🔖 Read How your brain copes with grief, and why it takes time to heal.

This time last year, my grandmother was in the hospital. She’d been non-responsive for several days but had just started indicating that she was aware of what was going on around her. She recovered enough to talk to my mom on the phone and to be transferred to hospice. She died on January 2. I didn’t go to her memorial service because it was in a county with a very high COVID-19 positivity rate. Not gathering with my people has delayed my grieving significantly.

Mostly, at times when I would normally call her, I forget that she died until I start working out the logistics. I wanted to invite her to watch my dissertation defense. My graduation. To call her and tell her about the postdoc.

I only called her for big things: getting engaged, being present, Christmas, her birthday. There are many granddaughters more communicative than I ever was. But I made sure she always knew about the big moments.

I have to trust that if her spirit persists in some form, she still knows about the big moments. But it’s really hard not to actually hear her talking to me about it.

It’s hard knowing I’ll never again sit in her bedroom and talk with her and my mom late into the night, or lie in bed and watch TV with her until we both fall asleep, or sit out by her pool, or insist she come to the beach. Never amble about the little neighborhood market Wal-Mart around the corner from her house with her picking out groceries, or go to the Chinese buffet with her. There are so many little mundane things that I miss.

She didn’t die of COVID-related illness, but it’s COVID that kept me from seeing her for a scheduled visit in April 2020, that kept my mom from rushing down to Florida to bring her here to visit before Christmas or to be at her bedside when she was in the hospital.

I really appreciate how this article ends by urging people to remember that those of us who have lost loved ones in the past 21 months have traded everyone’s safety for the last moments with the people we love, and that in making that trade we have shifted our own grieving processes in ways we’re still discovering.

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Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @KimberlyHirsh
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I acknowledge that I live and work on unceded Lumbee, Skaruhreh/Tuscarora, and Shakori land. I give respect and reverence to those who came before me. I thank Holisticism for the text of this land acknowledgement.

We must acknowledge that much of what we know of this country today, including its culture, economic growth, and development throughout history and across time, has been made possible by the labor of enslaved Africans and their ascendants who suffered the horror of the transatlantic trafficking of their people, chattel slavery, and Jim Crow. We are indebted to their labor and their sacrifice, and we must acknowledge the tremors of that violence throughout the generations and the resulting impact that can still be felt and witnessed today. I thank Dr. Terah ‘TJ’ Stewart for the text of this labor acknowledgement.