Grief Sucks Because Everyone Thinks They Know Exactly How You Feel
It took me six months to start thinking about grieving the loss of my mother, who passed from breast cancer six days after my oldest daughter was born.
I thought, "I've got to keep things spinning." It was the thought of a woman crazed on post-pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep. It was the thought of a woman who wanted to be needed, to feel like she was doing the right thing, because she didn't know what the hell else to do.
It took me until Christmas, while I was feeding said firstborn daughter, before it broke—and left me with sore eyes, a broken heart, and a headache from the tears. Nothing in particular had triggered the moment; no particular thought had overtaken me while I sat in the basement of my parents' home during the first Christmas we were going to end up spending without her.
Yet, I was sitting there with my daughter cradled in my lap, stroking her soft hair as I fed her, and tears were rolling down my face.
It was a moment I couldn't possibly have understood then. I've tried to understand it since, now that time and distance from that memory have lessened its impact somewhat. I've tried to connect to the experiences others have had with the loss of a parent, and the one thing I've learned about everyone's experiences with a parent's death is that it is fundamentally one of the most epic losses you can go through beyond the loss of a child.
When my father died nine years later, it was hard, but different, as I didn't have the close relationship with him that I felt I'd had with my mother. It was a sudden passing, though not entirely unexpected, as he had effectively allowed alcohol to take over his life, to the point where he was very ill and in denial about just how ill he'd become. I'd only just spoken to him two days previous, and when I received the call from his sister telling me he'd passed, I stupidly asked, "Are you sure?"
The next few days passed in a blur, and to this day, while I still feel a dull pang whenever I think of both my parents being gone, the pain is still more tangible for the loss of my mother than for my father. Even within myself, I was torn, wondering if I was disloyal for feeling this way, or whether I was simply not "grieving properly."
You have to trust that your experience is right for you. The loss needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, and only you know what that best way is. It's okay to have conversations with your friends about what they've dealt with in that regard; if they're willing to speak about their dealings with grief, you can learn a hell of a lot from such conversations.
The people who tell you that you should be feeling better, or that you shouldn't feel sad after a couple of weeks or months, or that you shouldn't still have pictures of the person around the house need a swift kick. No one should be able to tell you how to grieve or whether or not the process that you're going through is the right one.
Convoluted, But It Will Be YOUR Path.
Your Way Is OK
Ultimately, it's only you who will be able to decide whether what you're doing is the right or wrong thing as you grieve. So long as you're not "stuck" in your grief for months or years—that's when the therapists and psychologists start probing into things like "complicated grief"—you should be able to navigate the grief you're feeling and be able to move forward with your life.
- Draw on the support you need.
- Take and give hugs, when you want.
- Take time for yourself, if at all possible.
- Do things you enjoy to recharge.
There are a ton of things that you will ultimately decide is right for you to do in the wake of your grief. That may include chocolate, baking, writing...or it may not, and that's perfectly okay.
Just do it your way. No one else's.