Just like the 4-minute mile- nobody thought it was possible for a person to run one mile faster than 4 minutes, but as soon as Roger Bannister did it in 1954, 2 runners- just 2 months later- ran it faster. You, too, can do this hard thing. Loss may feel like a marathon, but you’ll get better and better at it.
You will learn to cope better. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so don’t feel bad if you are doing things differently, as long as it is healthy. Your personality and life experiences can change the way you grieve. Four of the things I learned over the first few months were:
- Face the grief. It’s ok to be sad and you should be! During the first few months, I felt I had a pass to cry all I wanted. So if this is hard for you, here is your hall pass. Cry and scream all you want. I mostly cried in my closet and then friends and family said I never grieved. Nobody has any idea how other people grieve, but I do wish I would have let people see me cry more. It is nothing to be ashamed of – you loved and it hurts when the loved one has passed. If you don’t cry that’s ok, too. Just do what feels natural to your body and don’t hold those emotions back. I also felt like at any given moment (in the cereal aisle in the store) I could fall apart and I did. My emotions were so close to the surface!
- You may not go through all the “5 grief stages” in order and you may have a bunch of stages that aren’t even mentioned. The 5 stages of grief are said to be DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, DEPRESSION, and ACCEPTANCE. I felt like there were 105 stages and some I came back to over and over like forgiveness, belief loss, lack of appetite, and disbelief-shock.
- Have self-care. Take a bath. Get a massage. Watch a funny movie. Give yourself some love and forgiveness. Say kind things to yourself and try to be positive. What you tell your brain all day is what your body believes- so give it compassion. Stress can do all sorts of things to the body. See a doctor, find healthy ways to grieve, do things that make you happy, and move your body. To let go of the pains in my body I had to physically move. Yoga, spin class, or running like crazy on a treadmill helped. A lot.
- People will blame you for the loss of your loved one. This happens to quite a few of us. It doesn’t even matter how our loved one passed. Start building healthy boundaries and let others know when they have crossed them. Some people may never be convinced that you were not in the wrong so don’t give in to their negative energy. Create space. I had to tell some of my family members to grieve and come back when they could be positive. Oh, by the way- it’s not your fault! You may try to blame yourself but take time to truly think through the loss. You may also have the tendency to blame others – like doctors or God. I have a motto that works for me: Everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have been given. That includes yourself. It gives me peace to believe this.
After living for a while you may start to feel like superman or Wonder Woman. (You will also still have days that throw you back to deep sorrow.) You will know you can do hard things and survive. No, you will thrive. Look for and write down the things you are surprised you have done well. Let this list push you to keep running the marathon. You got this!