Grief takes many forms, and no one should be able to tell you what you may or may not grieve over. The termination of a job, the death of someone in your inner circle, or the end of a relationship can trigger feelings of sadness and loss.
When I first realized what grief was, I was five. Over the course of the year previous, my grandmother who was one of my primary caretakers, fell ill. She had been in and out of hospitals and came home to die in 1992. My parents tried to explain to me what was happening, but at the time I had little idea what was going. My parents told me things like: She’s in heaven now and she doesn’t hurt anymore. Even as a child I thought to myself: Is that the whole explanation? I still couldn’t fathom that she had died.
On the day of her funeral, I sat in a limousine that carried most of my family members. I remember the car moving slow and being uncomfortable in my starched dress and frilly knee socks. With little notice, I became extremely nauseated and vomited in the back seat. My brain and mind were so young that I think I had trouble processing the entire event. The funeral was the first and only time I have seen my father cry. This day is burned in my memory because I was in the throes of deep grief and had little idea how to cope. I felt very similar at the funeral of my dear friend in 2015. Looking at his mother in the pew curled over in grief sent me over the edge. During the service I sat alone about 10 rows back, though I could see our high school friends on the other side of the church. I tried to be strong that day and it was very difficult.
I will not get into the details here and now about my relationship with the friend I’m speaking of. I will say that he was the first friend I ever made and that I truly loved him. He was my best friend for a long time and we were attached at the hip, starting when we were just four years old. He lived across the street- I could see his bedroom window from mine. We used walkie talkies between our houses, we played outside every day. We were inseparable! In third grade he asked me to be his girlfriend (I said yes, duh) and we spent nearly every day together. We were cut from the same cloth, so to speak.
He had a two little sisters including the youngest who succumbed to her severe physical disabilities when we were about 11 and she was 3 or 4 years old. When she died I think that’s when our relationship started to unravel. I think back I realize that we both didn’t know what to do with our grief and it changed our relationship. After high school, we fell out of touch as I moved to Boston for college and he stayed in our hometown. He worked, played music, and studied as well. In the last five or more years of his life, my friend struggled with addiction.
Like so many, he fell prey to prescription painkillers after a car accident that almost killed him. From there, it seems that he had a cycle of hiding his addiction, trying to quit, and then falling back into it. I had no idea that he was struggling, or else I was oblivious. Two months before his death, we were hanging out more often. We met up one afternoon and it was like we never left another. We went on long drives, hiked together, had deep talks and reminisced about our youth. On an afternoon after hiking I noticed that he had red marks in a small part in the crook of his arm. I asked him what they were and if he was okay? He quickly crossed his arms and said he was donating plasma. In my denial, I took what he said as truth and didn’t think any more of it. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
In November, it will be four years since his death. I still struggle with it, I burst into tears sometimes. It’s normal. I have put a lot of effort into my recovery and I’d like to share some things that took me from the brink to where I am now.
The long and the short of it is that I use meditation. I learned it, I live it and love it. It has saved me from the brink of panic and utter despair in the past and I have confidence that it’ll help in the future. I can’t imagine the trajectory of my life if I had not added in a meditative practice. I use a free app (Stop, Breathe and Think) and Youtube videos as guided meditations. There are sessions that start at just one minute long. Even the one minute meditations can give me an anchored feeling for the day and smooth my emotions. The results of my own daily mindfulness practice have been astounding in terms of how I feel. I find that after meditation I’m focused, calmer, and more understanding of others.
Second and third, I let myself cry and I write a lot about my feelings. In order to not fall into a pit of despair when I’m full of grief, I put a timer on feeling terrible. I still do this after nearly four years! A ten minute timer on my phone allows me to ugly-cry my heart out and feel my feelings or write about it for a bit and then move on. This practice may sound a little strange but it really works.
Grief is a complicated emotion that deserves your attention when you feel it. I have been told by people who know that this emotion can take years to work through. That being said, it’s absolutely worth your time to work on healing and feel better. If you are struggling with grief or loss now, you won’t always feel this way. Take the time to work on yourself and your emotions and you’ll quickly see how it can help.
Questions? Email Me.