Excruciating, Devastating Shock, and Surreal Grief

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Excruciating, devastating shock, and surreal grief. I couldn’t move, think, eat, or comprehend. All I could do was take space and go through the emotions.

Out of respect for my family, I will not mention names, just because I am ready to talk about this, they may not. On November 5th around noon, I received a call from my sister, and I knew something was so wrong. I felt the energy. She didn’t even have to say a word, I just knew this phone call was about to change all of our lives for good. All I could muster up was “NO NO NO.”

She was calling me to tell me my nephew had died that morning. I dropped to my knees and everything went completely numb. I was in shock and I did everything to pull myself to go tell one of my sons that his cousin had died earlier that morning. We decided to jump in the car together and make the trip up to Truckee to tell the news in person to my older son who was best friends with his cousin we all just lost. One of the hardest things, I thought at the time, I had to do. On the drive up, my son began to tell me that the night before he had a very sick feeling in his gut and it lasted for hours and now he knew why. 

We arrived in Truckee and my older son was already at the door, he was surprised to see both his brother and me. He knew something was wrong. We asked him to sit down as we told him the bad news. Us three sobbed, holding each other tight. He was as shocked as we all were. And then the woulda, coulda, shoulda started to come rushing in as if any of us could change this horrible reality and outcome. As a mother, to see any of your children hurt is painful in and of itself. I could not even imagine what my sister was going through.

When I got home all I could think about was getting myself down to my hometown to be with my grieving sister and her family. I was told not to come because of the threat of Covid-19. So while my sisters and brother were able to all grieve together, I had no choice but to go through this alone. The communication with my family was spotty and I wasn’t able to talk to my sister directly. I wanted to be with her. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to just be in the same room with her. I desperately wanted to be in that pod. 

Day of burial

I was forced to say goodbye to my nephew. This day was so surreal. There were only 20 people allowed into the church and each individual family had to sit six feet apart. As I entered the front of the church I saw my sister next to her son’s casket, and she motions a kiss with her hand from her masked face. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes. I was heartbroken and at that moment I felt so much sadness. 

Here she was trying to comfort me. All I wanted to do was run to her, wrap my arms around her and tell her how much I loved her, but I couldn’t. I was so gone that I flashed back to my own mother’s funeral at the age of sixteen where that same sister was there for me. She made sure I was okay and loved me. She has always been there for me. She really picked up the brokenness of my soul and lifted me up after losing our mother. 

After the service, we were instructed to say our last goodbyes and immediatly leave the church so my sister, her husband, and her sons could say their goodbyes privately. As each pew of people lined up, I was dreading making my way up the stairs. As I approached my beautiful nephew, I just couldn’t hold myself together. I told him I loved him and to please protect my older son, his best friend. 

Thank goodness, as soon as I walked out of the church I saw my brother, I hugged him so tight. I told him I loved him. Gosh, I see so much of my beautiful mother in him. I’m so grateful I got to hug him. For a split second, I felt like I was a part of that pod.

The hardest, toughest ride back home I ever had. So many emotions in that car ride home and I was completely distraught to my core. As soon as I arrived home I entered this space that was filmier but wasn’t my home. The only way to describe it was to say

It felt like I was in the basement of a home I used to live in Long Island, NY.

I come to realize I retreat there when things get really tough, but this time it was different. I knew I needed to spend time here and go through what I was feeling. Losing my mother in some way felt different than this because my mom was dying of cancer and her leaving this earth was better for her not to be in such pain. 

This was an unexpected death on a young soul. We are not built to respond to such shock. I started to feel some guilt for not seeing my family more or being more a part of their daily lives. If I had been a part of their lives more I wouldn’t have to go through this alone, but my consciousness knows that everything happens for a reason. I was meant to or forced to do this with me, myself, and I. 

Phone calls and texts started to come in and I felt overwhelmed. I used these moments to understand what my sister was going through. I chose to contact her every few days just to let her know, I’m here, sister and I love you. I didn’t want to bombard her. No one knows how to deal with such a tragedy, so I went with my gut.

Surrendering into the G R I E F and turning it into my power.

It’s not easy since this is an unfamiliar emotion that has only been felt a couple of times in my life. I felt denial, I skipped the anger and went straight to bargaining. It was weird since I knew I couldn’t bring him back.

Then there was depression, this is the numb space where I sat and reflected in that basement. It felt fuzzy and I wasn’t hungry and I forgot about time. And then there is  acceptance. This is a tough one for me because I feel so deeply. I sit here and go back to bargaining because I don’t want to accept this for my sister and our family.

Since I have stopped production due to this tragedy, I have had time to reflect. I have given myself space to go through each emotion. I knew I didn’t want to retreat back and wish it away. Denying my emotions surrounding this loss would just create unhealthy patterns. I knew better. How and why we respond to grief can sometimes be unproductive. But I didn’t want that, I wanted to deal with this grief head-on.

This has brought up some stories from my younger years and I am working through everything.

One step at a time or should I say one breath at a time. So if you know me, you would know, I dive deep into projects, it’s my form of therapy. It’s my way to reflect on the good or the bad. I knew I had to get off the couch and put one foot in front of another and move. Spending a lot of alone time is key for me because sometimes I would just drift off and feel my sister’s pain so hard I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions. I am an inner path, I can feel her. I might be 155 miles away, but I can feel this from wherever I am. 

 There is no doubt I miss my family, who lives in my hometown. I know once this pandemic is over with I will be seeing them more. This girl’s soul needs their love and to be honest they need me too. It’s my time to be the healing shining light in their lives. If I didn’t have this abundance of life up here, I would move back in a hot flash second. 

I refuse to sit in guilt, it’s not me. I’m the alchemist, so what can I do now? I have decided I will make the change. I can film my show from anywhere, I have that luxury. Starting next year I will do one interview a month in my home town surrounding areas, so I can see my family more. I am in the process of switching some personal services I do here down there. I refuse to live the rest of my years in regret. I will not put blame on anyone else when I am capable of making it happen myself. Now that feels good. Like I said one step in front of the other. 

I used to be thankful for this pandemic.

Thankful for allowing me to pause and be gifted with so many “Einstein moments.” I was able to turn a company, creating a podcast into three shows and an original series by taking the time to create and manifest. But this pandemic has also brought me loneliness and forced me to grieve by myself. I would do anything to sit in the same room with my sister, cook for her, clean her house, wash her hair, massage her feet. Just love on her, just like she did for me, but Covid doesn’t allow me to.

One thing I know for sure, grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.

To my nephew, you are The Great. I love you.

In a comfortable state of gratitude,

Kerry Romano Zall

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