Everyone seems to think they know how to grieve. Very often they think their way is the only way to grieve. Of course we all, intellectually, understand that there is a process you go through to be able to live with and maybe even thrive with that pain of that loss. A process, but not how to use it, how to feel, what you should or should not do. There is nothing that says that there is one way to grieve. The well known and prescribed process is, 1) start in disbelief and denial 2) move to anger; 3) begin to bargain (I would like to know how!); 4) depression, dealing with the sadness and 5) acceptance. These 5 feelings and reactions are very real, they just really are not linear. We move through these fluidly, moving around the 5 without real purpose. We move from 1 to 3 to 5 to 4, it isn’t sequential. Why is that? Because we are individuals and we don’t all fit into a mold. Because circumstances may or may not allow you to sit in one stage for a long time. Because grief is actually individualized. That is why you can’t tell someone that they aren’t grieving right. Worst, you can’t say, “isn’t it long enough, shouldn’t you be out of this by now?” I remember a colleague once trying to compare my brother ‘s reaction to a death and mine. He kept telling me I was handling it better. I finally just looked at him and said, “I’m just a better actress!” Who compares people? Who thinks someone should be over something already? Who actually feels they have a right to judge how someone else deals with a death of someone they love? Plenty of people do, they just don’t really have a right.
When my brother Steve died, I watched my parents grieve completely differently. My mom stayed home for over a month, she barely got dressed, rarely talked to anyone and it took her sister to just say, “come with me to the bank so I can keep the car running” that got her out of the house for the first time. My dad, on the other hand, went to the cemetery almost every day that first month. He left each day and went and spoke with my brother. They didn’t grieve the same way nor did they expect each other to do so. They did what they needed to do to survive.
I did what I do best, focused on helping everyone and not feel my pain. I did what I could for my parents, showing up weekly at their house to have dinner. I did what I could to help my sister-in-law and my nieces and nephew. I was mechanical. I kept very busy. I didn’t feel my pain for about a year, when I then fell apart. That was when I learned you need to feel pain to heal pain.
When my mom passed away, I focused on my dad. I spent the first six months or so focused on helping him through this terrible time, I didn’t feel for much of that time. I then decided that I needed a road trip by myself to feel my pain. I drove to Florida and spent 2 weeks away. During that time, I spent 48 hours in the fetal position feeling my pain, crying for my mommy and trying to figure out how to go on with out a mother. It was cathartic and helped me move through my grief without judging myself.
Now I have lost dad. I have nobody to focus on to help through this. I have nothing to fix, nobody to take my attention away. I have to feel this, and feeling it is so very hard. You wake up one day and you are parentless. You are nobody’s daughter anymore. I know, they are around me in spirit and they just aren’t in physical form, but in the end you are parentless. What a feeling! I can’t describe the pain that this thought causes me. I can’t describe the feeling which seems to be filling up my energy centers with so much negative and heavy energy. There are moments of joy when I have tremendous memories or telling a story. There is sobbing when I am looking at pictures or thinking about being alone without my 2 greatest supporters. There is time when the anger is simmering below the surface and you know you will lash out at the first person that says something that triggers a negative response. The response will be over the top if you don’t watch yourself. Idle chit chat doesn’t suffice. In fact, I find at least, that I can’t handle listening to the mundane, the work issues, the piddly stuff that takes up so much of people’s time and energy for very little reward.
As I work to process my loss and my grief I have figured out a few things about grieving for me. I don’t want to be around people. In fact, crowds are the one thing I want to stay away from, and that could even mean crowds of my own friends. I am uncomfortable in my own skin let alone at someone else’s home. My home is the safest space I have, there is a feeling of protection. I don’t want to talk to people who can’t understand how I feel, or who think they understand how I feel. I know, that sounds like I don’t want to talk to anyone, I really don’t. It is an effort to speak with people. It is an effort to not jump down someone’s throat because of where they are focused, so I am trying not to judge others right now. It is an effort to keep the anger inside so I am working on ways to get it out. I am using all of my tools; meditation, primal screams, journaling and Reiki sessions to clear out this negative dense energy and get rid of the anger, guilt, and fears.
I don’t really know what phase of the grieving process I am in, again I don’t see it as linear. What I do know is how I am grieving is definitely different than how my brother is grieving. Grief is individualized and for anyone to think they know how someone should feel, does feel or should move through is bullshit. Everyone is different, every circumstance is different and nobody gets to judge.
Everyone seems to think they know how to grieve. They don’t.