I think I’ll call this one, a compilation of the many faces of grief. You are probably thinking that is weird, because they all look the same. And you’re right. I am weird. And also in each of these photos is me with the same dumb smile and no indication of whether I was going through a time period of being ok(ish) OR if I was actually dying inside.
I learned real quick after Jesse died that if I didn’t figure out how to convince people I was ok, I would never get rid of that little invisible black cloud that seemed to follow me everywhere. I hated walking into a room and feeling the energy shift to sadness. I hated that every time I went to the grocery store someone wanted to hug me. I didn’t want anyone walking on eggshells around me. So I became a MASTER at the “I’m fine” game.
I think I also believed I could outsmart grief…like I was above all that “5 stages, one day at a time” hocus pocus nonsense. I was going to be the very BEST at grief and “get over it” as quickly as possible. After all, everyone was constantly telling me how strong I was! I had this!!!
Nothing could have prepared me for what those next few years were going to bring. Grief has no timeline and also no chill. It will leave you alone for days or even weeks only to come crashing in again like the Kool Aid man on a hot sunny day. It has no manners and does not care whether you are alone in your bedroom or surrounded by people at your nephew’s wrestling tournament. It will show up wherever, whenever it wants to, relentlessly and unapologetically.
There were times when it all felt almost unbearable. I didn’t know that emotional pain could make my entire body physically hurt, and I wondered if I was ever going to get rid of that awful feeling deep in the pit of my stomach.
There were also periods when I was incapable of feeling anything at all. It’s like your body reaches a certain threshold and says that’s enough, and you become completely numb to every emotion. This might seem like a blessing, but for me it was probably the most dangerous stage of grief to be in. I felt almost inhuman, and when you’re so detached from the world around you, you begin to question why you’re even still here in the first place.
And weaving through and in between both of those were good days that sometimes turned into weeks and even months. It wasn’t all hell. There were genuine smiles and real belly laughs and some of the best days and memories of my life to date.
Now, 3.25 years (and LOTS of therapy) later, post loss looks more like:
Accepting things for what they are and that there are wounds I will likely be working on for a really long time.
Emailing my therapist to let her know I’ve self diagnosed my intimacy issues via Tik Tok videos, and her responding with..that’s a first, we shall see about that when we talk on Tuesday.
Asking my son to help me understand what was happening after getting a call from his teacher that he’d had an emotional day regarding his dad, and understanding exactly what he means when he responds, “I don’t know, I was feeling ALL the things today mom, happy, mad and sad.”
My daughter placing our family photo in her dollhouse and playing make believe that we still have a mom AND a dad, and reminding me on a weekly basis that she’d like a daddy again because all of her friends have one.
I’m at peace with Jesse’s death, and I don’t hate him for the hurt he’s caused me, but I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive him for the pain he put on their little hearts.
I sometimes have a hard time sharing the brutally honest things about surviving loss, because if you had told me in the beginning how long my healing would take, that even 3 years later there would still be things I’d be working through, I’d have said ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!! That’s too long! So I hope this doesn’t make anyone new to this club feel discouraged.
Healing looks different for everyone, this is all just my own lived experience, and you can take what you need and leave the rest.
I can tell you that it is possible to allow happiness in again to exist alongside the sadness.
That laughter might feel like a sin right now, but those deep, pee your pants, tears rolling down your face belly laughs really are the best medicine.
That all of those things I thought I could tuck away in a dark corner of my brain, never to be heard from again, eventually presented themselves in BIG and UGLY ways.
That when I finally hit my lowest, I was lucky enough to have people in my life who weren’t afraid to say, “what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to get some fucking help.”
That healing is possible, but it can’t be found in another person or the bottom of a bottle or in another 3 a.m. Amazon purchase.
That in order to get to that place of healing, you’re gonna first have to hurt, A LOT, and you know this, so it can be really hard to force yourself to take that step.
That happiness isn’t always a choice. Sometimes we can’t just flip the “feelings” switch or chant a bunch of things we’re grateful for in order to feel better. Some things are too big to be fixed with silver linings.
And most importantly, that I thank my past self every single day for not giving up.
Whether you’re 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years into this, I just want you to know I’m rooting for you. I know this is hard, but I’m so happy you’re still here.