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Why Cannabis Was Important In Grieving the Loss of My Father

 July 12, 2022  Written by Shannon Blessing
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At some point in all of our lives, we experience grief and loss. The severity differs from person to person, but unfortunately, it is an inherent part of the human experience.

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 access to the kind of medicine that he wanted — cannabis. I remember finding his bag of edibles that his friends had brought back from Denver — or what he called his “Colorado cookies."

Why cannabis access was crucial for my dad after his cancer diagnosis

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 appetite.

I saw first-hand the severe side effects of opioids and how cannabis was so much more helpful for him. 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 how I felt when he was gone.

Cannabis helped me to cope and grieve my dad's death

The finality of death is hard for our human brains to get a grip on. His death didn't feel real at first. One day you’re talking to someone and then the next day they’re gone. Little things like the sound of his voice became memories that only existed in my head.

The first week after he passed away, I couldn’t fall asleep, or stay asleep, 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. My friend gave me weed brownies as a condolence gift.

And I remember the relief I finally felt when cannabis 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 had to go back to my job several days after he died and I built an emotional wall around myself. 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 feeling 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 “overdid it” I still felt like I was healing as opposed to numbing away my pain.

Slowly and surely, I started chipping that emotional wall away, brick by brick. With the help of 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 cannabis consumption were vital to me especially the first year after my loss.

I would take a couple of 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 would soothe me when I was trying to cook dinner — remembering that my dad loved this recipe and feeling like I might suffocate in tears.

Consuming cannabis became a way for me to process my pain. It didn't bury it, but would allow me to get into a better head space to sort through whatever I was feeling.

Micro-dosing cannabis helped me feel present in my life again

The term “micro-dosing” doesn’t always mean consuming teeny tiny amounts of medicine. Micro-dosing is different for everyone because everyone’s tolerance varies — 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 by myself with 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 feeling big 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 ask myself what I really needed.

Should I take half of a 5mg cannabis 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 and when I need it.

Cannabis allowed me to sort through my feelings and what I needed in order to process them, and then dose myself accordingly.

It was important for me to recognize an emotion when I felt it, and then try to let it move through me. Taking the sadness for what it is and then letting it leave.

I knew that I would feel sad when my dad died, and I found myself wanting to just "finalize" my emotions and then move on with my life.

Even though I had so much time preparing for my dad’s death, I ultimately had to accept the fact that my grief would come and go in waves. Knowing that it would always be a part of me was my way of building a foundation for myself that focused on peace.

It’s been a little over three years since my dad died, and I still learn new things about my grief all the time. I didn’t know that I would experience PTSD whenever I passed by the hospital he frequented, or that I would have daily debilitating flashbacks about my hand on his chest when he passed.

Sometimes, I just really 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 raised me. I had to learn how to walk through this new life in new ways and attempt to find peace at every milestone that my dad wouldn’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.

Please note that this blog is not to be considered medical advice. Always consult your physician for more information and/or questions related to your specific medical history.

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