GRIEF WORK AND HEALING
It so happened that on the eight-year anniversary of Jeggan’s passing, I celebrated a milestone birthday. Even with life’s trauma, it is a momentous and joyful time to be alive and for that I am eternally grateful. I have no doubt in my mind that Jeggan must be watching, smiling, and cheering me on. Meanwhile, I wondered what Jeggan’s thoughts and reactions would be concerning my milestone birthday, given his sheer wit and queer sense of humor. So, to find out, I was more than happy to string together some thoughts and take a virtual trip down memory lane – by the way, this been my new distraction.
WELCOME TO THE RIDE
Hop on the ride! For a moment, I let my imagination run wild. It’s the morning of my birthday and imagining Jeggan casually walking up to my bedroom. He leans against the door post, one arm placed across his chest and the with the other playfully twisting his hair into knots. Then, in a typical Jeggan manner, he happily blurts out, “Happy birthday Mom!” all the while wearing a mischievous grin. “Wow, you are growing old Mom!” he chuckles. To which I reply, “Thank you and love you.” In his usual low-pitched sounding voice, he retorted,” I love you too mom,” followed by a hug and the conversation ends. As he slowly backs away, he says reassuringly, “Anyway, mom, it’s no big deal – age is just a number.” He steals one last glance before disappearing around the door hurdling away as if he’s had a gotcha moment. That’s emblematic of Jeggan; a man of few words often wrapped in plain humor. Thanks for coming along.
TRULY A SPECIAL GIFT
Jeggan was truly a special gift. He personified life in all its goodness. As a baby he was calm endearing and loving. As a toddler, he was curious, mischievous, and vivacious. Pre-teen, Jeggan was adventurous, enthusiastic, and energetic. In his teen years he was faith-driven, philosophical, and ambitious. In his brief young adult life, he was service oriented, and conscientious, always leaning into the humanity of others. Even though he played by the rules for much of his lifetime he never missed a moment’s opportunity to engage and share fun time with friends. Then one fateful day, he slipped into the dark night and was no more. While I understand all too well that the natural order is for him to tell my story, I nevertheless now carry that mantle to live and tell his story, honor his memory and legacy through the work of my grief journey; as a mother there is no greater honor. Simply put, Jeggan was just a loving, and beautiful soul. I will always be grateful for my special gift that once walked the face of this earth. I am truly blessed to be his mother. Rest in power Jeggan. Rest in eternal peace Jeggan. Eight years strong!
MY HEALING JOURNEY
it’s always been the tradition for me to share reflections of my grief journey on the anniversary of Jeggan’s angel date. The focus of my blog this year is the healing path of my journey. What’s the path been like while doing grief work: the struggles, and wins, as well as the impact on my journey generally? Earlier on in my journey, I struggled with various beliefs and concepts of grief, particularly the notion of time and healing. I convinced myself that a) time does not heal and b) healing from such harrowing loss was surreal. So in my limited understanding of grief at the time I perceived healing as a destination signaling finality rather than a process. Basically, healing for me was the final act of betrayal of love knowing fully well now that love is at the core of grief. Grief is borne out of love. How could I be done grieving my son? Impossible! For these reasons, I held on fiercely to pain and hurt with a good measure of resistance and denial. Eventually, grief at some point became overwhelming and unmanageable. Left with hardly any wiggle way out, I had to face the ultimate truth and acknowledged my reality, undertake grief work, and break free from the unending cycle of pain.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene.’
DOING GRIEF WORK
“Beloveds – you’ve got to do the work!” is a favorite saying of Iyanla Vanzant. We must be willing to do the necessary and required work of the inner person whenever we face a challenge, difficulty or upset in life. It is a sign that there is some work that we need to do according to Iyanla. Being fully aware of how much damage the culprit, grief had done in my life, I was determined not to cede anymore ground to my “pain bodies” (Eckhart Tullie) or grief monsters and avowed that grief will not have the last say or take me down. So, I surrendered to doing the emotional and mental grief work which helped me onto the path of healing. Soon, the more work I put in, the more manageable grief has become: less triggers, and more fruits of healing. More likely than not, it is possible for grief to co-exist with joy, and it’s not one or the other. Personally, healing has been more about many things: acceptance of loss, managing change, emerging realities as well as growth. More, so healing is about embracing the person I am becoming after loss. All the moving parts of healing lends credence to my journey and honors the legacy and memory of Jeggan. So, contrary to my earlier beliefs, with time and grief work healing is possible. There is no doubt in my mind that even as healing continues to take a foothold in my journey, there will be moments when I will be blind sighted by grief, experience setbacks and breakdowns but that’s okay too for as long as I walk the sacred the path. All said and done, Jeggan would desire nothing less of me than for me to be happy; I owe it to him and myself. Indeed, grief work set me on the path of healing and recovery and the feeling has been liberating, refreshing, and empowering.
“Barn’s burnt down – Now I can see the moon.” Mizuta Masahide
HEALING: MEANING AND PURPOSE
It has always been my mission to make my journey count by being purposeful in my walk. My last blog detailed much of my new experiences with self-care, emerging interests, rituals as well as the general impact on my journey. Realizing that my journey is lifelong, self-care is necessary. I am intentionally taking steps to protect and care for my mental, physical, and spiritual health through my daily routines and rituals. Oh, by the way, for the first time this year, I went on a hiking trip to honor Jeggan’s memory – one of his favorite pastimes. He loved the outdoors and frequently went hiking with friends. Besides creating new and lasting memories, much of the year was spent engaging in activities of self-development and service. My faith remained the cornerstone of my journey, the vessel of my strength and courage. Therefore, in my brokenness and moments of unguarded grief, I press on and listen closely to the still small voice of my heart saying that life is till beautiful no matter life’s curve balls. Frankly, the entire healing experience has given me much hope for the future of my journey. Jeggan’s mantra, – “It’s all good Mom,” – is a daily reminder of God’s love, kindness, and compassion towards me. There is no better way to reconcile the loss of Jeggan than to own my truth, tell my story and stay authentic with my journey. The healing process is truly a transformational process.
Now for some updates on the Jeggan Cole Foundation (JCMF): a give-back program. The Foundation continues to offer scholarships and mentor disadvantaged high school students in rural communities of The Gambia. Three scholars graduated high school in 2021/2022 academic and the Foundation welcomed two new scholars. Prospective scholars for the 2022/2023 academic year are currently being screened for possible scholarship offers. On the project front, the expansion, refurbishing and equipping of the rundown school library continued despite setbacks due to COVID 19, funding and other local hiccups. Currently, funds for the completion of the ceiling tiling and paint work have been made available and should be completed by the end of the summer. JCMF hopes to undertake the third phase which includes, equipping the library with amenities such as ceiling fans, air conditioning, bookshelves, cabinets, desks, chairs for students and librarian once additional funding is available. Stocking the library with books, learning aids, computers, and other electronic devices will be the fourth and final stage of the library project. The library when completed and fully functional will serve the school as well as surrounding schools and communities. The Foundation is also working towards establishing a functional sick bay and Home Science room for students. In 2021, JCMF shipped three wardrobe sized U-Haul boxes with various school items and other materials for a local clinic. Given the on-going projects of the Foundation, I would like to make a personal appeal for donation, in cash or in kind to help bring to completion the above projects. The goal is for disadvantaged students to access and enjoy basic educational opportunities that give them a fighting chance. Thank you in anticipation. Kindly follow the link below to donate
Finally, to bring this year’s blog to a close, I wish to admit that healing for the longest while feels real and sits right with me. God is doing his good work in me. True to his promise, He has never abandoned me. So, as this chapter of my grief journey ends and a new one opens, I do so with less trepidation, greater sense of joy, peace, and assurance of hope. For as long as it takes me, I am committed to doing the difficult everyday unseen work of grief. It’s okay that there will always be a void in my heart and that Jeggan will never be part of my new memories but it’s all good too, good in a different way. By the way I can still hop on my imaginary trips and enjoy temporary distractions. To all those who continue to hold space for me and are part of my support system, I appreciate you. Your calls, text messages, emails and much more mean the world to me and have helped direct me towards the path of healing. You made me believe that there is so much more to my journey than grief, pain, and loss and feel incredibly blessed. Thank you all! Eight years strong!
Signing off with my favorite and most comforting saying of all times, “IT’S ALL GOOD, MOM!”
Rest in Peace SON. I miss you so much.