Everyone at some point in their life will experience grief and loss, its an unfortunate, inevitability of life. The reason grief is so challenging is because it manifests itself physically, psychologically and even spiritually (when you start to doubt your beliefs as to why something so terrible could happen). I’ve learnt that grief is never a straight line or a series of stages like the ones proposed. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, you may feel all of them at once or you may feel depression before denial, there is no set order and there is no set rule book to say you’ll experience them all either.
I’ve spent the last few months cowering away from this subject because I very much want to promote being positive however I feel that isn’t a very true representation of life and especially mine. Life isn’t always positive and quite frankly its pretty shit sometimes. Seven months ago my dad committed suicide. A death that not many people have to deal with nor a death that I thought I ever would and especially to someone so close to me. The day my dad died it was like I became two people, the person I was before he died and person I now was. I knew that day my life would never ever be the same again and at that point that was probably about the only thing I did know.
At some of my worst points of dealing with grief (not that i’m by any means completely out of them) especially in the first few months after my dad died I truly believed life would never go on again but here I am. Reflecting on the last seven months, I wanted to share some of the things i’ve learnt about coping with grief and to any one who’s going through a loss or similar experience, maybe some reassurance you’re not alone.
1.Your loss is completely unique to anyone else. Despite other people who have gone through a similar experience to you, it will never be the same. You will feel isolated in your grief because to you no one truly understands your loss, how could they? They didn’t know the relationship you had with the person or the experiences that you shared.
2.Grief will not and should not define you or the rest of your life. I remember in the weeks after my dad died. I said to my boyfriend “well that’s my life ruined”. I felt as though i’d never live a ‘normal’ life again. I’d never get that ‘normal’ experience of having my dad walk me down the aisle or that my children would grow up with only one Grandad as opposed to two. I became so consumed in the way in which my life had changed so negatively and so dramatically, I could only focus on the things that losing my dad meant I would never have. From this I became very bitter and resentful and after a few months I knew I had to make sure I wouldn’t let my dads death define me or my life. No matter what, i’m still here to live and to any one who’s lost someone through illness, accident or like me suicide, you should never let it define yours too. No matter how unfair, cruel you feel the world has been to you and justifiably you’ve lost someone you care about however remember you are the one still here to live. It is and will always be a natural feeling to mourn, miss and wish for the person to be back with you just so that you could have that one more conversation or just to give them one more hug. Unfortunately the harshest part about death is its unchangeable, finality and for that reason you need to live your life for them, for you but most importantly because you deserve too.
“Grief does not change you, it reveals you”
– John Green, The fault in our stars
3.Don’t just go through grief, grow through grief. No one ever asks to lose someone they care about but unfortunately It happens and normally when we are least expecting it or even less so prepared for it. Grief is one of the biggest challenges you will ever face in life. You’ll think at stages that you’ll never get through it, I still have those days now and I’m sure I will do for years to come. But as the months pass, when I look back I can’t believe how far I have come, even though if I have a bad day now I feel like i’m back at the beginning of the grieving process. Just like any obstacle in life you face, once you over come it that disbelief of “how the hell did I do that or get through that ” overwhelms you and it’s the same with getting through grief, there will come a time that you’ll see how far you’ve come. When that time comes you will be 1000% be stronger and know a strength that you never knew was there to begin with. Hold on to that strength, utilise it because you never know when you might need it again.
4.Grief is not linear nor time limited.Everyone is different, everyone has adapted and acquired different coping mechanisms throughout their lives which means that the time it takes for someone else to heal, is by no means a reflection of how you are doing. Imagine grief on a graph, the initial few months showing the graph dramatically curve up and down reflecting the several different emotions we experience after losing someone. This grief line will consume most of our waking thoughts, controls our moods and behaviours. However there comes a time when it starts to tail off, for some it could be after six weeks for others it could be six years, but have faith in that time coming. When it does come, it does not mean you are done with grief, for me I don’t know if I ever will be. However there will be a time that your life line (for example your passions, hobbies, work and interests) will simply coincide with your grief. Don’t see this as a negative, I try not to instead I see it as being in control of my grief. It may always be there but one day know that life and grief will be two lines that can run parallel with each other.
5.You will have no choice over the times when grief overwhelms you but you can choose how you cope.I’ve had breakdowns in shopping centres because i’ve heard my dad’s favourite song or i’ve been out running and a thought comes into my head and thats enough to set me off. The main thing though is how you deal with these moments, accept them, embrace them and at no point think it’s a sign of weakness or lack of coping.
6.The world keeps going and so must you.After losing someone, your whole entire world and being comes to a halt. Nothing seems real or fair anymore. You watch the world around you and ask “how can they go on with their lives, when i’m going through this?”. It’s so natural to feel this way, I hated the world after my dad died, why did others get to be happy and not me? You may also feel like blaming and questioning yourself, “could I have done more?”, “should I have spent more time with them?”. This blame stems from our subconscious because by blaming ourselves it gives us some control over a situation in which we have very little. No matter what type of death you’ve gone through know that blaming yourself is the longest road to healing.
To end this post, after binge watching Orange Is The New Black, I heard a quote that really resonated with me….
“Pain is inevitable because life is frickin’ painful, but suffering is a choice”.
You can’t let the weight of grief choke all the joy out of your life. Grief will come in waves throughout your life but even the worst ones will make you a stronger swimmer and in the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, sometimes all we can do is “just keep swimming”.