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I just lost a loved one. This is how I’m coping with my grief

My grandmother, Zuhuriya  Salahudeen, was the kind of person whom everyone loved.

She had this charisma that would shine through whenever she would talk to someone. She never had anything negative to say about anyone. During her battle with cancer over the past two years, she was not the type of person to complain about how much she was suffering due to the treatment.

When someone passes away, we all have regrets or wish we could have done something better or something more. I know I wish I could have attended her funeral in Sri Lanka but I couldn’t take time off from campus since I had been sick earlier in the semester and had to take some time off for that.

Unfortunately, I’m not fluent in Tamil, which is the native language that my grandmother spoke. But despite the language barrier, she meant so much to me.

As my grandmother dealt with the difficulties of chemotherapy, our family prayed for Allah (the Arabic word for God) to ease her suffering, hoping that she would get better. But sometimes He has other plans.

We now pray that she is now at peace.

With the permission of my father, I have compiled anecdotes from him as well as my cousins to show what an amazing woman she was, as my simple attempt to commemorate her. My dad recalled that when he was in school if he ever received a bad grade, the first person he would tell would be his mother and she never yelled at him for it.

My cousin would always ask my grandmother and my grandmother’s sister for stories when they were young. Everyone I talked to mentioned that she had this calm demeanor.

“I remember constantly teasing both of them for stories of their childhood while Yehiya uncle (my grandmother’s brother) would be forthcoming about his mischief as a kid but our grandmothers would be very tight-lipped – they would say that they never got scolded by their parents, never disobeyed them which, to be honest I highly doubt they must have been really good children but surely, they must’ve fought amongst themselves, right? Sometimes when I would press them with sheer disbelief, they would both laugh; you know the kind of laugh that makes it sound so ridiculous. Though I must say we would all have a kick out of listening to both of them chat.” My older cousin recalled. 

She discussed how despite how much work she would have to do she would always make time to spend with all of us by playing checkers or mancala (a game played by children in the Indian subcontinent). She would listen to all our stories with that twinkle in her eye and that sweet laugh of hers at the sheer ridiculousness of all our debates and banter. Additionally, my cousin stated: “When she was diagnosed with cancer, I thought she would lose that spark within her and she would fade away, consumed by pain- but she still had that same twinkle in her eye and the same sweet laugh. Even when things were difficult for her she would always focus on us and ask us what we were up to.”

Talking to my cousins about my grandmother helped me get an idea of what she was like to them and how much she meant to all of us. I grew up in the US, and though we would visit my grandmother every two years, hearing these stories about her makes me wish I had more time to spend with her. Sharing these small remembrances of her helps me to cope with the grief that she will no longer be there to embrace me on my next visit to Sri Lanka.

She was loved by all her children, grandchildren, and anyone who knew her.

Everyone deals with grief differently. There are five stages of grief that people typically go through: Denial, anger, sadness, depression, and acceptance. Depending on your relationship with your loved one all five might apply to you. But in my case, it was only a combination of some of the stages, which is alright because everyone grieves differently.

However,  when one is actually going through grief, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every single stage of grief will apply to you. Some people might not show any signs of grief and suffer by themselves when thinking about their loved one in silence.  It’s important to do what you need to do to help you cope with your loss in the healthiest way possible.

Some people hold memorials, some find comfort in talking with family and friends. While I have found some solace in talking with my loved ones, writing about my grandmother has been the main way that I have coped with the loss. I prefer to write about the situations I am in whether it is a happy or sad one. 

I find solace in knowing that while I may not have gotten to know my grandmother that well when she was with us physically, I feel that I have grown closer to her through the stories my family has told me. This has both helped me cope with my grief and, more importantly, begin to heal. 

By Amani Salahudeen

Amani is a senior at The College of New Jersey with a major in Journalism and Professional Writing. She writes articles for TCNJ's newspaper, The Signal, Her Campus, and other publications.

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