On the early morning of Friday March 9, 2018 I slept restlessly, waking up several times before it was time for me to head to Day 2 of the Fund and Fuel Your Dreams event with Jenny Kassan Consulting. Jenny hired my company Tara’s Teas to provide tea service for her powerful 3-Day event. As I woke up all I could do was think about my Aunt Jackie. I experienced all kinds of thoughts in my head about her. As I walked passed my Ancestral Altar, I just couldn’t stop thinking about her.
In the car on the way to the event, I saw a number pop up on my phone, a number I hadn’t seen in a few years and I knew. I didn’t pick up.
I went to the event and smiled as usual. I set up the tea station and made it look pretty, a touch of elegance. That nagging feeling said to call.
I stepped outside and called, through tears the voice said, “Your Aunt Jackie died this morning.” I started to cry, offered comfort, we chatted a bit and hung up. I called Cousin #2, no answer. She told me just the day before that I needed to go see her mom. I planned for Sunday. It was too late.
I called Cousin #1, we chatted, I asked about what I could do to help. We chatted, and then hung up. I sat there, outside on that cloudy Friday morning and cried. It was a grey day and I looked up to take a picture of the clouds. Instead I looked ahead, noticed some beautiful purple flowers, and heard in my head, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Shug Avery from “The Color Purple.” I saw the color purple and knew my Auntie would rather be associated with purple than grey, so I took the picture.
I “sucked it up,” for lack of a better term, then went back inside with a smile. I chatted, refilled tea, and sat back while the event continued. I had a hard time concentrating, but I made sure the tea stayed filled. Lunch came and as I prepared the afternoon iced tea, I felt restless. I had to leave and get some air. I decided to go to a movie and “check out” for a bit.
I came back, made sure the hot tea was full and hot, then refilled the iced tea. I chatted with attendees, talked tea and listened about other people’s processes, and like the good “robot” that I could be, I acted like nothing happened. Dinner break came and I remembered that one of my favorite chefs was cooking that evening at a local lounge very close to the conference. It so happens he was serving a meal that was a popular family meal during my childhood, oxtails. Though I had not eaten them in years, I had to go buy some. I ate with a smile, thinking of my Aunt Jackie.
As the night continued, I felt myself get a little weepy. I hid my tears, turned to the side and wiped them away. I held my head up and talked to people. On the way home I cried. Went home and slept.
Saturday came, and I went back to the event. I prepared the tea for the day and fully participated with the other ladies. I enjoyed great conversations, smiled, and chatted away. I acted like nothing happened. During a very powerful process, I disclosed that my favorite Aunt had passed away and how meaningful was the process that day. I got plenty of hugs and nourishment the rest of the day. I continued to prepare tea and have conversations with a smile.
I’m grateful for the event, both as it was an amazing opportunity to serve tea, and because Jenny invited me to fully participate. I realized how during difficult times, I very often would put on a smile and pretend everything was alright. I tended to “put on my big girl panties,” as I heard as a child, and “suck it up.” I realize that I’m pretty good at hiding my emotions in public. I have no problem expressing myself to trusted people during challenging times, yet instead of taking time to care for myself, I often have moved forward with whatever was happening with a smile.
The last 3-and-a-half years have been quite a challenge. For years several people had no idea what I was experiencing as I have a tendency to still show up with a smile. Like a perfectly put together robot.
In no way am I putting myself down for the ability to move forward, I do think it’s a valuable asset. I also recognize the value of vulnerability and expressing in the moment one’s feelings. I’m not saying if you’re in corporate america to go into the boardroom and let out a full blown tearful tantrum. What I’m saying is there’s value in expressing oneself in a way that releases emotions in a healthy way. Perhaps calling a friend at lunch, making an appointment with a professional, going to the bathroom or a local park to cry, and/or journal. Exercising can be a great release as well. Most of all, take some time to go within and cry, journal, sleep, do something to help yourself grieve, process whatever it is that may be bothering you. I believe it’s the human “robots” who are suffering the most from hidden and not-so-hidden illnesses. Don’t let yourself be another.
Sunday came around and I felt exhausted. I gave myself permission to sleep in, cried when needed, and thought about my favorite Auntie. I didn’t want to cook so I ate yogurt with granola, fruit, and already hard boiled eggs. I drank plenty of tea, listened to one of my favorite speakers and took naps. Though the grief process is not over, I’m grateful I took at least one day to process the grief with some solid self-care practices. If you are experiencing grief or something troubling, I pray you take some time to check in and see what you can do for yourself to heal.