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I'm going to say the thing you don't want to be true. The thing that you are hoping to avoid. The thing that you already know is true, but you wish with your whole soul that someone would tell you was a lie.
Not only does it suck, but it seems to last forever.
Just when you think that you have rounded a bend, and the suffocating feeling is about to float away, there is another punch that doubles you over.
Over and over, grief cycles.
It doesn't take lunch breaks. It doesn't observe holidays. It doesn't need a high-speed internet connection to instantly download more pain.
Rather, grief seems as connected to you as your shadow, floating with ease while simultaneously trying to drown you in agony.
OK, you don't need me to describe it for you. You're living it.
But what I can do is offer you some hope.
You will not feel like you are drowning forever.
That part goes away with time. (Time is seriously the worst four-letter word ever.)
Waves of Grief
A few years ago, I was in a dark hole from grief. My insides ached from that ever present, ever powerful pit in my stomach. I was only doing the have-to's, staying in my pajamas every second I wasn't away from home. I moved a stack of CDs from room to room with me, so I could access The Carpenters, Adele, and Sarah McLaughlin on a moment's notice.
Between therapy sessions one day, I went to grab a few books at the store, in the hopes that one of them would contain any tiny morsel that would make all of the pieces suddenly snap together and end my suffering.
Instead, as I went to rush back to the office for another session to start, my vehicle decided not to crank. Exactly what I needed- another demanding situation that came unexpectedly.
Panicked, I called my office partner to rescue me, since she lives nearby.
As I sat in her front seat, she shared that nugget of peace I was desperately seeking:
“Grief is like waves in the ocean. Some days it's calm, and others are rough.
Sometimes it's high tide, and other times, it rolls out and gives you a
momentary reprieve. But no matter how rough it is at the
time, it always calms down again.”
How to Get Through Grief
When you're drowning in that sea of agony, all you want to do is to feel some relief. Each second feels like an hour, and your brain is on autopilot inside a hurricane. It just can't seem to slow down enough to focus on what to do. Here are some of the most effective strategies that are easy to overlook.
- Give in to it. Feeling sad isn't pleasant for anyone. But the more you try to ignore it and carry on as normal, that grief is just building like a wall of water behind a dam. At some point, it's going to come rushing out. So just go on and allow yourself to give in to it now.
- Allow more time than you think you need. With unpleasant things, you want it to be over quickly, like a root canal or a pelvic exam. Grief, however, has a mind of its own. And it's never fast, especially when you're aching.
- Don't isolate yourself. It's natural to need some alone time when you're grieving. Just allow others in, OK? Connection is the biggest thing to help ward off feelings of depression. Even if you limit the amount of time you spend around others, don't stay locked up all alone.
- Get out in nature. Being outside allows you to soak up the quiet and still parts of life that sadly get ignored way too often. Not only can you allow yourself to fully experience the trees, the birds, the scampering of little critters, and the trickling of a creek, but it allows you to experience nature without feeling guilty. Often, situations that may cause you to laugh or to break from feelin the weight of everything can feel like you are not showing any respect to the person that you lost. But being outside allows you to be in the here-and-now without feeling that guilt.
- Write. Whether you write poems, short stories, essays, novels, or journal entries, writing is another way that allows you to connect to the past, present, and future all at once. Actually putting pen to paper connects you to parts of your brain that help you slow down the world around you while speeding up the ache inside you. Getting out your feelings in this way often feels safer and less vulnerable than talking at times.
- Reflect on what you are grieving. Grief comes from different places. From death, to divorce, to losing a job, to a life-long dream not coming true, to working the pain that accompanies healing from being hurt by someone- grief comes from a buffet of angles. At some moments, you are grieving the pain of saying good-bye, at other moments, you are grieving the loss of what could have been, or maybe you are feeling the ache of a surprise that came out of no where. Take some time to get clear on what it is in this moment that is causing you despair. It will help the waves move out to deeper waters while giving you more relief.
- Be gentle with yourself. There is no perfect way to grieve. Allow yourself the grace to have moments of struggle. Know that being snappy is common, so please don't beat yourself up if you should be be curt in a response to someone. Let the dishes pile up in the sink. The laundry is not a priority. It's great if you can do those things, but if you aren't at your normal functioning level, it's OK. There are more important things at the moment.
Grief constantly shifts from one day to the next. Some moments you need more time alone, and others, you need to be around others. Sometimes you need to zone out and just give in to the emotions, while others, you need to do something to give you a vital burst of energy. Being patient with the process, rather than just stuffing it down, will help you to heal much faster and healthier.