Grief comes in waves. I’ve been told this multiple times over the last year. Grief is just a response to the loss of something grand. Many people focus on the emotional aspect, there is also a physical aspect to feeling grief. Since I try to ignore my emotions a majority of the time, that typically means I end up dealing with my emotions via a physical ailment. Anyone who knows me knows that I constantly complain about headaches and stomach aches, and probably about 60% it is really just anxiety and grief manifesting in a physical form.
I’ve lost very important people in my life over the last three years. It started with my beloved grandfather, then my favorite professor/mentor, and most recently my mother. Additionally, other characters in my life such as an uncle, an aunt, a co-worker have also gone to hang out in another realm. Obviously, I was most affected by my mother’s death, but I now know I struggle with each persons passing just the same.
As much as I like to pretend and tell myself I was prepared for death, specifically the death of my mother- you can never truly prepare for it. I had been a caregiver for my mother for as long as I can remember. It started out with simple assistance here and there and progressed to trading off care with the hospice nurse or my stepfather. I watched my mothers’ physical and mental health decline, and that is something I would not wish that on my worst enemy (as if I had any). Watching a very independent and strong-willed woman wilt away and yield to Parkinson’s, dementia and heart disease is not an enjoyable experience. (Additionally, neither is dealing with said woman’s unsupportive bipolar husband – twas a challenge on its own). I believe I started the grief process when I observed my mother finally give up and give in to her poor health. She had a multitude of illness, but typically my mother lived on the island of denial and tried to be optimistic, until one day when she stopped looking on the bright side and saw her health for what it truly was, shit. When my mother began facing the loss of her father and then the loss of motor skills and memory – grief steered my mother down the road to giving up. While I grieve and mourn the loss of her (and others), I try to not to follow her path, and I try not to dwell on the things I can not change (past or present). Every day I learn something new in my relationship with grief.
As I said earlier, I always told myself that I was equipped for loss. I had handled the news of loved one’s deaths appropriately in the past (according to what I had seen on television and learned about in a sociology of death and dying course). But when that day finally came in regard to my mother passing, I felt simultaneously prepared and unprepared when I got that call. I don’t think I was as calm and stoic as I had always thought I would be. I was squeaky and had eyes full of tears, and these things still happen when I think too long about her. That is grief. It is a natural response to a major change in life. Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix for grief. Try as I might, I have not found one. It just has to run its course, wave upon wave will keep hitting you until the wind finally settles and the tide is low, or something philosophical like that.
More on Grief:
Because I am a researcher at heart, I took to the databases to find articles about grief. I wanted to find out what was appropriate/concerning behavior, learn the difference between mourning and grieving, etc. I found just through a simple Google Scholar search that there is a lot of literature out there, a lot focuses on how to treat grief (i.e. Therapy). Some things I learned about grief – when facing a situation of great loss, you may have to go through the five stages of grief which include: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (visit grief.com for quick resources). To me, these stages are all pretty self-explanatory. But for a great representation of the five stages – watch the Scrubs episode “My Five Stages” . (Side note: Scrubs is one of my top all-time favorite shows, others include X-files and Futurama). There is a Scrubs episode for every mood/emotion and experience. Scrubs also happens to be a show that my mother and I would watch together. As for me and the stages, I personally don’t recall going through denial or bargaining. I like to face facts, and I’m not really religious so I don’t know who I would bargain with, maybe the universe? I can say I am currently somewhere in between depression and acceptance at this point in my life. I definitely experienced some (or a fuck ton of) anger, but not necessarily due to grief and loss, my anger was more directed at those around me who were being little shit heads. From the articles I have read, it is perfectly normal to bounce between the stages, revisiting some before truly accepting it. I assume that one day I will move on, and stay in that acceptance stage. Grief can last a lifetime, just try to know when to seek help, or just let others help when they offer. Remember to breathe and take it one moment at a time.
How I’m coping:
I am active – I am into yoga and walking the pupper outside. – I also plan to get back in the gym soon, I’ve been very sporadic since the summer (duh).
I write – I have a guided journal that provides topics to write on.
I am into being creative – doodle, watercolor, and bake.
I stay emotionally/mentally active – I am apart of social and professional clubs, I volunteer to work a lot.
I am going back to school – Law School, I’m coming for you! #AggieLaw
Best of luck to any of you who have gone through a period of grief. How did you cope?
If you haven’t had to grieve, best wishes to you that grief doesn’t find you any time soon.