We have the pleasure of introducing the first guest post to the blog. I met Chantal virtually when trolling Instagram for mutual connections.
(Disclaimer: Expect typos and errors and some bursts of profanity… it’s my griefy brain thing)
(Oh, and Trigger warning: Read at your own risk of relating)
Look, let me start off by saying, I don’t feel like I have left the quarters of Hell. My Mom died November 6, 2019. Enter Global Pandemic. Enter Dad’s health declining. But even with ALL that has come my way, that I didn’t ask for (by the way), there has also been some unexpected, kinda-not-so-terrible things also.
You see, when Mom died in November, I was sitting with my Dad on the couch in the funeral home waiting for a few more others before we walked into the main hall to view Mom lying there in a lavender casket. I had already seen Mom, but Dad hadn’t, and I wanted to be sure I was with him when he saw her again. But as we were waiting, making small chit-chat, as you do when you are waiting to see your dead loved one lying there dead as dead can be, something dawned on us. Mom was a hugger. Dad and myself, not so much. Damn it! These people, the slew of humans that loved Mom, because Mom was easily the most loved human on the planet because she loved everyone and I mean everyone (including my exes), were going to expect to hug somebody and since they could no longer hug her (because she was dead and lying stiff as can be in a metal box) they were going to look to us, aka the husband and daughter of the newly deceased, for whatever reason, to comfort us, to comfort themselves, and they would expect hugs from us. Crap!
I was filled with panic. I am a highly sensitive person and an empath, I am so particular about who I let touch me anyhows, but especially at an event that was pummeling through every emotional wall I had. I whispered to Dad that I wish I had made us both shirts that said “Don’t Fucking Touch Me” and he agreed. He wished I had, too.
Let me rewind for a minute.
I am no stranger to loss. Losing my Mom was not my first time tipping my toe into the griefy ocean, or what-have-you. I had lost many more humans before but this death, it almost killed me, as did losing my best friend unexpectedly and tragically in the summer of 2008. So, after my best friend Lindsey died, I almost killed myself, but held on for long enough to meet Emily, who would become my next Best Friend. Several years before my Mom died, Emily’s younger brother died. I scrambled to make a flight to be with her and her family in Colorado as soon as humanly possible. That experience was something that forever changed me, as well. Shortly after that trip, when I returned home, I made two shirts and sent them to Emily and her older sister. One shirt said “Don’t Fucking Touch Me” while the other said “Leave Me Alone”. Both were relevant and I didn’t care who picked which just as long as they knew I saw them, they were both highly sensitive as well, and easily over stimulated by all the human touch that came their way at a time they only wanted certain people to touch them.
So, back to the couch, with my Dad. I remembered those shirts. I wish I would’ve thought ahead but everything happened so fast and I spent the day before rushing to the bank with my husband to try to apply for a twenty thousand dollar loan to pay for my mother’s funeral expenses and apparently they don’t allow you to put your dead on lay-a-way.
And just as I expected, everyone tried to hug us.
Emily was down for my Mom’s service, and she stood to my right like a bodyguard, ushering folks along if she sensed I was too overwhelmed. I wanted to spend time with my dead mom in her casket for as long as I could before she was put into the ground forever. I understand that some humans wanted to comfort me, but there were also FAARR too many humans I did not know and never met who were arriving to pay their respects to my Mom, which I appreciate, but did not find it appropriate to be introduced to strangers while I was leaning over my Mother’s corpse singing Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen” to her. There’s a time and a place for introductions, and probably not at a funeral, when snot is running down your face, you can barely stand, and you want to make sure no one steals the sentimental jewelry off your dead. Just sayin… Now is not the time.
Fast forward to the part where humans are ignoring my boundary setting and I am quite literally yelling at humans while I stand by the artificial grass that dresses Mom’s grave. What am I yelling? You guessed it… Don’t Fucking Touch Me. I nominated my best friend Emily, my husband, and whoever else was nearby my hug proxies. I couldn’t be touched anymore. My whole body was in pain, my skin hurt, my eyes burned, my soul felt like it had somehow magnified it’s gravitational pull and was weighing me down to earth, but wanting me even further below the surface. It felt like my soul was wanting for me to be as deep below the earth as mom would be, since we were having her buried even deeper, as we planned to have my Mom’s mom (aka Big Nanny) buried on top of my Mom when she passed. What the hell are the odds that my Mom, 66, would die before her 91 year old Mom? That’s fucked up.
So, the funeral is over, I’m spent, and the next several days, there are still a few people at our place. I keep waking up at 3AM, like clockwork, and I am filled with ideas that won’t stop coming. At this point, I can’t write. I can barely see. So I start talking it out and before I know it, several things have come to light: so many ideas I couldn’t keep track of them all, a podcast that was started by me, on Thanksgiving day while I lay on the floor of my closet, a name for my handle and a brand and before Christmas, shirts and sweaters and mugs and totes were made and before the start of the year, I welcomed Grieve Me Alone into the world. I wanted to see several things change…like our nation’s policies on bereavement care and family medical leave. I wanted to see someone speaking so openly and honestly about grief that wasn’t some 5 stages of grief bullshit or tips on how to overcome grief articles. I made myself a sweater that I wore on Christmas day as I flew from Houston to New York, through two stupidly crowded airports. It said “My Mom Died. That’s Why I’m Like This.” I had my reasons.
I wanted there to be merch in the world. I wanted people to be talking about grief, truly, really, in the most transparent of ways, not hushing up like it was taboo or like death was a bad word. I wanted things to exist that I didn’t see out there just yet, so I started creating what I needed for my own grief A few people started recommending griefy authors that I never heard of and I decided to not jump into their books because at this point, I had begun writing, and I have one rule when I am creating, do not look to something of the same or what you make will no longer be your own. I haven’t listened to podcasts, so I am not entirely sure how professional podcasts sound, but I didn’t care, I had my own to make. I didn’t want to read about someone else’s way they got over grief because 1) I didn’t believe that it was something to get over and 2) I already knew someone else’s way was not going to be my way to adjust to living without my dead, I had to figure it out on my own.
So, I didn’t look online. I just started writing down ideas and going from there. I avoided podcasts and books and threw myself deeply into writing and creating and to my surprise stumbled into a grief community on Instagram that I was not expecting to be there, but especially was not expecting for it to be so loving and accepting and supportive as it has been. I started making friends, and then the pandemic came, and I started making masks. And my writing still comes at 3AM and sometimes do my creative ideas so I scribble down notes and try to go back to bed. But what I am creating, does not feel like it is coming just from me, I mean, maybe that sounds crazy, but it mostly feels like I am just obeying the creative instruction that I hear as it speaks in my mind. I follow its lead. I write. I speak. I reach out to humans that are also grieving. I design. I create. I print. I write some more. Yada Yada Yada. All the things. And it is through the unraveling of something I never ever expected to come into my life, after my life had already come undone, as had I, that I found that there was some sort of purpose for me after all.
Grief work feels like my life work, my soul work. It is why I am here. I fully believe that by my experiences, my relentless visitations by death, have crafted in me something bigger. Not just empathy, I already was an empath. But there are things that are unfolding that I can’t quite put words to because I haven’t lived it all yet. I can’t tell you the whole story when I haven’t finished writing it or living it yet. I am just here, along for the ride, following wherever these griefy waves take me. So far, they have taken me into the lives of other grievers. Such beautiful, real, raw, honest humans who truly see me, do not run from my grief or pain, who hold space for me, and that relate (although that’s unfortunate) to the suffering that only comes from the combination of death and grief.
I have bigger ideas and dreams for Grieve Me Alone, and I am willing to let it grow as big as y’all or the universe or Mom will let it. It’s how I’ve come to find the maker of this here blog in which I am contributing this post to. It’s how I’ve come to meet people who I claim to be my family now that most of my family has grown apart. I have made friends across the globe, in countries I’ve never been to, I’ve spoken with beautiful humans who are close enough to travel to and as soon as it is safe to, I plan to. I have received handmade cards from sweethearts and gifts from once-upon-a-time-was-a-stranger that has since become a best friend. I still cry sometimes.
I still carry the weight of grief in my body. It will be in just over a week that I will be standing back at my Mom’s grave, looking down at her gravestone for the first time ever. I still write. I still create.
I still go with the inspiration that is here and it is my hope not only that I can create what I need to honor and acknowledge my own grief, but that I can create something that someone else needs, too. That, right there, would put a backbone to why I do what I do.
My Mom always helped others, and that part of her lives on in me, and it’s what I am here for, to help others in their grief…feel less alone, feel less ashamed, feel less judged, and allow themselves to fully feel the reality of what they are feeling, with no lessening, minimizing, fixing, or rushing. It is in this space I feel like I can make something beautiful and meaningful out of this grief, like purifying gold in the fires of hell, all of which reside in me.
So, all that to say, Hello there. I’m Chantal, the creator of Grieve Me Alone, the Grief Ambassador, the voice behind the podcast, the artist and designer behind the merch, the fingertips behind the text, the no-bullshitter behind the dead eyes and raw skin that rest on my face. I truly hate that this is how we’ve come to meet.
About the Author:
Chantal King currently lives in Hell (Houston, Texas) with her son, husband, and two fluff balls.Griever. Human. Creator. Writer. Speaker. Educator. Advocate. Space holder. Wave maker. Podcaster. Grief Ambassador. Vulnerabilitarian.
Follow on the socials: @grievemealone
Podcast: Grieve Me Alone