The Inevitable Emotion: Grief

The Inevitable Emotion: Grief

Nicholas Diaz

In Dedication to my grandmother, Ana I Travieso.

Grief is something that unfortunately we will all have to experience sooner or later. It is a deep suffering that cannot be healed and is often not talked about in the media as much as it should be. We all have experienced or will experience the loss of losing a loved one, and I believe it is extremely important that people who endure this pain understand that they are not alone. We tend to get overwhelmed with emotion and overcome with sorrow to see that there are people who are going through the same thing as us.

I believe the most important aspect of getting through grief is support. As simple as words of encouragement such as “everything is going to be okay” or “I am here for you” can go a long way for someone who is grieving the loss of their loved one. I want to use this story as a way to bestow a hand to help people overcome those dark days and offer hope that one day it will get better.

This pain will never go away, but you learn to live with it, and it does get easier. I hope my story and my perspective give light to those in their darkest days and help them realize that they are NOT alone.

I have become such an advocate for Grief and more conversations about it because I, unfortunately, had firsthand experience with losing a loved one seven times throughout my past 18 years. Being only six years old and walking into a funeral home for the first time to see my cousin lying in a casket altered my life forever. I wish I could say that was the only time I entered a funeral home, but the sad reality is that it wasn’t.

From there on, I continued to lose people close to me making it difficult to find hope in the darkness. I recently lost one of the closest people in the world to me, and it has been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to endure thus far.

On January 6, 2023, at around 4:36 pm, my grandmother, Ana I Travieso, took her final breath surrounded by my mom, sister, and me. My grandmother was my best friend and the only person I thought truly understood me. She was the definition of strength and had endured so much pain in her life.

She had to bury her son, her grandson, and then finally her husband but was still able to remain rich in her faith in God. She was diagnosed with Small Cell Lung Cancer, SCLC, in July of 2022. One of the rarest and most aggressive forms of its kind. She was determined to fight this awful disease and make sure she rang the victory bell at the end of her treatment. She started Chemotherapy, and things were looking good until they weren’t. We were told at the end of November that she only had six more months left on this earth, and this news crushed my family.

We knew her cancer was aggressive and that it was rare but we also knew how strong Ana was and knew she was not going down without her best fight.

She was admitted to the hospital on December 18, 2022, for what we thought was a stroke but turned out to be her cancer spreading to her brain. It was altering her speech and her overall ability. She was taken care of and thankfully released a few days later and brought home but then her condition started to decline once again. She was admitted to the hospital again on December 31, 2022, and we were told that she would not make it through the night. My heart sank into my stomach and it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I know we all do not live forever but I never thought I had to say goodbye to my grandmother so soon.

My family and I spent New Year’s Eve in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in the city by her bedside in what we thought were her final moments. The next day, January 1, 2023, my grandmother was up and responsive for the first time in two days. I was so happy to see her be able to talk again and the hope that she would be okay overcame my entire body. I was so amazed at her strength and courage to defy the odds and make a miracle happen for herself. The last thing she said to me before she closed her eyes again was, “I love you, Papi”.

My mom, my sister, and I spent six days with her in the hospital and did not leave her side. After being up and responsive the first day, my grandmother went to sleep and never woke back up. She fought in the hospital every day to wake up, but unfortunately, Heaven needed her more.

When I came into this world, my grandmother was the first person to hold me, and life came back full circle as I was able to hold her hand as she left this world. I am grateful that I had so many precious years with her, but I wish I could have gotten a lot more.

While every person I have lost in my life has affected me, losing my grandmother has changed my life forever.  I spent every day of the past 18 years with her to now have to visit her at the cemetery. I have cried so much in the days since her passing, but I feel like I have cried all the tears I could have. I feel as if I have become numb to the pain when I’m not thinking about it, but once a memory hits my brain, I’m overcome with emotion. One day I’m okay, the next day I am in pieces, but I believe it is all a part of the process.

Throughout the past losses in my life, my grandmother was always there to console me and wipe every tear from my eyes. She had such a comforting and caring spirit to her that nobody could replace. She always knew the right thing to say and was the final piece to the puzzle. I feel as if a piece of myself was left with her the day God called her home. I know she is in a better place and her suffering has ended, but I can’t help but wish that she was still with me. I wanted her to be the first to hold my kids and be front and center at my wedding. I wanted her to see me accomplish everything I spent hours talking to her about.

Grief for everyone is different. Everyone is entitled to cope the way they want. It is okay to be vulnerable and let out your emotions. By bottling them up, you are just letting them build until you one day explode. There is no right answer or a  manual on how to grieve, but I believe it is all about taking it day by day. Learning how to take care of yourself and improving your mental health.

I believe writing this article and telling her story is a part of my grief process. I don’t want her to be forgotten. I want people that didn’t get the chance to meet her to know how much of an amazing woman she was. She was selfless and spent her entire life putting others before herself.

I also want to use her story as a way to spread awareness about the awful disease that is cancer. About how many hearts it has broken and how many lives it has altered. I find comfort in knowing that she is finally cancer free and not in any more pain. I also find comfort in knowing that she is reunited with her son, her grandson, and her husband who she had missed dearly while she was on this earth.

Finding comfort in those aspects has made a difficult process a little easier. There is no way to conquer grief, but as time progresses you learn how to live with it.

While it is easy to drown in my tears and bask in my sorrows, I want to use this pain and hurt to live for her. I want to turn my grief into a passion and illustrate that broken hearts can come back together. All she wanted for me in this life was to be happy. While she lived on this earth, she did everything she could to accomplish that. I want to do things that she never got the chance to do and make her as proud as I possibly can.

She built a foundation for my family and now it is our job to continue to carry on her legacy and make sure that all the hard work she did on this earth was not in vain.

This wound may never be healed and my life will never be the same but I am her grandson and her strength is within my blood. I would not be her grandson If I were to let this pain break me and make me crumble.

She went through hell and back and still never fell. She raised me with the ability to overcome and get back up every time I was put down. She taught me how precious life is and how to appreciate and fully grasp every moment because you will never know when it is your time.

Thank you, Grandma, for every lesson, every piece of advice, and most importantly your love. You loved me with all of your being and made sure I knew that up until the very end. You did all of your work on this earth and left it with a legacy, you may now rest peacefully my guardian angel. With every breath I take, I breathe for my Grandmother. You are and will forever be a lung cancer warrior. Until we meet again, Grams, I love you more.