How Grief Affects Our Mental And Emotional State
Grief – The Most Personal Experience You Will Endure
Honestly, I expected that writing this would be much easier. I have been a poster child for death and loss, with their big bad friend Grief. They have become second nature in my life, like so many others around me. At this point, I could wear grief like a second skin. Losing as many people as I have, death and the grief that follows has filled my entire being. It left no room for the girl I once was to develop into the woman she was to become. Instead, the changes that took place raised me to another level that I’m not quite sure I am grateful for, as it has caused me to experience other types of loss along the way.
It has been somewhat of an out-of-body experience watching myself change with each new loss. Maybe it has even altered my ability to express myself through writing – this definitely makes me sadder since writing once brought me immense joy. The atypical definition of grief says it is an intense sorrow that is caused by someone’s death. While I profess to be no specialist of the sort, my grief has taken many forms. I am of the belief that it is not something that can be neatly boxed up with a label placed on the outside directing you on how to unpack and store it. Grief will differ for each person, as well as, look different for each individual a person has lost.
Grief can be defined in many ways since there are many types of loss. The most suitable definition I have come across (for me) was, “Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who’s always been there only to discover when I need her [or him] one more time, she’s no longer there.” My ability to process and accept the fact that I was grieving did not begin until a whole year after I had lost my closest aunts (yes, plural).
I plunged myself into other (unhealthy) coping mechanisms, and when those failed I became a raw exposed nerve. The word “shambles” is how my friends and I like to describe it. The five stages of grief became a joke to me as I tried to track my progress in my grief in order to speed it along. Currently, the professionals have recognized that these stages are more of a guide rather than the concrete foundation of dealing with grief.
Grieving Ends When You Accept That It Doesn’t
So, has grief changed you? Have you read what I said and rolled your eyes at it? Have you scoffed and already begun to deny your right to even claim your grief? I endured two sets of counseling – one which was helpful to unpack the issues at the moment, the other I will keep in my suitcase of experiences. Like you, I scoffed at many articles that were thrust at me by my counselors and family members who were watching me change before their eyes.
The internet is filled with individuals speaking about how grief caused them to find a new lease on life and paint very beautiful pictures of them accepting the reality of the situation. But if you are like me, you want the nitty-gritty from the people telling you all the unhealthy ways it changed them. How grief tore them apart and left them near death in their minds.
Grief is an emotional burden that leaves even the strongest mind crippled. Grief has a way of tearing down your walls and asking you “what now?”. The easiest way to put it is that grief has no respect for boundaries and has a way of making you forget how to maintain your own. It changes your perspective on life and your motivations to live your life. And it does not end at sadness and depression. It comes with the full spectrum of emotions, that can fluctuate in an instant.
The Impact Of Grief
As I spectate myself dealing with my grief, I realized how much I criminalized my own survival. The guilt I feel (because it is as constant as my breathing), springs up at the most inopportune moments – the middle of an interview, in the middle of an article, traveling to work, etc. In the same breath, I feel immense relief that they no longer have to suffer from their illnesses or endure any of the tribulations we currently face daily in Jamaica and across the globe.
The silver lining that most of the professionals come back to, is that after a while you begin to cope with your grief. You begin to accept your life without your favorite human beings, and hopefully accept that you are no longer the same. But you have to do it on your own terms, within your own timeline. A friend of mine always encouraged me to be gentle with myself when my survivor’s guilt would rear its ugly head. I am unsure if she is aware of how that became my mantra. I can only encourage you all to do the same.
Grief should not be rushed. Grief is not only about getting over your loved ones, but it also entails accepting the new you. The you that might need a moment to compose yourself in an interview because a memory popped up when they asked who inspired you the most. The you that might burst out laughing in the middle of a serious conversation because the other person said something that reminded you of them. The you that struggles to get out of bed or out the bathroom door, or into the crowded area because the world is scary and you’re not sure if you can face it alone.
Grief might become a second skin; but like always you have to wear it and not allow it to wear you. There is nothing wrong with being an individual that can see the positivity in your grief, but be gentle with your fellow grievers who may see nothing but the negative. There are many ways to release grief, and hopefully, it will be as positive as this one. Grief can feel like it is controlling your life, sometimes you have to let it take you on a journey of self-discovery before you can take back the reins confidently.
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