Coming to Terms with Grief from Personal Experience


Emma McNeeley

Emma McNeeley poses with her Nanny, Barbara McNeeley at her home in Lakewood Ohio. She passed away 2 years ago.

Emma McNeeley, Features Editor

Every November, McDowell holds an assembly for Children’s Grief Awareness Day. This year, that day falls on Nov. 15. The assembly is often tear jerking and hard to hear. But in reality, there is much more to grief and loss than what we hear at this assembly. Everyone’s experience can be so different.

November is an especially hard month for me these days. It is the month of my Nanny’s birthday, who I lost to cancer two years ago. Hearing other people’s stories about loss at the assembly helps, as it shows me that others have gone through similar situations. Yet I know, deep down, that there is something much deeper that person is feeling than what they show on the surface. I know because I have been through this before.

I can remember the weeks leading up to Nanny’s death very well. It was hard to balance the events in my life with my concern for her.  Even though I had been told it was going to happen because her cancer wasn’t responding to treatment and had spread I still wasn’t ready, because no one is ever really ready to lose someone. It was painful and I spent a lot of days crying. I became angry about everything and overall my mood changed.. 

I had grown up spending most of my days at her house, and when we moved out of Cleveland and into Millcreek I saw her less and less, but when she died, it was was different; this time she was gone. It was all too overwhelming, her death was heart wrenching for me. When you hear about people losing someone so close to them, you often think that it must be horrible and heartbreaking. Truth is, nobody has any clue how much it is going to hurt until it happens. 

My biggest problem was not knowing what was a normal reaction, or if it’s okay to be so affected by the death of a loved one. I never fully opened up to my family about the pain; I had spent the weeks leading up to her death acting like I was fine. It took me a whole year to open up to a professional counselor about how I felt and I soon found out that it is okay to feel pain. 

Grief can be confusing and aggravating at times. It’s okay to cry a lot, or feel empty, or to feel anger. Some may feel mad at the world, lose motivation or not want to talk about it. These feelings are all normal and that’s the most important thing to know. When you experience a death, it’s important to know that it is going to hurt, and in reality you are never fully ready for it when it comes. 

As for accepting it, it took me time to get better. Even after two years it is a very hard thing to discuss even with my family. I still tear up talking about her, and it’s easy for me to feel her presence when I hear a Beatles song or when I watch The Princess Bride.. 

Whenever Walking for the Cause comes around, I always submit a photo of her for the Heroes of Hope slideshow, and I sit in the audience and cry everytime. She was a beautiful human being, and it’s hard to accept when someone so special is gone. 

 Acceptance isn’t easy and can take time. The pain will linger and stick around no matter how much time passes. Grief works in different ways for each person, but it is so important to know that in the end you’ll be okay, and pain heals, never be afraid to open up.