6 Ways Grief Can Make You Wonder If You’ll Ever Be OK.
With the holidays and early winter being statistically the most popular season to die, late winter can be a time of grief for many survivors left to face life without a loved one – an experience that can feel overwhelming, destabilizing, and confusing. We all know that it is normal to feel sad for a while when we lose a loved one, but grief is often much bigger than just sadness, making it hard to feel like yourself. You might even wonder if you are crazy, and mentally ill. At its worst, grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever be OK.
You’re not crazy if you feel it; grief is real, and grief is suffered.
It means you loved someone, deeply. The experience of losing someone your love can make you wonder if you’ll ever be ok, especially facing life now that everything is different. More than just being sad, grief can have many different faces, affects each of us differently, and is a process to be experienced.
Understanding and recognizing some of the surprising aspects of normal grief can help you understand what you’re experiencing so you can take at least one thing off your over-flowing plate: you don’t need to worry about going crazy.
- Tearfulness: Deep sadness, and gut-wrenching pain, pave the road of missing a loved one you weren’t ready to let go. Of course, you want them back. You want things how they were, and don’t want to change – every time you think of the future without them, the tears keep coming. Sometimes tears feel like they won’t stop, which can be unsettling, even scary. You might wonder if you will ever stop crying… will you ever be ok? You will, but it will take time and the pace of healing is different for each of us. In the meantime, know that shedding tears is one of the most efficient things you can do to facilitate healing.
- Apathy: Grief can feel like you are walking through quicksand, literally, at times. You go through the motions of everyday, but things take longer and everything feels harder. Your energy only goes so far, and it just doesn’t feel like you have enough. Worse, you might not care. Grieving is hard work, and it takes a toll on your energy, focus, and drive. The good news is that with time, you will regain your interests and energy as you adjust to your new reality.
- Grumpiness: Coping with loss can make even the most easy-going person short of patience. Life just isn’t right anymore, and wrestling with this new reality can leave you feeling irritable and distracted. This simmering frustration can loom in the background of everything you do, consuming more of your precious energy than you might imagine. This can leave you with less energy and patience than you need for others, and yourself. Understanding the physical and emotional causes of your irritability can help you recognize what’s going on for you. As you work through loss, aim to mitigate irritability by prioritizing self-care.
- Mental Fog: Grief can make it hard to sustain attention and concentrate, leaving you as mentally exhausted as you are physically so. This might be one of the most distressing aspects of grief: feeling mentally depleted at a time when you need all of your resources to cope.
Not only do life’s responsibilities march on during grief, but death can usher in even more responsibilities for survivors. Laying a loved one – and their affairs – to rest requires focus, energy, attention to detail, and patience at a time when you simply aren’t at your best. Don’t worry if everything feels a bit harder than it should, or if you can’t accomplish the things you usually can. Grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever be ok, but remember, you will be. You may not be at your best, but you’re not crazy; you’re experiencing grief. When mental fog strikes, look for places where you can reduce expectations of yourself, whether cutting corners, or putting off nonessential tasks.
- Grief is shared: Losing a loved one is a family affair, and often occurs in the context of having to care for others while caring for yourself. Moreover, family discord can be fueled by a shared loss, as painful emotions and their typical coping mechanisms, run their course. Remembering you are not alone can help bolster compassion for your loved ones, and for yourself.
- Sleep changes: Not only is grief emotionally draining, but it can be physically draining too. Sleep can be a victim of grief: it can become increasingly hard to go to and stay sleep, and for some, sleep doesn’t even feel restful. Dreams tend to amplify as you cope with this new reality, and loved ones are often the subject of these wishful dreams. This can make it harder to wake up and face anew the realities of loss. Try not to get spooked by your dreams – they are your mind’s way of processing loss and adjust to your new reality.
In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed what she called the five stages of grief, that can occur along the path to healing from a loss. In addition to elucidating the various expressions of loss, her model highlights grief as a fluid process, rather than a static event, as well as one that is different for everyone.
Remembering grief is a unique experience for each of us can help you accept whatever path yours takes. The more gentle you are with yourself and the process, the smoother it will all go. Even though grief can make you wonder if you’ll ever be ok, it’s important to remember that you will.
Being gentle can also involve getting help if you are stuck. There are numerous counselors, support groups, and other community resources dedicated to grief help often accessed by a quick google search, or a call to a trusted friend in-the-know. Asking for help when you need it is sometimes one of the bravest things you can do to take care of yourself even if grief is making you wonder if you’ll ever be ok.
Grieving takes time, and goes smoothest when it has space, time, and most importantly, love. At its core, grief is about love. The love for the departed that lives on in your heart, and the love that person had for you that lives on in you. Showing love to yourself and others is one of the best ways to honor the love you shared, and facilitate the healing you need.
It will happen – give it love.
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