February: a personal reflection
I really didn’t want to make this month’s article about something grief-related, and that was for a lot of reasons. For one, I had just written about Kobe and Gianna (RIP). Another is that I didn’t want my Medium to become an obituary. But February–and the overall transition of going from one year to the next–has become a tender period of time for me in the past couple of years. That being said, it only seemed natural for things to pan out this way. So, without further ado, here we go.
I’ve been pretty scatterbrained this month. It’s been two years since my paternal grandma passed away and it all still feels hazy.
“It’s already been two years since my grandma passed away.”
There is so much baggage with that statement. When that thought pops into my head, I’m immediately led to think about all the other people in my life who have passed away in these past three years as well.
In these three years, there has been guilt: guilt for having different levels of depth and capacity of grief for different people. There have been questions.
Am I grieving well?
Have I grieved correctly?
I’ve had questions about how all of this makes sense with my faith. There has also been pain: the pain of losing someone and pain in not knowing how to carry on in the midst of life’s ups and downs.
Knowing that I love all of them, I should have been comforted and had rest about grieving differently for different people. But feeling the impacts of someone’s death more than another’s stings. So I kept digging inwards, hoping to find some yet undiscovered and unacclaimed pain and hurt that I could devote to lost loved ones who “needed more honoring”… But it just got messier and more broken.
I’ve learned that grief is complicated and that it is another aspect of life that I can’t control.
Come February, my paternal grandma’s passing is at the forefront of my mind; here are some of the thoughts I’ve had about her recently that I’ve wanted to acknowledge:
- I haven’t called anyone “할머니” (“grandma” in Korean) in over two years. Sure, I could say it to other elderly I know, but the feeling is different. I didn’t realize that losing all of my grandparents at once would rob me of the feeling and bliss of calling those names.
- I miss laughing with my grandma. I miss having her sleepover. I miss hearing her stroke-ridden right foot drag, as she walked across our wooden floor. I miss eating 붕어빵 with her. I miss randomly stopping by her apartment when I was in the city. I miss her showing me all of the random knick-knacks she collected. I miss seeing her do crossword puzzles and word/picture searches while I try to read my book. I miss having her TV be at a deafening volume level while all of that is happening. I miss the way she smushed her glasses into her face, to the point where they were practically glued to her eyelashes. I miss her. A lot.
There are, oddly, bittersweet reflections in this second year of my grandma’s absence. It’s bitter because I feel like I could’ve understood her more, and in much deeper ways, had she still been here. She was so involved in my life growing up that I thought I knew all there was to know; but I’m still growing, and little did I know that so too was my understanding of who she was.
Nevertheless, it’s also sweet. Even if she’s not physically here, she’s still a part of me. The better I get to know myself, and the older I get, the more I realize how similar we are. The way I need to get every drop out of my soymilk juice box is just one of the many annoying, yet endearing traits that makes me chuckle.
I guess I can say that I’ve been getting to know my grandma more as I’ve gotten to know myself.
It’s sweet… because she’s always with me.
Her iconic phrase :)
To not be ashamed, shy, or timid. But be confident, bold, and courageous.
I bottle stuff up sometimes and give reasons for not doing a lot of things
I think it’s partially because I’m learning what it looks like to be authentically myself. This process of becoming a pubescent adult has me pondering when to guard my heart and when to share what and with who. But then again, a part of me kind of hates feeling the need to conceal parts of myself from some and not from others. All that to say, these articles are my attempt at living out the last advice my beloved grandmother left me with.
But like I said, I give a lot of excus– I mean reasons.
One reason I give to talk myself out of writing is the factor of time. As I’ve learned more about myself and the world, my opinions and perspectives have shifted.
“I don’t want to write something and put it out there all to have it be something that I don’t stand by in a few years' time.”
I’ve found, though, that that’s the beauty of it all. In this cultural moment, it’s so hard to show character development. For lack of a better explanation, I think it’s so cool to be open and comfortable with evolving over time–and to be content with yourself in the process. I think that’s what my grandma was alluding to: to be proud of myself in every moment, whether the grounds for that moment remain or not.
By and large, we all go through periods of self-doubt or self-criticism. For me, it manifests in obsessively overthinking until I’m overly hyper-aware and want to withdraw from the world. That’s a mouthful, I know. I’ve spent so much of last year burdened by the reality that I can’t control how others perceive me. This led me to believe that the seemingly better option was to keep to myself completely–because at least I could control my thoughts, my actions, and my words. Or so I thought lol.
As this month has been coming to a close, I’ve struggled with getting myself to write this article. I’ve wondered why I had set myself up to be so exposed on the interweb. The reality of committing to writing an article a month slowly became apparent; I’ve committed to showing you who I am (at least) once a month.
The more I thought about what goes into these articles– the personal elements, “just a glimpse” of the inner workings of my mind, and the ability for readers to freely criticize my thoughts and ways of thinking– the more I honestly wished I hadn’t been so public about all of this.
I slowly began to crawl inside myself, then my grandma’s words struck me.
There is a world beyond the confines of my comfort zone, and that’s been so heart-warming to see. It’s surprising to me how so many of you actually read my word vomit. I’m humbled and astonished when even one person gives my words a portion of their time. So, thank you.
Even though I’m really trying to stray away from calling this a blog (shout out to those of you who I’ve had this conversation with), all of these words are personal. So it means a lot when they’re received with love and care.
This month’s article was not only motivated by my own personal reflection and longing for the ones I’ve lost, but also by those around me who have unfortunately entered into the turmoils of grief that I trudged through not too long ago. It’s hard to lift that soul-sucking affliction from you sometimes. Condolences, though mean well, console you very little. My intent in writing this is to remind myself, and whoever else is willing, about how to engage with the broken-hearted.
Time, in itself, does not heal all wounds. It was so frustrating to be told that everything gets better with time. It just made me more restless; It made me feel helpless.
There is some truth that time does, in fact, help; and sometimes, you do just have to sit and wait for the pain to pass. But, mind that you do have agency. Surround yourself with a good community, get help, and do what you need for people to shine a light on you. It’s important to understand your hurt fully, but it’s also important not to dig yourself in a hole.
For those who know someone who’s hurting, be near and reach out. There were so many times I needed someone to just sit with me or someone to pray for me but couldn’t get myself to ask for it. I’m so thankful for the people God has surrounded me with. They are testaments of His faithfulness and so much of the reason why I have the willpower to write and create again.
I don’t want to project my experiences onto you. There’s no full-proof checklist for how to grieve, nor is there a time frame. It looks different for everyone. But whatever it looks like, you will get through it.
There is a lot jam-packed into this however long of a read Medium’s algorithm deems this to be, some of which we have just scratched the surface of. As a result, there may be loose ends here and there; But, as much as I love to write for my readers, I feel like this month’s article was written more for my own sake.
No one article nor Instagram post can encapsulate all of who my grandma was, all of who she was to me, nor all of the pain of losing her. Prior to this, I hesitated to write or dedicate anything to her at all because of the pressure of “needing it to be perfect.” That pressure, so I’ve learned, can be crippling and prevent you from doing anything at all.
So, this is one of many. Not only one of the many things I can tribute to her, but also one of the many insights I can give on her.
To my lovely grandma,
I miss you everyday 할머니. Thank you for being the woman you were.
Here’s to being confident in my perfectly imperfect self!