Grief is an odd monster. It has been 15 months since Willie died and I didn’t realize how much I was holding on to that one year mark…that hope that at that magical date I would be able to start moving forward and that it would all be somehow easier to live with. By the end of February it was apparent that it wasn’t going to just happen like that. That was the point I think when I started to really lose hope that life would ever be able to be “ok” again. So I hit a point that I never thought I’d see and it scared me enough to go to my doctor and reach out. I’ve already covered that experience in my blog so I’m not going to re-iterate that but suffice to say that it was then that I decided I needed to do something. That simply waiting was clearly not working and I was, in fact, getting worse instead of better in dealing with grief.
Because here’s the part that I didn’t realize and have only just now, with professional help, come to understand. First, my little disclaimer though…this is how the journey of grief relates to ME. Just me and me alone in this writing. I can’t speak for anyone else so my “truths” are mine, they may apply to others but I am only relaying how I know it is for me.
The now clear fact is that while I have been beating myself up over the “why” I’m not all better when I’ve been so destroyed by grief this last 15 months is that I wasn’t grieving for the first year-ish. I was existing. I was going from day to day, numbly and vacant. After the initial few months – which I have almost zero recall of by the way – I developed the art of placing the mask of functionality on and going about my days. Some days that mask didn’t hold and for a few months around Christmas it was a daily struggle that slid further from “ok” every day but generally, it held.
Grieving is an active process. Just merely existing in sorrow and loss is not grieving. I can’t learn to live with loss and sadness if I don’t feel the feelings. Now, granted, I would be the first to argue with you that I have been doing nothing BUT feeling these past 15 months but the reality is that I wasn’t actually doing that at all. I had sunk into such a depression that I didn’t “feel” anything anymore. The sadness and the loss were constant but as if viewed remotely.
When I began therapy I was livid when the Psychiatrist said that I had to let myself crack and yes, maybe I would end up as a ball of screaming on the floor but that I couldn’t process the feelings and really grieve if I kept myself “under control” all of time. I used the term “breaking down” and he corrected me every time I said that with “opening up”. Letting the feelings come to surface and be dissipated is the only way to move through them. Holding it all inside, tight and wrapped under binds just holds them there. I have expressed my fear many times in therapy this past 6 weeks – my fear that if I do let go and release the pent up and harnessed emotions that I won’t be able to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak. They assure me that isn’t the case and in fact, they are there to help.
So that brings me to where I am now. Trying to accept that some days I am going to need time and space to be with the feelings that are there and that are demanding to be felt. Days that work is going to have to take a back seat to grieving. This is something that I have struggled with and I continue to. Because to me, admitting that I am having a bad day that I need to cocoon into is akin to stating that I “can’t” do something and that is not acceptable to my strong, independent Type A self. It goes against everything inside of me. I still wish that I could just push the pain down and slide on the mask and be “ok” but I’ve come to understand now – that’s not possible. I can only do that so long and eventually, it is going to crack and fall and there’s going to be a mess, one way or the other. It may as well be a calculated and directed mess that’s managed and monitored.
Better that I rule the monster that is grief than the other way around. It’s not like it’s going away … time to try to make friends and get to know each other…grief and I are going to be together a long time, if not forever.