Grief is a funny emotion—one that hides in the shadows, lingers around corners and waits with seeming patience for you to stabilize…just so it can knock you down again.
Grief encompasses every human emotion; I’ve been angry, I’ve been melancholic, I’ve been nostalgic, envious, depressed, enlightened, enraptured… There’s even been points throughout this messed up year that I have been truly happy, despite the nagging notion in my mind that I should be wrapped up in sadness like Christmas presents under a tree of mourning.
On May 10th, 2015 I awoke to an empty bed, and upon further investigation, an empty campsite—except my campsite wasn’t empty, although it had in fact, been deserted.
At some point throughout the night, as I slept alone in the camper, my husband of two whole days, was mauled by a bear and drug 10 or so metres into the blooming forest around us.
It has been almost 11 months, and as much as I could beg, plead, bargain or pretend, this is real, and my love is not coming back.
Grief is the most human of all emotions, there is no fighting it. You cannot drown it in drugs, alcohol, food, sleep, sex, arts—nothing. You must feel it, you must clutch to it as if it is your lost loved one and hold it’s hand through the pain; the rollercoaster ride of every human emotion you can think of, and even some you can’t.
As the one year mark approaches, I’ve spent quite some time thinking about how the hell I’ve made it through this tumultuous past year, and these are the five things I recommend trying when trying seems like the last thing you want to do:
I know that this sounds cliché. I know that you may have just rolled your eyes at me, scoffed, and maybe even laughed a cynical laugh filled with “yeah, right, okay…” but trust me.
There will be moments when grief will block your path, standing there in the middle, right in the f*cking way, and demand that you deal with it, now. You cannot avoid these moments, and I’m not sure if they ever really go away.
When grief knocks the wind out of you, stop—even for just a moment—and breathe.
I know this feels weak, it feels unnecessary, and sometimes it feels downright annoying—will I ever stop?!
Yes, you will stop, but only after the tears have released, slid down your cheek, and fallen away from whatever part of you is holding on to them. Crying is therapeutic, it’s healing, and it’s refreshing.
Let the tears go.
#3: Lean into your pain.
It hurts, I know it f*cking hurts, but it’s not going to stop hurting by willing it away, hiding from it, or pretending that it isn’t there. Your pain is real, and it deserves to be felt, appreciated and processed in a natural, grieving way.
Embrace it, even though it hurts like hell.
#4: Find a friend that you can hold on to.
Grief is like the tides of the ocean—it ebbs in, it flows out, it crashes down in waves and slides away… just to come back again. I would not have made it through these stormy months if it wasn’t for a friend or two that I could anchor myself to until the swell subsided and the sun shined again.
I promise you, the sun will shine again, and you’ll be eternally grateful for the friend you could call on to rock you through the waves.
#5: Listen to yourself, take time and do what you need to do.
Grief is different for every individual—there is no timeline, no handbook, no directions on how to navigate the choppy waters, so the most important piece of advice that I could give to you is to listen to your own needs, take time to nurture yourself, and don’t listen to anyone tell you that you’re not moving along this journey fast enough.
This is not a race, there is no finish line to cross, no magical podium of first, second or third.
Grief is a personal journey, maybe one of the most personal journeys you will ever embark on even though I know you wouldn’t have chosen to embark on this journey, had you been asked before it was thrown in front of you; but here it is, and you might as well own it. Learn from it. Grow from it. Do not ever allow it to consume you.
Stop, breathe, lean in, hold on and do what you need to do.
You’re tougher than you think.
And remember: death is only just the beginning of a grandeur adventure—we will see them again, wherever it is that we go when our hearts stop beating.
Author: Jami C. Wallace O’Connor
Editor: Katarina Tavčar