With National Grief Awareness day being this week, I thought I’d share my story involving grief. I found out grief can be hard but it’s very necessary.
One day, back in 2014, I was on the train heading into work one morning and out of no where tears began to well up in my eyes. I’ve suffered from depression long enough to know this feeling was different. I’ve always dealt with periods of sadness but I wouldn’t cry unless I thought of something that made me cry – and never in front of anyone. This came completely out of the blue so I just brushed it off, wiped my eyes and gathered myself quickly to go to work. During that week the same thing happened in the bathroom, at my cubicle, on the train again and a few other times.
I ended up going to my therapist and telling her what was going on and she said “well it sounds like you haven’t grieved properly”. I asked her to explain what the proper way to grieve was because I didn’t know there was a right way and a wrong way. She told me about the 5 stages of grief, the stages of it aren’t black and white. She explained that we can repeat some stages until we move to the next or revert back to one and start the process over. We might even skip some stages. I told her that in my family we sort of swept things under the rug or laughed things off. I also took on the role as the one who holds everyone together so I always felt like I had to be tough. I hardly ever cried, especially at funerals. I’d be the shoulder to cry on. The problem solver. The tough one. I’m not sure why I fell into that role. No one made me.
Then in 2002 my world changed forever when my brother was murdered. He had only been twenty-one for four days. His son was only a year or two. We all tried to stay strong and help each other through this extremely difficult time. We mainly distracted each other but I don’t think any of us were the same. I cried three times. When they lowered the coffin, also when I looked over and saw my other brother crying for the first time ever, and then when we drove away and I realized I’d never see him again.
Fast forward to 12 years later, there came a point where I couldn’t stop crying for no reason. My therapist gave me a grieving journal to fill out and she suggested I visit his gravesite for the first time since we buried him. I filled out the the journal and it really helped but I couldn’t get myself to go to the gravesite for another six months. I don’t know why I couldn’t. I guess I just didn’t want to admit to myself that he was really gone. I also didn’t want to see my big brother in the ground. I figured that next time I’d see him was in the afterlife. When my sister and I finally got up the strength to go see him it was hard. My sister cried and I quietly apologized for not ever coming even though I know he understood. I also forgave myself for feeling guilty for not going.
Understand that grieving is important and trying to avoid it will only make things worse. Incomplete grief can cause uncontrolled or misplaced anger; obsession (constantly replaying what happened in your head over and over) ; hyper-alertness (extreme fear of dying or losing another loved one); becoming dependent on other people or avoiding close relationships (to avoid feeling the same loss again); addictive or self harming behaviors (over eating, drugs, workaholicism, bulimia etc.); apathy or numbness (low grade depression).
We have to allow people to grieve in their own way and not shame them for grieving differently. Please allow yourself to grieve properly so that you don’t cause yourself to experience more issues. If you feel like you aren’t grieving properly try to get closure by writing out your thoughts or using a grieving journal. You can even find them online. Try to work towards what your avoiding, like I had to work myself up to visit my brother’s grave. If nothing else try talking to a therapist. Remember not all therapist’s are the right fit for you. You may need to try a few before finding the one that is right for you.