Written by Emily Dunn, Edited by Andie Vasquez

Why does grief/grieving feel so taboo? It seems so taboo, but yet nearly everyone can relate. We can all relate, but why do we all feel like we are suffering? I would like to share a little bit of my story. I lost my best friend. Yes I know it seems very cliché, and doesn’t seem like much but imagine this. He was not just my best friend, but he was my protector. It doesn’t stop there! He did nothing but want to love and protect everyone because that is how he showed his love. He didn’t just love and protect me, but he loved and protected my children. He would often refer to them as his little angels, and they loved him as much as he loved those angels. Their “Bonus” Dad was something they always looked forward to, and told everyone about. That temporary fairy tale of having my best friend available at the tips of my fingers, the smallest message, the slightest change of tone in my voice, and he was always there. Well, he was there until the day he landed in the ER in Tulsa, which quickly was followed by being transported to AICU, and then being intubated.  I can remember that last conversation we had together, his airway was so swollen it almost seemed as if he was wheezing like an old toy the dog over played with, wheezing loud enough that he could barely speak but still smiled ear to ear when I walked in the room. That last conversation ended with me telling him I love you, trying to hold back tears of fear, while he was crying and leaned in for a kiss and told me he loved me too. Little did I know this would be the last time he would ever speak to anyone.

*Drawn from my personal Journal entries

This day was followed by 16 long days and nights that I stayed beside you, away from the tiny angels back home, and away from work and all the sweet souls I cared for there, but yet I couldn’t stand to wait until I could hear your voice again. It didn’t matter what you would say or how upset you would be…. Then I realized, remembered, and decided to start a journal and write down every accomplishment you made, big, small, it didn’t matter because I knew when you were coming off that machine  you were going to learn that your biggest fear was reality. You had cancer.

That last morning, I will never forget. Being pushed out of your room for the nurses to work on you, only to be followed by an empathetic doctor looking me and your family in our eyes with tears in his eyes. I couldn’t tell you what exactly he said other than it was time to bid our farewells and I was not ready. I was not ever going to leave, but only to be left with no choice, I held your hand and kissed your head until your sweet golden soul left. I remember your father picking me up out of the hall way of hospital like a papa bear carefully caring for a limp noodle as I sobbed and cried out “That’s my boy pops….” Over and over…. I was in shock. Let alone the thought of going home to tell my kids their “Bonus Daddy” was too sick, and is now their angel instead.

Since that day forward grief has come and gone in waves. Some days I can think of you and smile. Some days I think of you and get so upset I become physically ill. You didn’t think that the little angels’ memories of you will fade in what felt like was sooner than you even wanted to face your own grief yourself. 

This became a pivotal point in my life for me, and my little family. I decided to take my broken heart and put it to use, and began working for hospice. Hospice?! Yes another taboo like feeling word, and I said it too. I did not realize the full aspect of what I was signing up for, but am I happy I did. I took my heart ache, my borderline constant tears, and I began loving on other people with the same broken soul that I was trying to survive with and we began growing together. Leaning on each other emotionally and I started believing all the cliché things I had been told, I started believing all of the waves, and I started to become that strongest version of myself that I know, I grew into the version of myself that I love today. When yet I never really felt like I actually loved myself before.

Now I’m not trying to convince anyone that working for hospice is key to recovery, absolutely not. It was just a key for me to be able to be empathetic and relate with fellow adults struggling in similar situations that all felt so familiar to my heart and soul. I would like to give some credit to a place called Counseling and Recovery Services. Counseling & Recovery Services of Oklahoma provides treatment, information, education, and support in offices, homes, and schools to adults and children who need help to recover from mental health and substance abuse issues. (Found on their website) Now what does that mean exactly? For me that translated into a healthy outlet for this momma to break down and cry, or scream, and communicate to professionals that gave me the biggest reality check: YOU’RE NOT CRAZY! Everything I was thinking, and feeling was ALL HEALTHY?!  There’s no possible way. Or so I thought. Here I am down the road of life, and I am now happily married, and have a beautiful blended family of 4 little angels instead of just two. Through many sessions with a therapist, psychiatrists, and a nurse practitioner I am now the healthiest and happiest I have ever felt in my life. I’m sure a lot of you kind of giggle at the thought of balancing work life, motherhood, AND appointments, but thankfully the office I sought treatment from had multiple days of the week that they had extended business hours, so I didn’t have to miss work to be able to still take care of me. Not only that but I got treated so well, and was genuinely listened to at NO COST. I know its awfully crazy and hard to believe! I’m not sure what the brackets or caps of income are but I know in my case I was taken care of and it didn’t break my bank.

If I could say or do anything out of all of this? I would strongly encourage all you mommas suffering through grief to not do it alone, and most importantly you aren’t crazy momma. You are going to question every thought and feeling you have, and once again I want to reiterate that that’s actually a good place to be in. I want you to take the opportunity and challenge yourself in this time of need and struggle.  I know everyone that loves you can only think of all of the cliché things, but just hold them closer. Kiss them more, snuggle them more. We were given these tiny angels for a reason, and some reasons we will never even know. Most importantly take the time to sit down with some sort of professional for you. You will make it, and you will come out stronger than you were before.

-Emily