Self-Care and Grief
Most of you don’t know me yet. I’m new to Chicago and new to Rooted but I’m going through something I’ll bet most of us can relate to—a friend of mine just died.
Our mother’s were (and still are) best friends, so she and her sister and I spent many childhood days together making up plays and choreographing dances in the blazing desert sun. We grew up in Taos, New Mexico, a gorgeous, drug-soaked town and a Mecca for many seeking an alternative lifestyle. My friend, we will call her T, was for many years addicted to heroin. Recently, she had clawed her way to sobriety and had been drug-free for years. She graduated college in May, was in her early forties and the mother of two amazing teenage boys. Her plan was to help others struggling with addiction. I felt so happy and—always a weird word—proud. I thought she had finally made it.
T died of a heroin overdose but what we don’t know is if she did it on purpose or if it was a mistake like the one made by “Glee” star Cory Monteith. Also, there was a batch of really bad heroin going through the town, which to date has killed seven people. Was T another victim of rat-poison-cut drugs? Or an accidental overdose? Or did she take her own life? For many at the funeral, it doesn’t matter how she died. Nothing alters the fact that a beautiful, intense, and blindingly fierce life is now gone.
How do we take care of ourselves when we are going through grief?
I think the short answer is: Allow yourself to grieve.
About a week after her death, I woke up in the morning with such a clear memory of T and her sister and I playing—we couldn’t have been older than ten. T and her sister were teaching me the dance they had set to the Searcher’s song, “Love Potion Number 9.” It was so ridiculously goofy. We stirred the brew like three witches singing “I’m gonna make it up right here in the sink!” we laughed as we sang, “I took a drink” in a low baritone. And after we swallowed the love potion we stumbled around the house like blind zombies kissing chairs and lamps, the floor. The picture of T so full of joy and the possibility that years later she may have been in so much pain that she killed herself made me weep so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. I sobbed for hours.
But after the tears subsided, I felt…almost…better. We can’t suppress or deflect or numb our way out of our emotions; the only way out, is through. I could feel myself coming out the other side of my pain. Allowing myself to express had helped me heal.
How do I apply the tools of Rooted to losing my friend?
I think the short answer is: Connect
There was never a question that I would be going to the funeral. The moment I arrived in Taos I had dinner with T’s dearest friends. We shared memories and feelings and I cried my face off. The next day seeing her boys, her mom, sister, and ex-husband—I hugged them so hard I imagined the strength of my love could help buoy them in the storm of their grief. And that connection, the shared feeling of loss felt by the hundreds of people there—that helped soothe me, too.
Permission to feel our feelings, connecting authentically to others, and having the courage to be vulnerable—these are handholds as we scale the wall of grief.
I am so grateful that I found Rooted and I can’t wait to meet you all.