Essays & Confessions

4 Things I Learned About Work And Life While Grieving

By | Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Friends, I’m back after a few days of not posting at all, and am absolutely devastated to say that my Nana passed away this weekend. She was, and still is, the greatest person I have ever known, and her loss has been so deep and profound that I am having a hard time climbing out of it.

I’ve never lost a very close loved one before, but my Nana lived with me, so the loss is heavy, and the emptiness I feel without her around is palpable. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to truly grieve until now, and although it is one of the most confusing and difficult things to do, it has also taught me a lot about life.

I don’t feel the same as I did a week ago — I’m not sure I ever will again. But I do know that life goes on, and I wouldn’t be a TFD writer if I didn’t think about the way my career life and personal finances are affected by loss and tragedy.

These are the few important things I learned over the past week, and the few things that I will be trying to remember as I try my hardest in the coming weeks to do right by my sweet Nana, and make her proud.

1. It is okay to give yourself a really big break.

In the days leading up to my Nana’s passing, and the few days after, I’ve had a really hard time breaking from real life. It feels like waking up and carrying on keeps things normal, and almost prevents you from feeling what is happening. It is, of course, incredibly difficult to take a step back from all regularly-scheduled activities, and allow the pain to set in. But aside from that, I’m also at a point in school and life where I feel a lot of pressure to excel academically, and a huge part of that is simply being both physically and mentally present in school. I actually tried to go to school the day of my Nana’s wake, which was honestly stupid to even attempt. When things like this happen, it is okay to take a break. It is okay to let your family be more important than your coursework or your career, even just for a few moments. You have a lifetime to work hard and catch up to get where you want to be, but you’ll only get one opportunity to grieve with your family, and say your final goodbyes to your loved one.

2. Being sad is not a good excuse to be reckless.

Although I gave myself a bit of a break from school and TFD at this time, I decided to work on Sunday at my other job as a nanny, because it was only a couple of hours — and I really did need the money. However, I had some time to kill between dropping the kids I watch off at their church activities and picking them up. Their church just so happens to be conveniently located next to a Target, which, as everyone knows, is a great place to blow money when you’re feeling down about life. I basically floated in with tragic, dead eyes, and filled a cart with a whole bunch of shit I most definitely did not need, before I blinked near the cash register and snapped back to reality. I was sad. I was sad as hell. But buying my family matching Christmas pajamas wasn’t going to change that. We were not going to stop being sad. I abandoned my cart and left the store promptly.

It is okay to take a little extra care of yourself, and bring in the “treat yo’self” self-care method in a gentle, budget-friendly way — like buying some of your favorite ice cream, or something else that comforts you. But spending to fill a void is never good, and it never works — especially when the void is where your wonderful Nana used to be.

3. It is important to know when it is time to return to real life.

After the funeral yesterday, I spoke to a few of my family members about what a blur the last week has been, and how weird it feels to know that we’ll have to wake up and resume life now. A few of us toyed around with the idea of taking an extra day off to recover from it all, although not everyone’s job affords them that luxury. I am one of the few who could definitely have taken today for myself. Chelsea and the whole TFD team are so wonderfully supportive, and I’m certain they would let me take any time I needed before coming back and writing. My professors at school have also been great through all of this, and promised me that any time I need to take off right now could be somehow made up in the coming weeks. But I know myself well enough to know that lying in bed today and dwelling on it for even one more minute would make returning in a few days feel even less possible. I need to start to manufacture the normalcy now, so eventually my regular life starts to feel natural again.

4. It is okay to be terrified to return to real life.

I’ll never stop missing my Nana. I don’t think I’ll begin to miss her less as time goes on; I can only imagine I may eventually miss her even more. I want to stay frozen in the last few days, with my entire family gathered in her honor, where our every last thought was dedicated to her. I want to stay huddled around her at the funeral home with my family, because that is the closest we’ll get to be to her again. I don’t want to return to real life.

But the thing is, even the most flexible jobs, the kindest bosses, nicest teachers, and the most supportive families can’t pay your bills. They can’t finish your degree for you. They can’t get you out of debt, or get you a paycheck, or contribute to your savings account. When you let your grief take over, your future is on the line. If you let yourself be so consumed by it that your real life stops, you stop moving forward, working towards your goals, paying off your debts, and keeping yourself afloat. It is okay to be scared, but you have to know that your life is more important than the fear. You have to push through, and you will.

As my mother said yesterday when we woke up, “All we have to do is get through today — and the rest of our lives.”

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at!

Image via Unsplash

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