My Attempt to Deal with Grief
I did not expect my first blog to be one of this nature. But life is unpredictable and, unfortunately, death is a part of it. Coping with the loss of someone is a huge challenge and grief is a natural response to that loss.
The stages of grief and loss
Everyone deals with grief and the loss of a loved one differently. Some can cope easily, and others may take a little more time. There's no right or wrong way to deal with this pain. Nobody can help you go through this or speed the process along. But you can find comfort and support from those you allow to let in during this difficult time. It is okay to feel grief and allow yourself the necessary time it takes to heal. So be gentle with yourself along the way if you are experiencing any stages of grief and loss.
The five stages of grief and loss are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These can happen in any order, all at once or if you are one of the lucky ones you skip straight to the acceptance stage and cope faster. But for many of us, it is not always this easy.
Tonight I lost someone dear to my heart. My great-grandmother, Ruth, passed away September 4, 2017. She was my rock, my joy, my confidant. I know many of us have experienced losing a loved one, and I am here to tell you it never gets easier. Even though you may have the opportunity to prepare for it mentally, it still comes like a thief in the night to take your most precious jewel. I originally wanted to write about ways to prepare you for the death of a loved one, ironically I started writing that today, but now that it has happened my thought process has gone another route. I experienced four out of the five stages tonight within a two-hour timeframe.
First I was in denial that my great-grandmother was gone as I just saw her hours ago and she drank pediasure for me through a straw. She was not fully awake while doing so, more so like a newborn waking to nurse, but it was evident she was aware of what was happening. The day before I finally finished reading Alice in Wonderland to her and we had started The Wizard of Oz, per her request. During the drive back to her home I experienced anger and questioning why is this happening now. Who can I blame? A part of me blamed myself for not staying with her longer as if I was supposed to know she would pass so soon.
I skipped the bargaining stage. I knew there was nothing I could offer to make this no longer my reality. This was happening whether I wanted it to or not. I am stuck in between the depression and acceptance stage. My head and heart ache just thinking about this but at the same time I know what has happened and there is nothing I can do but to accept it. What is helping with these two stages is writing while it is fresh on my mind.
The storms of life
I was fortunate enough to have her in my life for 31 years as she lived to be 86 years of age. We both are March babies and were like two peas in a pod. Despite our occasional arguments with me wanting her to eat healthier and her so kindly reminding me “you are not my mother.” Who am I kidding?! She was a feisty firecracker who had no problem telling me she was"grown" and “you can’t listen to everything doctors tell you.”
As I think of these discussions, I can’t help but smile and reminisce. I never knew my father’s mother, Ruth’s daughter Belinda, because she passed away before I was born, but that did not stop me from constantly being reminded that I looked and acted like her. I had no problem with this as it made me happy that Ruth saw a piece of her daughter in me.
This year has been a rollercoaster for me as I lost a baby in January and now the death of my great-grandmother. I don’t say these things to receive pity but to be a guide or testimony for weathering the storm. Sure this hurts like hell, and I don’t know what my days ahead will look like, but I do know Ruth would not want me to be so unhappy and down in the dumps that I succumb to depression and anxiety again. I can’t make any promises, but I will try and give it my all to walk through this storm. I must remain strong because things will get better in time. No need to rush or push myself to “move on” till I am ready.
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to SURVIVE. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.” – Haruki Murakami
Ideas for coping with grief and loss
I don’t have a quick fix on how to deal with grief or loss, but I do have a few practical ideas to help lead you and me down the right path of overcoming sadness. It is not easy to cope when a loved one dies but figuring out ways to weather the storm will help move things in the right direction.
1. Express yourself! Don’t keep things bottled up inside. It will make you angry, bitter and not make you feel better in the long run. So get it off of your chest, talk, scream, cry or write; just let your emotions flow.
2. Allow yourself to feel sad! I know this one is a tough one for me. I am always trying to be the strong one and hold everyone else together while inside I am slowly losing myself. Take that day, week or month to feel and acknowledge your pain. Mourning is healthy, and it is okay not to be the strong one all the time.
3. Follow through with your routine! Don’t stop your daily activities and allow depression to settle in. Depression causes lack of motivation and the drive to get things done. The busier I am, the easier it is for me to not dwell on whatever is causing me pain at the moment. Does it mean the pain is gone or I am in denial about what I am going through? No, it just helps to occupy my mind and add better quality to my thoughts.
4. Do a relaxing activity! Find something that will allow your mind to calm down. It can be a walk, a massage, meditation or yoga. Just make sure it is an activity you enjoy doing that can be a health benefit to you.
5. Sleep! It is funny that I mention sleep as I am writing this at 4:30 A.M. But sometimes the best thing we can do is rest. Closing your eyes and shutting down troublesome thoughts for a couple hours can be refreshing and just what is needed to clear your head and think straight. I will head my advice shortly.
6. Avoid things that will “take the pain away!” Drugs or alcohol are never the answer when you are going through a difficult time in your life. I really wanted a drink tonight and if I was not allergic to alcohol I would have. But that would not have solved the problem for me. Once you sober up and are back to reality the pain you desperately wanted to get rid of is still there.
7. Seek counseling! If you feel as though you are not coping and nothing you have done is working then it is okay to find a professional. It does not make you weak or helpless. It takes a courageous person to admit when they need additional help or guidance. Make sure you do it for yourself and not because someone else forces you into it. We all heal in our own time.
I hope by sharing my story, I can help others realize they are not alone in their grief although at times it may feel like it. Our pains and heart ache may not be the same, but we can empathize with one another and learn how to cope in our own time. I never got the chance to take my great-grandmother on a plane; she decided a few months ago she wanted to fly for the first time. Due to her going back and forth to the hospital we were not able to. So in her memory, I want to see the world. Live my life to the fullest and have as little regret as possible. All the while taking her along in my heart and soul.
If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, want to share encouraging words or share how you are keeping a memory alive feel free to leave a comment below. And remember to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the necessary time to heal.
From my aching but healing heart to yours,