Our individual experience of grief is as unique as our DNA or fingerprint. While our shared humanity does trigger certain standard responses to the loss of a loved one, not all of us experience every one of them, or in the same order.
The Anxiety of Apprehension: “Will I ever feel normal again?” Anxiety takes a variety of forms and textures. Fear of the unknown future. Loss of emotional control. Fear of loneliness. Frustration at the copious tears flowing out of you. Understand that life as you knew it has changed irrevocably and these responses are normal. Seek a trusted friend. Consider professional help if your anxiety is so debilitating that it hinders your normal everyday functioning. Take a class. Join a support group. Finding others who are walking in similar shoes is, in my opinion, one of the best routes back to normalcy.
The Darkness of Depression: “There’s no point in living life anymore.” The pain of loss is raw and pulses through you with every breath you take. Everything looks bleak; you feel hopeless. You ache, you can’t eat or sleep or shower or, in worse cases, get out of bed. You have the odd suicidal thought. While some depression is a normal grief response, persistent black moods need professional attention. As a self-evaluation exercise, try to do one normal thing everyday and record it as a journal entry. It could be as simple as savoring a cup of coffee. Or stopping to enjoy the flowers. Making the bed. Doing a load of laundry. Slowly, you will find yourself weaving into the fabric of normal life.
The Sadness of a Lost Dream: “We’ll never take the vacation we’d planned.” “I didn’t sign up to spend the rest of my life alone.” For a while, friends and family cocoon you. After a point, they return to their routines and lives, leaving you to try and pick up the pieces. All of a sudden emptiness stalks you. Sadness overwhelms you. This is not a time to isolate yourself. Instead, find your way back to activities and groups that encourage your passion. A book club. A class on cake-making. Getting started on a scrapbook project. Join a yoga group. Activities that nourish your spirit are the best way to start the healing process.
The Confusion of a Scrambled Mind: “I feel like I’m losing my mind.” You can’t remember something someone said to you moments ago. You left your cell phone you-don’t-know-where. You open the fridge and stare inside, forgetting what you need. Your concentration is scattered. Be kind to yourself. Remember that your heart is broken; that’s where your attention is. All matters of rational thought have less room now. Help yourself by making To-Do lists. Set alarms and reminders. This period of grieving is natural, but this too shall pass.
The Gravity of Grief: You talk to the urn of ashes. You replay your loved one’s last moments like you can’t find the Stop button. You have dream visitations. You feel their presence. Your loss is all you can talk about. Remember, you’re not going crazy. You’re just going through a significant life change. Things will return to a new normal. Take heart.
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