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Dealing with Grief- During a Happy Day

On Tuesday July 18th, 2017, I was boarding a plane to the Dominican Republic to be with my grandfather who was not feeling too good. When I arrived, he was in good spirits, and was so happy to see me. On that day, we talked about many things, and one topic in particular was the focus of our conversation. I informed him that I was going to begin my doctoral journey in the following weeks, and he was so happy. The next day I arrived to see him in the hospital, and was not as animated as the day before but who could blame him, I would be this way too if I could not breath normally. The focus that day was to have him transferred to another facility that was able to provide better care, however after many attempts, we were unable to do so as a Doctor would have to accept him, and there was none available. Remember that this was not the USA..we were in another country, with less resources. My grandfather was upset, but eventually calmed down.

Well, it was time for my mom and I to go get some rest, and we said goodnight. However, my grandfather hugged my mom and started to cry a little. I did not give that much thought, as I just though that he was just upset from being sick. However, internally I was not happy myself as I practice in the USA, and know what evidence-based practice and protocols are on place for patients with the potential of having a pulmonary embolus.

As soon as we got to the house, we were called by one of my uncles stating "both of you need to get here as soon as possible." My gut feeling already told me what had happened, but my heart was in denial. We arrive to the hospital, and my world ended. My grandfather went into cardiac arrest, and was unable to be resuscitated. My dreams, hopes, heart, and everything in between was shattered. It was that moment that I realized the true meaning of pain. The passing of my grandfather took away my motivation to get my doctorate, and I was determined to quit. However, as the weeks passed I kept remembering that conversation my grandfather and I had on July 18th, and it wouldn't go away. It felt like he was trying to tell me "don't stop, I want you to do it." Additionally, the image of my grandfather kept appearing in my thoughts, and it was then that I said, "I am not a quitter, and I need to do this for my Papa."

Well, December 5th, 2019, my doctoral journey finished, and tomorrow I prepare to walk on that stage at my commencement and officially be called Doctor! However, today has been an emotional day, as I again remember that July 18th, 2017 conversation, and my grandfathers face.....but something is different. I feel a sense of peace, accomplishment, and relief that I did not quit. I see his face and feel that from wherever he is, he is smiling and so proud. The sad part about all this is that I feel like I am going through the stages of grief all over again. Although I have fulfilled my promise to my Papa, that was the one thing that he focused on the day before his passing. So now what? I feel a sense of loss all over again. Will I never be able to see him in my dreams encouraging me to continue? Am I ever going to see the smile on his face when I first told him, being that now I am done? My Papa was a big part of my upbringing, he was who I consider to be my dad. That closeness is what I am afraid of forgetting. However, as I took out my Doctorate regalia from the clothing bag, in preparation for tomorrow, there was a moment of rejoice and calmness mixed with tears. It was like I felt his presence, and that gave me tranquility. Maybe it was his way of telling me that the new memory I have of him is when I looked at my regalia in disbelief of what I have just achieved?

Is grief something that can lasts longer than expected, as we go through situations that give us the need for those that have passed to be present? I don't know the answer, but one thing I am sure of is that my grandfather is proud of me.

A picture of my grandparents (my grandmother who I called Mama, died 8/2018).

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