Having travelled firsthand through the wayward trails of grief, I have come to realize that no one has a stamp on how grief should be handled or what it looks like, because the reality is that grief looks different on every single person in this world. There may be similar reactions and feelings to grief, but every one of us manages our lives differently while we walk the hallowed halls of hurt and despair.
It has been a little over a year since my husband passed away and for the first three months, I took a personal leave from work to get through my initial stages of grief, the next six months of that year I focused on work before deciding to quit and take the last few months to let myself feel and just let life be while I stayed home and worked on my book, myself and taking care of my youngest son.
Most recently I have come to realize that people see you in a very different light when you are grieving and what they tend to see is a fragile, weak-minded person who is incapable of handling any level of decision making or focusing on any change or discipline for themselves or anyone else.
What they see is someone who is mentally and emotionally unstable and helpless and what they want is for you to go back to being the person you once were or the person they thought you were.
Let me shine some light and give you a response to your thoughts of who we are or who we should be and what your mentality is towards us, and our behaviors. I can’t really speak for anyone else other than my own self on this matter, to be quite honest, but I am going to try to make this more than just about me.
For many of us, who have lost a spouse, it has most likely been a spouse that we have spent a great deal of our lives with, for me, thirty-two years. We not only lost a spouse, but we also lost a partner, a lover, and a best friend. We lost half of ourselves the day they passed away.
We lost the one person we could share anything and everything with, the one person who understood everything about us and accepted pretty much every bit of it. We lost the one person that when we couldn’t deal with life, they picked up the pieces and carried us through those moments and we in turn did the same for them.
We lost our teammate and now we are playing this game of life, all on our own. We may have our family members to comfort us and our children to help with some of the tasks that we have accumulated but, we are still alone. We are still walking this path as one and we still do not have that one person that connects all the dots and makes everything seem complete.
Maybe for some of you, you never had that and so you can’t presume to understand that sort of loss in your life and for our children they haven’t even reached that point in their lives, so they have no clue what that kind of loss could feel like or how it could just rip your whole world apart and leave you feeling empty, lost and completely alone. Yes, they lost a parent, and that pain is tragic and heart wrenching as well and it too leaves a scar that never goes away, but the loss we feel is not comparable.
So, for all of you who do not understand and are looking towards us with a feeling of concern for our mental well-being and our ability to manage life, we are not mentally unstable, and we are not incapable of managing our lives.
We are enduring a pain that we hope you never have to feel, a torturous tearing of our hearts and our souls that eats away at the linings of our stomachs and finds us losing our battle with holding back the tears and putting a smile on our face every now and then, and feeling every single day like we want to vomit, like we want to stay wrapped in our blanket lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, asking God why this happened to us.
We are frustrated that we can’t think somedays past the pain, we are angry that we have to deal with any of this and that we now have to deal with everything on our own without our consent to want to. We are humiliated that we can’t always control our emotions and that the strength we always had or thought we had seems to have disappeared for the moment and we are irritated as we are trying to figure out who we are, now that we are not we anymore, but we are just me, myself, and I.
Do not mistake our pain and emotion for weakness and mental illness, because that just makes you ignorant and disrespectful. You may not like every decision we make as we go along and you may not agree with what you think we need, but you are not us and you have no idea what we really need.
We will find ourselves and we will take charge again and while we may not seem to be the person you remember or you believed us to be, do not lose sight of your ability to be respectful and remember that we are still human.
You may not like it or even understand it, but the person you remember will never be that same person again. Half of that person died, the day their loved one died. That person was someone that fit in their previous life, a person that meshed with the one they loved, and the way lived life together. Of course, there will still be a part of them left and they will find their strength again, but this person now must live life the way it feels best to them and yes sometimes emotions and rash decisions might occur. They may get lost in a moment, but they are learning to deal with the hand they have been dealt and they are learning to walk and someday run again, and they are working on how they will choose to start their life over.
So, stand beside your loved ones and have their backs. Be patient, be loving and be respectful. Nobody ever chooses to go through loss and the anguish it brings, and nobody ever wants to see someone go through it. Trust me, they would never want to see you go through it. Keep in mind that someday you too may feel a loss that rips your heart out, how will you want people to treat you?
I never quite understood how deeply this kind of pain cuts, but I do now, and while I am still trying to regain my strength and rebuild me, I still have my moments when the wound reopens and takes me down for a brief time and then I collect myself, straighten my spine, lift up my head and tell myself, “You got this, because God has you.”
So be patient, we will find our way and we will get stronger. We will always have those moments, but we will go on. For those of you who have, you are the warriors we all hope to be and for those still trudging the trail, we will get through this, and life will get easier.
Don’t let others decide your story and how you will live it, because they can’t finish a story they didn’t start.