On Sunday, August 27th, 2017, I saw a Facebook post on one of my professor’s pages. Her husband had made a status that she had an acute infection. I sent her an email and Facebook message, sending her well wishes of getting better and that I’ll see her next week for our meeting. I had an independent research study with her, we met every Monday and I had assumed that we probably wouldn’t be meeting the next day.
On Monday, August 28th, I went to track practice (I’m a thrower on the UNCW Women’s Track Team). It was a good practice, a really good practice. I was feeling good. I was able to sleep in because my professor and I didn’t have a meeting that morning.
After practice, I checked my phone to see I had missed a lot of text messages and a couple of phone calls. With my coach looking at me ( I was still in the shed) I mentioned how I was confused why everyone was asking me if I’ve checked my email. I had seen an email before practice, with my professor’s name in the subject line, but I just thought it was letting her students know that she was sick, and out for an undetermined time.
I have never been shot, but I imagine I now know how it feels, when I opened that email and read the first line that my professor had died early in the morning.
The world stopped.
My world stopped.
I couldn’t breath. It felt like my heart was constricting. It felt like my heart was suffocating me.
My coach knew my relationship with the professor and how close we were (in short she was my academic advisor, independent research supervisor, film department faculty committee member, and we had gone to movies together in the spring semester and over the summer.) He hugged me, and I remember hugging him back because I needed to hold something to keep me from crumbling.
I felt something I would never wish upon my worst enemy. I would take any physical torture over what I felt in that moment. My heart broke. I broke. My entire body felt numb except my heart. It was like a white, hot searing pain spreading across my chest. A tension that made it impossible to talk. My tears were the only words I needed to show what I was feeling.
Three people saw me at my most vulnerable. I’m thankful for my teammate for being next to me as I called my friend Kaitlin. She was the first one I called because the two of us had been close with Dr. Frank. I can still hear myself, breaking down during that call.
My heart died a little that day.
My soul died a little that day.
I remember the exact spot I was when I made that phone call. I look at that spot every time I go to track practice. I think of Dr. Frank whenever I walk into the track shed. I think of her whenever I have practice now, especially on Mondays.
It will be coming up to a month since her passing.
Since then, I’ve gone through a roller coaster of emotions. Some I was expecting, but most I was not.
And I realized that after a week and a half people tend to stop talking about their grief.
They stop talking about their pain, openly.
So I decided to start this series.
I’ll probably have a couple of “chapters” this week to catch up to where I currently am emotionally and mentally.
My hope is to give words to feelings that others may be going through.
To help friends and family get a glimpse as to what someone going through immense grief could be feeling.
This has been Chapter 1 of Mourning Online.
(This Featured Image is a screen grab of a Facebook conversation between Dr. Frank and myself.)