because we were both fire. We would burn everything up! So we knew in order to preserve our relationship there was no way we could ever add romance to it cause we probably would’ve killed each other!”
She posted this message on her Facebook to honor him on the anniversary of his passing earlier today:
The rapper’s friendship with her had such an impact on Smith that it also ended up having something of an impact on her daughter, Willow. If you’ll recall, the teen wrote a letter years ago as a little girl asking Shakur to come back. And while some people felt that Willow’s letter, along with Jada’s continued outpouring of love for the rapper could be seen as inappropriate (check the comments on that link I just shared), thinking on the conversation with my co-worker about her friend, I wondered if it’s really that big of a deal. More importantly, how do you give someone the space they need to mourn the loss of someone who played a significant role in their life before you came around? How do you share that sadness with your significant other?
As I recently wrote, there is no time limit or expiration date for mourning, as though once you pass the five-year mark you need to get over it already. We all mourn differently, and sometimes, to deal with it, we have to be open and honest. And we need to give one another the space to do so, while also being an ear.
While scoping the ‘Net, I came across the story of a guy on Reddit who felt terrible because he found out a girlfriend of six years, during his teen years, died. He didn’t want his wife to know he was devastated.
“Her and I broke up because of college and family problems, but we’ve always been friends,” the man wrote. “We’ve grown apart since I got married, and have only talked about 4 times. My wife comes home soon, and I don’t know how she’ll feel knowing how hurt I am by this. I feel it’s not fair to her.”
I could only feel sorry for the guy because he was struggling with an allegiance to his wife, and grieving someone who deserved his tears. What is one to do in such a situation? And how does a significant other try to be understanding during such a time?
It’s complex, indeed. But I believe that the people who come into our lives help to shape us through our experiences with them. All of them. Therefore, there shouldn’t be a sense of shame when we mourn what their loss of life means to us. At this point, these people are gone, so jealousy over a partner’s emotions seems like a petty feeling to harbor on for more than a few seconds. Because what that person needs is the freedom to be able to bawl their eyes out if they need to, while also having the shared understanding that their heart is with their spouse. As partners in love and life, we need to be able to communicate with one another, and if one can’t express their sadness to the most important person in their life without worrying that they will be thrown in the doghouse over it, that’s a problem.
With that being said, I think it’s great that Jada continues to celebrate the life of one of her greatest friends, and that Will supports her in doing so. For the sake of her emotional health, I think it would do my co-worker’s friend, as well as the Reddit guy, a lot of good to grieve, like Jada, in whatever way they deem necessary, and do so with the encouragement of their husband and wife. Trust me when I tell you that holding that sorrow in only does harm, while sharing it with people you love to find closure can do a lot of good.
Never did I ever imagine giving birth to a child would bring so much guilt. You might think that’s an odd thing to say considering how wonderful it is to become a mother. Truthfully speaking, it’s one of the best things you’ll ever experience in life. When my child was born several weeks ago, I felt the same amount of joy I did last year when my first son came into my life.
It’s just really hard to celebrate when you’re comforting a friend who lost a baby.
I can’t even begin to imagine the emotions a few of my friends are dealing with. In what seems like bad news after bad news, many found the courage to share their heartbreaking stories on Facebook. One college buddy of mine was put on bed rest at the start of her second trimester — only to lose her baby days later. Another friend of mine was just 16 weeks pregnant when she felt an unfathomable amount of pain one evening. There in her bed she went through labor and miscarried her son. And if those stories were not sad enough, a good friend of mine and her husband lost their child minutes after he came into this world. In her case, there was no warning or hint of a problem.
Hearing these women’s stories makes me realize just how much of a miracle having a child really is. All of us are 30-years-old that would make you think complications wouldn’t be something to think about, when in actuality, they can happen to any one of us.
I’m so dumbfounded at how to comfort them — especially when they’re telling me congrats on the birth of my son. I’ve reached out to them individually to offer my condolences but feel like it might be a slap in their face. Sure I’m probably imagining things, but I have to ask myself, would I want to hear “I’m sorry for your loss” from someone who not only had two children in two years, but fairly easy birthing experiences (my second guy took 2.5 hours to deliver)?
At one point, I found myself sitting in silence as I revealed my loss for words. In some cases, it was comforting for them to weep without hearing such an automated response. No matter how guilty I feel, I know that it’s always better to reach out instead of not say anything at all.
Have you ever experienced something similar?
In the book “On Death and Dying,” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined what is generally accepted as the five stages of grief. They make perfect sense theoretically and sequentially: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Whether it is how we are biologically wired or classically conditioned, this is a process that we all go through when we lose someone we love.
After three and a half years, I finally visited the grave of my daughter’s mother. While talking with a friend, I began to have clarity about the relationship with my daughter’s mother and the others that have followed. I went through the five stages; but in a different order than Ross outlined in 1969. To some extent, that made all my other relationships very complicated.
Daddy Speaks: My Experience With the Five Stages of Grief
Nelson Mandela’s family has released their first statement since the death of the world leader on Thursday.
In the statement, recited by family spokesman Lt. Gen. Temba Templeton Matanzima and released to the Associated Press, the family said, “The pillar of the royal Mandela family is no more with us physically, but his spirit is still with us.”
The statement went on to read:
“We have lost a great man, a son of the soil whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst — a caring family leader who made time for all and on that score we will miss him dearly.”
It is easy to forget that while the world mourns a leader in change, the Mandela family lost their loved one.
While they continue to get through this time and South Africa prepares for a period of mourning, a decision has been made in New York City as to how they will honor Nelson Mandela.
According to the New York Daily News, Mayor Bloomberg announced on Friday that a new high school will open next September in honor of Mandela’s legacy.
The Nelson Mandela School of Social Justice will open on the campus of Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn as a tribute to the leader. BGHS was one of the first stops Mandela made on his first trip to New York after being released from prison.
Mayor Bloomberg said regarding the announcement:
“President Mandela once said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Renaming the campus he visited shortly after his release from prison, will forever serve as a reminder that our mandate as public servants is to provide our children with the weapons they need for a successful future and help us build a city of inclusion.”
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott added: “Every time they enter and exit its doors, our students at this new school will be reminded of the values he personified.”
What a great tribute and it will not come as a big surprise if we see more schools around the world being named in honor of the great Nelson Mandela.
Funerals are already difficult things for all to attend, especially the family or close friends of the deceased. But nothing makes thing worse (and stays as a negative memory for years to come) then when someone comes to the funeral and acts a damn fool. Whether they’re singing a song for the dead and CAN’T actually sing, telling a crude story as they recount what they consider a positive memory, or offering the worst words of support ever, you should do your best to be a positive yet QUIET support when you go to a funeral. Whatever you do though, just don’t get caught doing the following:
For all the jokes everyone had about Cissy Houston “keeping it real” during her interview with Oprah on last week’s episode of Next Chapter, it seems one thing is absolutely true: she and granddaughter Bobbi Kristina are not on the best of terms.
Last Thursday, Bobbi Kristina responded to Cissy’s comments about her having heard that BK didn’t like the idea of her writing the book but not having had the chance to speak to her directly. She took to Twitter:
For those of you who aren’t well-versed in the abbreviated text of teenagers these days (as well as all of the added symbols from Twitter), Bobbi Kristina basically said that neither she nor her boyfriend Nick Gordon (yes, apparently they’re still together) had anything to do with the book and she will not be reading it. Further, it seems that she feels that putting out the book was disrespectful to her mom, Whitney Houston.
The unfortunate truth is that this is a family in shambles. There’s no way to know if they were in this bad of shape prior to Whitney’s death but with the reality show, book deals and interviews, it has certainly pulled them further apart.
Cissy recently did an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show to promote her book and according to Black America Web, when asked what she would say to Bobbi Kristina if she were listening, she replied, “Call your grandmother.”
Do you think if the Houstons pulled back from media outlets, they could have a chance to mourn and possibly come back together as a family?
Listen, don’t shoot the messenger.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, TLC will be premiering “Best Funeral Ever” tonight with an hour long special. The show will follow Dallas funeral home, Golden Gate Funeral Home, as they come up with some of the most eccentric homegoing celebrations you’ve ever seen. The owner,John Beckwith Jr wants to bring about a certain attitude to the sad situation, looking to give a smile to the mourning friends and family, versus just going with continued sadness. They can pretty much make anything happen; as Beckwith said, “If the deceased wanted to dunk a basketball, we can make it happen.”
Golden Gate, while providing the wishes for the family and possible “too little, too late” dreams by the deceased, they also provide professional funeral mourners. Now, some of you may have seen this type of person at a church service or funeral you’ve attended , but they do it for free. The professional mourners hired by Golden Gate are trained to grieve loudly and excessively at funerals of people they’ve never met so the family will open up.
The show will likely turn into a full reality show if the special does as well as TLC expects with the ratings.
I’m not sure that I’m interested in watching a show about eclectic funeral arrangements but it certainly can’t be any worse than anything else on television.
This morning, I was reading my Twitter timeline and a friend posted: “If today is your birthday or 9-11, you no longer have a birthday…sorry.”
My first thought was, “What’s today?”
Then I remembered: Today is the third anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Oops. I’d already forgotten about that.
When Michael Jackson died, the whole nation (and parts of the world) immediately went into mourning. Twitter was still fairly new back then, but my entire Timeline was flooded with tears. Facebook was the same way and television networks immediately launched into All Michael Jackson, All the Time. Each network preempted their previously scheduled programming to air packages and programs they’d undoubtedly prepared a long time ago in anticipation of his inevitable fate. Bloggers foamed at the mouth reliving the King of Pop’s greatest moments and writing about the catastrophic loss our country endured.
Me? I was indifferent.
To be fair, I may have responded to Michael Jackson’s untimely death differently had my father not been killed in a murder-suicide, literally, the day before. I don’t know though. I was a total zombie that day, but I do remember finding some comfort in the fact that the world was crying with me – even if we were crying over two different events.
The day Whitney Houston died was the day before my wedding (apparently, I have a strange relationship with celebrity deaths). Michael Jackson’s passing had prepared me for the decidedly tamer (but still hysterical!) reaction. I loved Whitney Houston’s music and “The Preachers Wife” and “Bodyguard” are two of my favorite movies. It was genuinely sad the way she died and I was really hoping she would turn her life around for one last hurrah, but you would have thought people lost their family’s matriarch the way they were carrying on when the news broke.
I’m just not a person who becomes emotionally invested in another person whom I’ve never even met. Basically, the people I see on TV are one step away from being fictional characters. I don’t want any of them to die, but I can’t imagine soaking the carpet in tears if one did.
Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrities! I love the gossip, the breakups, the makeups, the fake hair, fake marriages and fake pregnancies. I read all about it. But I don’t think there is any celebrity death I would mourn like it’s someone I know. It’s always sad when people die, but honestly, after having experienced a real tragedy I don’t get how others can truly be broken up over someone who didn’t affect their lives in any tangible way.
When I think back to the 60’s and the civil unrest that took place then and all of the assassinations and untimely deaths of people important to the progress of this nation, I think that certainly called for a national time of mourning.
Now, we fly the flag half mast for people like Penn State coach Joe Paterno and equate a tragedy like 9/11 to Michael Jackson’s death? Many people over the age of 30 can’t name a single Etta James song besides, “At Last” but were nearly calling off sick in order to mourn after she passed. It’s crazy.
Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Etta James and others are certainly icons whom affected the entertainment industry in immortal ways, but I can’t think of a single celebrity whose death would warrant even the kind of mourning reserved for a third cousin.
So if today’s your birthday, let me be the first to say: Happy Birthday.
Am I the only one who is near indifferent about celebrity deaths? Are there any celebrities whose passing is (or would be) cause for true mourning?
Alissa Henry is a freelance writer living in Columbus, OH. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaInPink
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