It’s a THING that almost everyone deals with at some point in their lives. However, very few talk about it, and no one experiences grief in quite the same way. And while dealing with your grief, with little vocabulary to express your feelings, there is no pause button for the rest of your life. Bills still come in like clockwork, with the exception of 3 measly days of bereavement, you are expected to be back at work at full capacity, social engagements continue to be planned, etc. In three words, life goes on.
During my own grieving process, which began even before my mom passed in May, I have learned that it’s not something you get through. It’s not something you get over, under, or around. It’s not something you avoid or rise above. Grief is simply something you learn to live WITH.
While my mom was dying, I was hit by waves of emotion that would send tears streaming down my face, cause my body to shudder and my stomach involuntarily clenches, and leave me completely depleted in a matter of a few minutes. These episodes would often be triggered by seemingly nothing, a funny memory, a mother-daughter moment on a TV show, or thoughts of future life events … without my mom.
For at least the first month after my mom’s death, I was nearly 100% numb. My body went through the motions of clearing out her hospice room, meeting with the funeral home, planning a Mother’s Day trip to Disneyland (her favorite place), and setting up a birthday tea in her honor. I cried, but a lot less than I anticipated, and I thought perhaps I had been through the worst of it.
I gave myself a full month of just being; do what I want, eat what I want, cry when I want, sleep when I want, talk to whomever I want, avoid who and what I didn’t want. And just when I thought I was ready to refocus completely, the waves of emotion started crashing again. The numbness began to fade and in its place was dark loneliness and an ache unlike I have ever experienced before.
I had a plan to hit my health and wealth goals HARD after a year of weight gain and stagnant business growth; those goals crashed and burned after a week of trying and failing. I re-assessed and knew I needed a new plan.
Part of me really wanted to ditch all my coping mechanisms (excessive TV watching, excessive sugar consumption, excessive diet soda consumption) because I knew that they weren’t serving me in the best possible way, but the truth is they WERE serving me and so I gave myself a little grace, let the coping mechanisms stay, and refocused my attention on what I COULD do.
I knew I needed a series of small wins, so I committed to walking 1 mile per day, any place, any place as long as it was one intentional mile. I made it 70 days before missing due to travel and illness. Then I booked an annual physical, lab work, dentist appointment, monthly massages and started to prioritize naps.
In addition to this, I gave myself a reason to get out of bed and move (besides going to work). I put together a fundraiser and started training for a 5k. I completed the SF Giant Race on September 8, 2019, and raised a total of (FILL IN $$ HERE) for Mission Hospice, where my mom spent her last few months.
Then it was time to tackle my mental health. I booked a few grief counseling sessions and started listening to personal development audiobooks. I attended 2 sessions and decided they weren’t for me but continued to listen to personal development; a book I have found particularly helpful is Present Over Perfect.
I knew I needed more endorphins and my own type of “therapy” which comes in the form of strength training, so I hired a friend of mine to train me twice a week. With movement and mindset better in check, I knew I had to make better food choices without extreme restrictions. I started just adding healthier foods into my diet, more fruits and veggies to go along with (and hopefully reduce) the unhealthy items I am eating.
Finally, I had to escape reality for a while so I planned several trips to visit friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. I booked trips to places I have dreamt of including trips to Arizona, Texas (x2), Alaska, Disneyland, and Egypt.
NONE of this happened overnight. ALL of this happened before, after, during, between, and around emotional breakdowns, dark days, and lots and lots of tears. But it also all happened amidst laughter, smiles, hugs, and gratitude.
My coping mechanisms may not be the same as yours. The methods I use for learning how to live with grief WILL NOT be the same as yours. Because grief has no rules.
However, if I have learned anything during this process, it is to listen to YOURSELF. Your mind, your body, your soul, knows what it needs and it will tell you; you just need to listen.