No matter how many years, it can still take me by surprise. In the past I have anticipated it. These days, amid the busyness and distractions around me it tends to sneak up on me.
Every year, without fail, I am confronted with Rhiannon’s birthday and the anniversary of her death, just over 2 weeks apart.
Subconsciously I must be aware of the dates looming, but some years my first conscious awareness comes when I start to question why I’m feeling so irritable, or sad for no reason, or even worse I just start ‘losing it’ at the slightest thing.No matter how hard I try to tell myself – “chin up, should be used to this by now” (19 years so far); “it’s just another day, move on, get over it”…it only makes me feel worse, and for far longer.
I believe I have dealt with my grief fairly well over the years. I am open to talking about my experience of it, no problems crying in front of others, and seem to have come out of it all ok.
And yet, even now, I see myself avoiding really feeling the pain of it. Part of me just does NOT want to revisit those dark days of early grief, when I could not see an end to the agony of it, EVER!
I’ve put off writing a book about my experience as I haven’t wanted to remember how hard it was. I have to overcome the fear that I will lose myself again in the pain, that I will lose my current peace. That I won’t be strong enough to handle it if I go there again.
Resistance is futile! (Star Trek fans, you’ll understand…) It doesn’t matter how long ago the grief began, or even who or what the grief is about, it doesn’t just go away because you try to ignore it. It turns inwards and eventually can manifest in ugly ways. No matter what you do to stuff the feelings down, distract yourself from them, work longer, play harder – those emotions will still be there.
The only way I have found to deal with intense grief, or any other emotion for that matter, is to dive right into it and experience it fully in all its rawness.
What an absolutely terrifying idea!
But oh so worth facing up to.
I don’t lose myself, or the peace I’ve gained over the years. I grow a little more, heal some more, and honour the memory of my little girl in the process. Tears are cleansing (stay tuned for a blog in the near future on the healing power of tears) and afterwards I feel refreshed, more peaceful. The pain somehow integrates within me. It’s still there, it will always be, but it has mellowed some more, and is softer. I gain a renewed appreciation of all I have and what I’ve experienced. Each time it becomes a little easier.
There are a few ways that I embrace the grief. Some of these may be helpful for you too.
(IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Keep in mind that everyone is different and deals with grief in their own unique way. There is no right or wrong in this. The only thing I recommend is you find a way that does not harm you or others in any way. Expressing your grief is good. Lashing out in any form at yourself and others defeats the purpose of the expression. Try only what you think you can handle. Have others around you to support you if you are concerned that it may be too much for you. And wait if you must. There is no rush. Just the awareness that you may be avoiding your feelings may be all you need to help you begin to slowly let them go. Please do what feels right for you!)
Be with others – share your memories, cry together, celebrate your loved one. Create meaningful rituals, especially on significant days such as birthdays and anniversaries. It may be as simple as lighting a candle, or spending time in a place that was special. Other people grieve as well and may appreciate the opportunity to express their feelings as well.
Choose your company well, as some people may not be comfortable sharing their grief openly. Others may not understand why you are not ‘over it’ already which may not be helpful for you!
Bring out the memories – bring out photos and meaningful items. Spread them out, go through them and recall the memories attached to each, whether happy or sad. Allow the tears, or the laughter, whichever emotion comes up. Don’t fight it. It’s exhausting to swim against the tide of emotions. Go with the flow. You will eventually come back to where it’s calm again.
Anger Management – Sometimes it’s not sadness we experience, but anger. Stuffing down anger can do all sorts of terrible things to our physical and emotional health. Let it out, but as stated before, all expressions of emotions must not be harmful to you or others.
- Use a punching bag, or bash a pillow against the bed or a wall to release the rage and the feeling of the futility of it all. Rant and rave about the unfairness of the situation, even if you don’t believe you should be feeling those things. Be rational later!
- Run it out. Pound that pavement! The physical benefits and the way exercise can help with your mood make this a great way to deal with anger. Just take care and look where you are going, especially if there is traffic about.
- Scream! Long and loud! Put all your emotion into your voice. You may need to warn people what you are about, so you don’t frighten anyone. Or find a soundproof room. Or a quiet spot miles from anyone. The sense of release with this one is enormous. I’ve done this. I felt so much lighter and clear headed after. I’ve also heard recently that sports such as martial arts where you yell (called a ‘kiai’) as you punch or kick has a similar effect, with the added benefit of releasing the anger physically as well.
- The Silent Scream. I used to scream silently when I was in the shower. I would physically make the action of screaming, without giving voice to the scream. It’s not as satisfying as actually screaming, but it did release some of the tension and was less disturbing for others.
Meaningful Music and Sad Movies – sometimes it can be hard to get into the state of emotions that will allow you to cry or experience your grief. Watching a sad movie, or listening to beautiful music, can bring the tears, even if they are unrelated to your pain. It is the release of emotions that is important.
Walk it Out – go for long walks, particularly in nature. There will be less people about to see you cry if you prefer to do that privately. It will give you space to think and remember. It may help create a feeling of connectedness to the world, and a sense of your place in it. And often a sensation that your loved one is not so far from you after all.
As with nature, grief has its seasons. Regular periods of sadness, anger or any other emotion are totally normal and to be expected. Just go with it. Allow yourself to feel it. Do whatever you need to do, in your own time and in your own way. It may sound a little clichéd, but it is still true – the storms come, then they pass and the sun comes out again. With time I have found the rain seems gentler, and the time of sunshine is longer and warmer. May it be so for you too.