Loss is inevitable. Every one of us will lose someone at some point in our lives. I lost my grandpa, my uncle, and my nanny when I was a little girl. A favorite patient of mine at the old folks home where I volunteered died when I was a teen. My childhood cat, who lived for 18 long years, died in my twenties. I lost my mom before I turned 30 and my dad died the year before I was married. So I guess you could say that I know a thing or two about loss and heartache. But to define grief, to explain how it changes me, to express the way it makes me feel, is nearly impossible. There are tons of quotes on grief. There are books about it. Studies on it. Every one has something to say on the topic. I mean, the 5 steps of grief are common knowledge. But the thing about grief is that it isn’t just one thing.
Grief stuns you. It takes your breath away. It blinds you from everything beautiful and covers up all of the light. It drowns out the sounds of laughter and magic and music. It clouds your brain, messes with your memories, and makes it nearly impossible to focus. It is scary. It is heavy. It is constant.
And yeah, there are 5 stages. But they aren’t linear. It isn’t like you graduate from each stage and move on to the next, eventually mastering the sadness. Some days, I experience denial and anger and depression within the same couple of hours. Sometimes I’m stuck in bargaining for days. I rarely hit acceptance and if I do, it is quickly followed by one of the other four stages. I remember writing this blog post six months ago but I deleted it because when I read it back, it sounded so damn angry. And I should have posted it. Because that’s just real life. I’m angry. A lot. Sometimes I can’t see past it. And of course when I snap out of it, I can’t believe I acted that way. But I did and I will again after some time passes. Maybe weeks, possibly hours later.
I think one of the hardest parts of grief is apathy. Grief does this thing where it takes away every part of you that makes you care about literally anything. Seriously, nothing matters. And you know that you don’t care, but YOU DON’T CARE about that either. I was in a pretty bad place about six months ago and was completely overwhelmed with apathy. I didn’t care about what I did, what I ate, who I spent time with, what others were going through, or what would happen to me. It wasn’t like I was actively trying to not care. I just didn’t. There were days when I would sit on the couch in the morning and hours would pass without me noticing. And I’d just be sitting there. My mind would actually shut off. And the little things, well, they didn’t exist. I didn’t notice how things tasted or sounded or made me feel. Everything was grey and I didn’t care.
I eventually snapped out of this. I don’t really even remember what changed in me. It had happened a few times before and I could pinpoint the moment. But this time, I’m not sure. I can say that it was like waking up from a coma. I looked around to see that life was still going on around me. But in the time that I was checked out, I changed. My body, my mind, my everything. I gained a good amount of weight. I was unhealthy and it showed in my body, my hair, my skin. And my confidence sank. I have always been incredibly self confident. I mean, I’ve always gone up and down with weight and it isn’t that I think I’m perfect. I’ve just been comfortable in my own skin. But for the first time, I wasn’t. I felt weak and ugly and I actually hated looking in the mirror. My emotions were now manifesting in my pride and self-confidence.
So, I looked around me and I took inventory of what I had. Of course I noticed that my sweet husband was still here, in love with me as always. Patient, kind, understanding, loving. He was sad and he needed ME, but he was there. I thought about the friends and family members who checked on me on a regular basis, the people who let me know they were always thinking of me. I thought about the people who counted on me with their health and fitness journeys and I realized that they were still there, waiting for me to help them. And so I just started. Communicating. Opening up. Listening. Loving on others. Helping those who needed it. Working out and eating healthy. Writing. Spending time doing things that mattered. And it was a conscious choice, every single day. I would feel the apathy start to creep up on me and I’d run from it.
The upside to apathy is that you don’t feel much. I think that is probably why it hit me so hard. I actually couldn’t deal with my losses and my mind sort of shut off. So now that the apathy is (mostly) gone, I feel everything again. And it hurts. And I go through the 5 stages, over and over again. But I’m learning that that isn’t ever going to change. Yes, I’ll get stronger over time and I’ll learn to deal with it. But it won’t go away. I find myself worried when I get sad sometimes that THIS moment might be the one that sends me back into that dark place. I keep waiting for the free fall on this roller coaster of life. And I know it is naive to say that it won’t come. I just hope, every day, that I’ll be able to hold on and come right back up!
So that’s it. That’s the thing about grief. It isn’t linear and there isn’t a cure. No amount of time changes what happened. And I can’t always sugarcoat it because it IS sad and it needs to be said. So that when people experience loss, they don’t feel like they are losing their mind because their grief takes them to such dark places. I wan’t people to understand that YES, I AM OKAY. Of course I am! Life is good. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a part of me now. And the thing is, people won’t understand. Of course they love you and they are sad for you, but they’ll never really get it. Even if they’ve experienced loss themselves. Because our grief is just that. It is ours. But I think that is where the strength comes from. It has to. Because we HAVE to rise. And we do.