Katina Holland shares 12-year journey
Death is a natural part of life, but it can be one of the hardest experiences to walk through.
Losing someone we love can feel like the world has come crashing down around us and brings a wave of overwhelming emotions with it.
In the aftermath, it is there in the pool of the unknown, that it’s hard to find our footing.
Katina Holland, a trusted daughter, sister, aunt and friend, remembers that feeling of being lost while grieving the unexpected death of her husband and shares what it took to find her way back.
“I’m a widow, “Holland said. “I like to tell everybody that when someone wants to know about me. I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t want someone to pity me or to try to feel a certain way. But the grief that I went through in the first two or three years after he passed away defined who I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if not for that loss. So, I tell people that because that’s where a lot of my strength comes from.”
You may know Holland from the local newspaper, Okmulgee Times, where she is the advertising representative who also writes and shares weekly recipes.
Katina loves to cook and many of the recipes she shares, we at the newspaper office have been able to taste. It is through these treats, we are shown how she cares. She periodically checks on all of us, asking each one “how are you doing,” while pulling out a chair to sit and wait for our reply.
It’s the active listening she gives, making Katina the human care package we didn’t realize we needed.
These are the actions Katina says she learned and needed while working through the loss of her husband.
“I know for the first four years after my husband passed away, anytime I said I was fine. It was a bold-faced lie,” Holland recalls. “I was not fine for years. But you’re the only one that’s living with it. Those casseroles, those cards, those people stopping by, stop, after a week. You deal with a lot that first week and you need that support system, you do, but the support system drops off way too early. Because everybody else goes back to their life and you’re stuck not being sure how you’re getting through every single day.”
It can be tempting to hide away from the world and try to deal with our grief on our own, but this is not always the best approach.
For Katina, she found that sometimes, it can be one of the toughest ways to process grief. “People are so scared of death. People don’t like to talk about death.. but for the ones that are grieving that is devastating. You have got to have that support. And most of the time people don’t, because everybody else goes back to their lives and the person that’s dealing with that grief, they can’t even stand the sunlight. Because how can the day look so pretty when you’re in such a dark place? How can those birds even dare to sing when all you want to do is cry?”
One of the most important things to do when grieving is to reach out for help. This can be difficult, especially if we are used to dealing with things on our own, but it is essential.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it is important to give permission to ourselves, and others, to simply just feel, whatever that may be. As someone who may share in another’s grief process, be willing to listen without judgment or trying to fix the other person’s problems. It is okay to just hold space and validate their feelings.
Anxiety, fear of the unknown and pain are all normal and can happen at any time and at anyplace. Taking care of yourself during this time is of the utmost importance. This means getting enough rest, eating well, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and comfort. It’s okay to take time off work or to say no to social events if you’re not feeling up to it.
“People want to know what you can do when someone passes away,” Katina said. “Wait two weeks, and then go help them do their laundry. Go make sure that they’ve done their dishes. Make sure that they have food in their pantry because they probably don’t. They probably waited to do laundry until they absolutely had to. Make sure they have laundry soap, dish soap.
“Because when you’re going to the store, you’re not thinking. You can’t function enough to know that you need or to even remember that you ran out of laundry soap two weeks ago. That’s the kind of help that people need when they’ve lost someone, especially a spouse when they have no one else around. We had no kids so I had no purpose. I had no reason to make sure or to make myself function. I had nothing to continue to live for so I didn’t. I got up every single day but I wasn’t living my life … so I went through a lot and I struggled. But that experience has made it to where I’m not just placating somebody when I say I’m sorry and that I understand.”
Talking to friends and family members can be a great source of comfort and support. They can help us to process our emotions and provide a listening ear when we need it most.
“People say time heals,” she said. “I don’t believe that. Time gives you the strength to be able to overcome what has been given to you. Because time doesn’t heal that pain, that hole, that loss, it is still there. Oh, but I am strong enough to carry that burden and to do my best to help ease other people’s burdens so that maybe they won’t have it quite as bad as I did. Maybe. Not saying they don’t. But if I had some friends stopping by once or twice a month to check on me, I’d have been doing a little bit better than just having my family around me. I might have come out of it a little bit sooner than four years down the road.”
Ultimately, the process of grief is a journey. Katina is 12 years down that road from the passing of her husband and shows us that grief is not something that can be rushed or avoided, but it is something we can learn to navigate with time. By reaching out for help, talking about our feelings, and giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we are feeling, we can begin to heal and move forward.
This Memorial Day, let’s take some time to give space for grief while remembering our loved ones. Remember that we are not alone in our grief, and it is okay to be vulnerable to the one that is experiencing grief and also with the one sharing in it.
For in that vulnerability, there is always help and support available when we need it most.
Grief Share is a support group program available here in Okmulgee that holds meetings every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 918-230-6710.