The reality of Grief

Lets get honest, forget all the bullshit of getting over it. Throw out the cliche of time heals all. And forget the stupid advice of moving through the stages to move forward.

Grief takes prisoners. It destroys you life and your dreams. Grief leaves you devastated. It might get lighter in time, but it will always be with you. You will carry that loss with you for the rest of your life.

It is a year and a half after my husband died, some days it feel like for ever, other days it feel like an hour ago. Some days I can handle the burden without a flinch, other days it feels like a ton of bricks hit me and I can barely get out of bed never mind function.

That is the ugly truth of grief. No list can summarise what to expect, because it is different for everyone. There is no 7 step program that you can religiously follow to be rid of grief. Don’t even read those stupid articles, because it is all bullshit.

Grief is ugly, but you have to learn how to live with it. You need to find ways to continuing living despite of it. The truth of the matter is that the loss will from now on always be a part of you.

You are going to carry it with you for the rest of your life. It will get easier and it will get lighter (or so I am told), but it will always be there lurking in the shadows. Anything can trigger it, a smell, a song, walking in the grocery store and seeing his favourite things on the shelf.

Run away widow, that’s me. I am an expert at running from my feelings. For a year I to run away from feeling and grieving. I kept myself so busy with household tasks, freelance work, exercise and social engagements that I was so exhausted at the end of the day. Most days there was not a moment in which I would sit still. I forced myself not to feel the grief, to keep so busy that no thought of what happened could intrude. To say the least this is possibly the worst way of dealing with grief.

The last six months have been a roller coaster of emotions and I have had to deal with all the harshness of grief, but made worse because I ignored it so long. Then I started a new habit I started eating, chips and chocolates, anything so that I can stop feeling grief. Run away much?

My List:

So here is my list of working with grief to get to the point of living with it, especially grief when you have lost your spouse. Did you notice my specific choice of words? Because I picked the words very carefully.

  1. Allow yourself to feel, don’t fight it. Fighting it makes it only makes it worse, it will literally force you to your knees. So if you have to take a day and cry it out, allow yourself that time. Even if it means you cry for 4 days straight. Let the feelings come, acknowledge each and every one of them. To deal with this tsunami that is threatening to take you down, you have to work through all your feelings and that means feeling each and every one of them
  2. Take care of you!!!! I can’t put enough emphases on this point. When you feel stressed out, make time for a long hot bubble bath. If you feel tired, take a nap. If you need a good cry allow yourself a good cry. Don’t you dare feel embarrassed by any of it, the ones that judge you have not felt that loss.
  3. When you lose your person you also lose yourself. You were a certain person completing certain functions within a relationship that no longer exist. Give yourself time and room to re-invent yourself. Just pause here and think it through: all the plans you made together for the future now needs to be reassessed. As a couple that plan made sense, but as a single person it might not anymore. What will your future plan look like?
  4. Your purpose was intertwined with the unit you were in. Take time to explore different things, you have to find a new purpose.
  5. Try new things even if it makes you feel guilty to moving on, you need to find new joy. Yes you heard me right, you will feel guilty for starting over, guilty for having fun and laughing. That guilt is normal, you will feel that the person should be there with you or that you are dishonoring their memory by moving on
  6. For a long time you will battle with finding joy in anything. It will literally just be going through the motions, but do it in anyway. Try new hobbies, take a course. Whatever you do persevere, because you have no choice, you have to continue living. I am at a year and six months and I still battle, but I have found some things that bring me joy.
  7. According to articles out there, there is either 7 or 5 stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. However may stages there is, they don’t follow any specific order, it’s not a neatly wrapped in a bow process that you can tick off like a little list. You can in one day experience depression, anger and denial. The only concrete fact is that at some stage you will feel all of them. It might not even be in order and you might feel a couple in the same day. A good article is Healthline’s “Stages of grief and what to expect“. By the way I have not accepted my hubbies death yet, that is the only stage that I have not experienced. I went through all the other stages in a haphazard way, jumping from one to the next. Or someday feeling angry, depressed and trying to bargain my way out.
  8. The next one is a hard one….. You might even call me a liar, but I promise you I list it here, because it was part of my experience. People will not know how to handle you and your grief. You will start losing people along the way, a friend that you regularly saw before now calls maybe once a month and then once in two months. Same goes with family.
    You might be stuck, struggling to find your footing, but their lives are still normal. Live goes on.
    People who have not experienced it do not understand and a lot of the time find it easier to distance themselves from the uncomfortable. Let them go, it doesn’t make them bad people. The up side is that the people who stick with you are the ones you will have by your side forever. Also you might meet new people as you go out exploring and trying new things.
  9. Loneliness. Enough said? The loneliness will be your constant companion. When out with a group of friends, when you alone at home. You will feel lonely, because your person is no longer there. He/She should have been there enjoying it with you, but they are not. It’s a deep aching feeling that never goes away. Somedays it will feel all consuming and other days you will only feel the twinge at the back of your mind.
  10. Widow/er brain. I should actually write a whole post about the topic, because it is a real thing that is almost never mentioned. It explains so much of what is happening and what you are experience. Just knowing what you are feeling is normal can be enough to make you feel a little better. This article is a good read.
    • Fogginess and disconnect that plagues you. It feels like your brain is stuffed with cotton balls and you can’t think clearly. You can’t focus on anything.
    • You will be forgetful. I can’t tell you many times I have lost my phone!! And I can’t remember where I put it or when I last used it. Same goes for everything else, standing up to get something and having no idea what it was and standing like a idiot in the middle of the room, your mind a blank
    • Extreme sadness…. I don’t know how to explain this one. It’s one of those things that you have to feel to understand
    • Exhaustion, not normal tired, but so bone tired that even going to the bathroom is like attempting to run a marathon
    • Irritability – the smallest thing can send you into a rage. The phone ringing can feel like nails on a chalk board. Having to stand in a line at the grocery store with one customer before you can be so irritating that you might just dump your basket and walk out
    • Numbness, this is a biggie for me. Just going through the motions without really registering or feeling.
    • Nausea. I lost 18kg after my husband died. Just the smell of food could send me running the bathroom. I was constantly nauseous. It’s feeling in the pit of your stomach that just sits there. I had to force myself to eat.

I hope that you find some value in this post. Please use the comments below to let me know your experiences.

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