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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

This is a shout-out to my grievers.

Where all my grievers at? Can I get a BOO-HOO?

Just kidding. But if I were to craft a rap about grief, it would definitely start off like that.

I’ve been feeling a bit more grief-y than usual lately, and I can think of several practical reasons for that. First, my good friend Lindsey’s husband, Mike, died from leukemia two years ago this week. My heart is connected to Lindsey’s for many reasons, but especially because our look-who’s-a-widow timelines have run somewhat concurrently, which leads me to my next point. Late March and early April of 2020 were the last weeks at home with Ramón as a family of five (two humans, three dogs). The same week Mike died, Ramón was admitted for his bone marrow transplant, so emotions were in high gear. And it’s currently the two-year anniversary of that week.

Reflecting on my own encounters with grief, as well as the experiences shared by those around me, I’ve noticed many common themes:

  • Thinking you should be “further along” than you are

  • Waffling between feelings that the death was long ago or surprisingly recent

  • Wondering why random things cut deeper on certain days

  • Feeling guilty that the passage of time is causing your memories to fade

And guess what? None of them are fun. They’re all attempts to apply logic to one of the most emotional — and therefore often illogical — processes that humans experience.

Consciously, from day to day, I feel as though I have peace of mind, but my dreams lead me to believe there’s chaos in my subconscious. I have recurring stress dreams where Ramón is about to die all over again. Lately, the most common plot line is that Ramón is dying a much slower death, as we’d both imagined he would if he died from leukemia. In the dream, we know the treatments are no longer effective. We have an opportunity to spend quality time together, visit with friends and loved ones, and indulge Ramón in the way he enjoyed most — eating.

During the dream, Ramón is generally content living in the moment, not worried about his impending death. Dream Drew on the other hand struggles to enjoy herself because she knows that the end is coming. Dream Drew has a hard time being present because she wants to have final conversations and neatly wrap things up in some kind of storybook ending. She wants closure. I usually wake up from the dream before Ramón dies, yet I feel a sense of real-life urgency that is difficult to shake.

When I analyze the dream and what it might mean, a few things come to mind. I sometimes wonder how things would have been different if Ramón actually died from leukemia rather than complications from the treatment. Because of Ramón’s cardiac arrest, he went from alive to very-much-not-alive in mere seconds. There was nothing gradual about it. No goodbyes. No bucket lists. No final hurrahs. Plus, given the timing of Ramón’s transplant and COVID-19, our final weeks of pre-transplant freedom were an anomaly. The world had freshly shut down, so Ramón’s final weeks on the outside were a very strange outlier in his life as a whole.

And now comes the moment where I ask myself why I’m choosing to suffer by thinking these thoughts — these what ifs. Ramón died the way he did. The events were very unexpected and unprecedented. Frankly, no matter how he died, I imagine it would have been equally difficult. Grief is grief. You don’t get to choose between Grief Lite and the Extended Grief Experience.

You do, however, get to choose to embrace the life you’re presently living or inhabit the way life used to be. Grief is inevitably going to creep in at times — when a memory strikes or the bank randomly sends a letter 18 months after the fact letting you know your deceased spouse has been removed from the account. But no matter how the grief manifests, there’s an opportunity to mentally reroute before you end up in the middle of nowhere, completely out of gas.


Havin’ a moment of disbelief?

Use your power to make it brief. And if you’re seekin’ just a bit of relief,

Don’t let grief become a joy thief. BOOM! *mic drop*

That’s the end of my rap. I just need to work on the middle.

One of Ramón’s last cuddly mornings with Noodle


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