A few months ago my primary care physician thought I might benefit from meeting with a grief counselor. Apparently twelve deaths of family and friends in a thirteen month time frame is a lot. Who’d have thunk?
As I sat in the first session, the counselor asked about the deaths. I ran through them from the first death, month by month, up to the most recent at that time. By the end, I was crying, and I think she was a little in shock. Even more so when the thirteenth death happened the morning of our second session. And then she asked me some questions, which led me to come up with these four things that I honestly had to be reminded of throughout my sessions with this counselor.
There is no time limit.
One of the more common phrases I hear is, “That happened over a year ago. You’re still sad about that?” Or some variation of that phrase. Sad? Sure, I’m sad. But grief goes beyond being sad. Grief spans over so many aspects of a person’s life, and, in some cases, can be quite debilitating. From emotional, to physical, to social, and behavior standpoints, grief embraces them all, and all at the same time. If you fall and break your arm, does it not take time to heal? Grief takes time, too.
Eventually that grief will lessen, and the fond memories of someone may stand brighter in your mind than the ever consuming loss. And there are so many facets of grief that need to be healed in order for a person to move forward positively, so don’t put a time limit on yourself. We all grieve in different ways, and no two people are the same. So to expect yourself to grieve in the same way, with the same timeline, well, honestly, that’s just a bit absurd. Don’t you think?
Some days, it consumes you.
Remember what I said above, about grief embracing more than just the emotional aspect of a person? While the physical aspect may be doing well – i.e., you’re eating, working, getting things done – the social aspect might be lacking – i.e., you don’t want to be around others, you decline invitations to events, you don’t take phone calls – and guess what? THAT’S OKAY! No, seriously!! I didn’t capitalize that and make it bold to be fun.
Some days, grief is going to hit you hard, on many levels, and you are going to find even the easiest tasks difficult to do. For me, there was a week where I didn’t shower. There have been days I very literally subsist off protein shakes, because I could not bring myself to eat, but I’m also diabetic and kind of have to. And there have been days where I did not want to crawl out of bed and exist at all. Guess what?? All of that is okay, too. You’ll see why in the last section. The important part is to understand that while those fully consuming days will happen during your grieving process, you do have to make some forward motion in an effort to not let those days take over completely.
Take solace in the little things.
There were many days where I felt extremely lacking. I existed as minimally as possible, taking care of our daughter when my husband worked, making sure I at least drank my protein shake to keep me going, and when my husband was off work, there were some days where I stayed in bed and slept because I physically was unable to get out of bed. All that falls under the last item above, doesn’t it?
My counselor would ask me at the beginning of each session if I had eaten yet that morning. My answer? “Not gonna lie, I haven’t.” Some mornings my “breakfast” consisted of a cup of coffee only, some days I went straight through until lunch or even into the afternoon before I would eat a thing. And then she would ask me more questions. “Did you shower today? Did you drink any water today? Did you get your daughter ready for school today? Did you feed your daughter breakfast today?” And for each ‘yes’ I gave her, she would smile and nod.
You see, each of those things were a choice I made. Each of those things was something that, whether I wanted to do it or not, I made a conscious effort to do. And that was something to be proud of. I always drank my water, every single day, without fail. One point for Coree. I made sure my husband and daughter were fed. One point for Coree. Were these huge tasks? No. But they were steps in making sure I was taking care of myself, and that was a good thing. No matter how small the task at hand might seem, give yourself a pat on the back for getting it done. Because, as we know from above, some days, even those little things don’t get done. So give yourself a point when they do. Those points add up, trust me.
You won’t always feel like this.
All of these things I have mentioned above are part of the process. And they are all absolutely okay. Now, if you find yourself with larger issues, being aggressive, yelling, or causing harm to yourself or others, you need to seek professional help to guide you through your grieving process. Because while those types of actions are not uncommon when a person is grieving, they require help on a larger scale to work through. PLEASE DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! That is a huge step in and of itself in this process. Realizing you might need a little more assistance, that will only help you more in the long run.
What I want you to realize, while you are battling through your grief, is that it won’t always be this way. You won’t always feel like this. It won’t always consume you. There will come a day when someone says something, you read something, you hear a song, and something just clicks inside. The pain from losing someone will never be gone, but you will realize that there is life after loss. Just like every other aspect of grieving, this is different for everyone. What helps one person through the tunnel, might not have any affect on you. And, guess what? That’s a-okay!
My grief counselor thought I need to further my sessions with a psychiatrist that had longer session times. She thought I would benefit from the longer sessions and the more in depth therapy those longer sessions provided. I figured why not give it a shot. And in that first, and only, session with the new therapist, at the very end of the session, she asked me what I hoped to achieve by going through these sessions with her. I told her I just wanted to feel normal, MY normal, again. I told her I felt so lost, so off track, and so unfocused with zero motivation. She asked what I meant by ‘off track,’ and I told her that many of my friends owned homes, had careers, knew what they wanted in their lives, and I felt like I wasn’t there with my own life.
“You live in a home, right? You don’t own it, but you live in a home, you have a home to live in, yes?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You have a job, that brings in money for your family, right?”
“You have a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, a good family life?”
“So…..What are you missing?”
And that’s when it clicked. “Nothing,” I said. “Absolutely nothing. I have everything I want and need, all under one roof.”
I didn’t need to be handed a winning lotto ticket so I could go out and gain everything I thought I was lacking. I just needed to be reminded about everything I already have. I needed to be reminded that my life did not stop with each death that happened. I needed to be reminded that I have an amazing family, that loves me, just as I am, and there was my purpose. There was my motivation. There was my “normal.”
Grief is a process. Sometimes it is a wickedly slow process, but grief is always a process. There will be highs and lows, and some mediocre times thrown in there, just to mix things up a bit. Some days you will feel on top of the world, and the next day might knock you on your ass.
The important part is, and I want you to truly pay attention to this one, the absolute most important part is that you never give up. That you wake up every day, and you battle the day ahead of you. If that is a day of total consumption, then so be it. But you have to get up. You have to stay in the fight. You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and making progress. Even if the only progress you make for that day is the fact that you kept yourself alive. One point for YOU!
There will be times when you want to quit. Where you just want to simply stop existing. Those days are bears. And you will fight hard on those days to do even the simplest tasks. Do them anyway. Because you never know when something will happen that just makes everything click!
If you or someone you know is grieving and needs help in deeper capacities, please reach out to any of the numbers below.
800-273-8255 – Suicide Hotline
888-663-3239 – Addiction Hotline
800-931-2237 – Eating Disorder Hotline
800-334-4357 – Self Harm Hotline
800-656-4673 – National Assault Hotline
800-222-1222 – Poison Control Hotline
800-799-7233 – National Domestic Violence Hotline
877-565-8860 – Transgender Suicide Hotline
Text VETS or CONNECT to 741741