At a point in all of our lives we experience grief and loss. The severity differs from person to person, but unfortunately it is an inherent experience that all humans go through. When I was twenty-one my dad died from colon cancer. I spent nearly three years taking care of him while he went through extensive rounds of radiation, chemotherapy, clinical trials, and countless surgeries and procedures. Unfortunately, living in Kansas, he didn’t have full access to the kind of medicine that he wanted. I remember finding his bag of edibles that his friends had brought back from Denver, his “Colorado cookies” as he called them. His cancer had spread into his lungs and spine, so he didn’t smoke much, but edibles were quite literally the only substance that gave him any kind of appetite. I saw first-hand the severe side effects that opioids gave him and how so clearly plant medicine was the better option. I remember the day before he died, giving him little pieces of infused gummies, and telling him that I would not get a tattoo in his honor even though I did. I had awaited his death for years at this point, though nothing could have prepared me fully for the way I felt when he was actually gone.
The finality of death is hard for our human brains to get a grip on. It feels like it will never sink in or feel real. One day you’re talking to someone and then the next day they’re gone. Little things like the sound of their voice become memories that only exist in our heads. The first week after he passed away, I couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep any longer than an hour or two. I remember my husband helping me light a bowl because I couldn’t hold anything steady in my hands. I remember a friend giving me weed brownies as a condolence. And I remember the relief I finally felt when they lulled me to sleep. My husband and I had to move three days after my dad passed away, so I immediately went into nesting mode in our new apartment, and it quickly became my sanctuary. I remember having to go to back to my job several days after he died and building an emotional wall around myself – a pretty tall one, too. Smoking a joint after a day of having to put on a smiling face when all I wanted to do was scream felt like a religious activity. I became obsessed with self-care, and peace was my top priority. If a job made me unhappy, I left. If a friend didn’t feel like a friend anymore, I stopped forcing it. Cannabis became my best therapy aid, and even on days when I felt like I “over did it” I still felt like I was healing opposed to numbing away my pain.
Slowly and surely, I started chipping that emotional wall away, brick by brick. With the help from my husband, talk therapy and plant/psychedelic medicines, I was able to start consuming cannabis daily as a tool and a resource and not just as a crutch. Doing small, insignificant tasks when you’re overcome with grief can be really hard. Getting up to take care of your pets or keeping the pile of laundry in your room from becoming a mountain seem simple enough but are daunting as hell when you’re succumbed by sadness. Strategic and thought-out methods of consumption were vital to me especially the first year after my loss. Sneaking a couple puffs off a vape pen at my parent’s house when I saw my dad’s old shoes right where he left them. A dropper or two of tincture when I was trying to cook dinner but then remembering that my dad loved this recipe and felt like I was going to suffocate on tears. Consuming in a way that didn’t just bury the pain but that would allow me to get into a better head space to sort through whatever I was feeling. The term “micro-dosing” doesn’t always necessarily mean consuming teeny tiny amounts of medicine. Micro-dosing is different for everyone because everyone’s tolerance is different, and it’s even different depending on the product and the way you consume it. It really just means consuming enough to feel the way you want to feel, without fully impairing yourself. I can smoke a full gram joint to myself no problem, but a 10mg edible sends me to the moon. Finding what works for you is sometimes a guessing game especially when you’re going through heavy emotions.
My grief, especially at first, was very unpredictable, and at any given point on any given day, I went through a wide range of emotions. Before I could accurately gauge what I needed to consume, I had to try to ask myself what I really needed. Should I take half of a 5mg gummy so I can find the motivation to go to the park with my dogs, or should I just take a vape with me and assess myself along the way? I really had to learn how to check in on myself periodically throughout the day, because I’m the only one who really knows what I need, when I need it. Cannabis allowed me to sypher through my feelings and what I needed to do in order to process those feelings, and dose myself accordingly. Touch and release of all of these intense emotions was important for me to recognize. Taking the sadness for what it is and then letting it leave. Weed allowed me to see the forest for the trees if you will. Given the fact that my particular grief was anticipated, at first, I really just wanted to “finalize” my emotions and move forward with my life. I had so much time preparing for my dad’s death but ultimately, I had to accept the fact that grief will come and go in waves and knowing that it will always come and go was my way of building a foundation for myself that focused on peace.
It’s been a little over three years since he died, and I still learn new things about my grief all the time. I didn’t know that I would experience real PTSD whenever I pass by the hospital he frequented, or that I would have daily debilitating flash backs about my hand on his chest when he passed. Sometimes, you really just need reality to feel better than it is. Cannabis gives me a better reality when I need it, one where I can navigate my way through these new waters, without the father who helped raise me. I had to learn how to walk through this new life in new ways and always attempt to find peace at every milestone that my dad won’t get to be a part of.
I’d like to think that my dad was the one who pushed me into my career in the medical cannabis industry, but ultimately it was also my own healing that pulled me in. Who knows how long I’ll be on this road, but I know for certain that I’m good at helping other people heal. I’m always sending love and light to everyone out there who is missing someone – whether you’ve just recently experienced loss or have lived with it for many years, your emotions are always valid. Spark one up for your loved one and live out your life honoring them whenever you can.