Adulting is overrated these days. The government is in a rocky place, people are losing their jobs, marriages are falling apart, and people we love, old and young, are passing away. No one is immune. Individually, these are difficult topics to cope with. It is even more challenging when we face multiple losses at the same time. There is no prescription for how to properly grieve. We are all different and will handle loss in numerous ways. This was evident as the country watched the funeral services of beloved war hero Senator John McCain and the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. Entertainer Tyler Perry said, “My prayer for you is that God will allow you to grieve in waves. Not that it would come crashing on you all at once like a tsunami, but in waves gently touching your soul…” Loss is fresh on everyone’s mind.
My brother was killed in a car accident on January 1, 2017. It has been the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. When I received the call, the news completely knocked the air out of my body. I have never felt such pain. When I returned to work after the funeral I was numb. I drifted through the days on auto pilot. I woke up one day and three months had passed. In my career, I prided myself on my ability to multitask. I flawlessly coordinated interpersonal relationships, two mentoring programs, and academic projects simultaneously. I thought that I could manage my grief by compartmentalizing it. I did not know how to live and deal with the overwhelming emotions that rushed in like a flood, without giving a moment’s notice. It was a Tuesday in March 2017. I tried to get dressed for work. I felt like something was wrong, but I couldn’t quite identify it. I could not keep going. My body would not let me move one more step without dealing with my grief compartment. I found myself doubled over sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t even call into work. There were no words. Thankfully, my husband was home to help me. I do not know how long I cried that day. Although, I was devastated, it felt good to release some of the emotional pressure. Imagine trying to open a soda that fell out of the grocery bag. You loosen the lid ever so slightly and the contents threaten to explode all over the table. This is the best description of how I felt the entire year of 2017.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler identified five stages of grief. On his website, Grief.com, Kessler stated, “The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live without the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. “There is no “right way” to grieve, but you do have to acknowledge it. The grief books discuss identifying a “new normal.” This means that life is different without your loved one. What does that look like for you? In year two of the grief journey, I have accepted that experiencing a twinge of sadness even on my happiest days is a part of my new normal.
What I’ve learned so far is to have a safe place to process your feelings. I am an extrovert by nature, but it has been difficult for me to discuss and/or identify my feelings on this topic. I found a grief support group called Grief Share. The classes run for thirteen weeks. The groups are hosted around the country at various locations and times. Go to GriefShare.com for more information. There is a sense of camaraderie in the shared experience of grief. The people in the group have all experienced loss. It really helped me to share with others who “get it”.
Always remember to be gentle with yourself. Change can be tough. Allow yourself to ease in to your “new normal”. There will be good days and bad days. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling in the moment.
Lastly, be honest even when it hurts, is something I am learning to do. Sometimes when we experience loss, we try to stay positive despite our circumstances. This may turn into a “little white lie” because we cannot express what we really need. Grief can wear you out and render you unable to do basic things. If you need someone to help you clean your house, help with your children, or simply text to see how you are doing a few times a week…it’s okay. Your friends and family want to be there for you