Grief and Loss
By Christine Elizabeth
Grief. It’s a word that is difficult to say or discuss even though it only has five simple letters. Grief is far from simple, and often we wish we could simplify it. If I could just do this one thing, I won’t feel this negative emotion anymore. The fact is grief is complicated, messy, sometimes unpredictable, and often a difficult thing to try to explain unless you’re experiencing it.
My friend recently reached out to me as she deals with the loss of a loved one. She knows I am familiar with grief because I have lost my father, my aunt, and my grandma who was the only mother figure I had. February marks two years since I lost my 38 year-old aunt unexpectedly, who was so much more than an aunt. She was a friend, a sister, and my hero.
Funerals are so incredibly difficult. We can’t just magically breathe life back into that person, or rewind time to say something you wanted to tell them. We can’t ignore the loss that we are going through either.
My first major death was at 13 years-old, and back then I assumed I had to be brave and not cry. I felt it was impermissible to talk about everything going on in my heart. I didn’t know how to say that I felt suicidal or that I saw no point in what I was doing. It didn’t help that I struggled to find good friends, and was often bullied. I just shoved it all away and excelled in sports and school and I just kept going.
A year later, my grandma (who was raising me) was diagnosed with cancer, and wasn’t expected to live another year. I saw what losing my father did to me, and the fear of her dying only made things worse. My anxiety dictated my every move, and when she finally died four years later I was almost relieved.
I dealt with all of my extended grief with alcohol, obsessing over school, promiscuity, and self-hatred in an eating disorder. I had reached a very good point in my healing process after college with a lot of therapy, prayer, and more…I was finally overcoming all of these things, but then death arrived again with my aunt.
I wanted to deal with my grief the right way this time. I wanted to let myself cry, ask for help, and let God love me in it all. I tried to do all of this, and grief still led me to do crazy things. I literally went from crying all the time, to complete anger, and then to not feeling anything at all. I felt completely lost.
I assumed that after finding God, loving Him, and making Him my priority, grief wouldn’t be as devastating. I do believe having a relationship with God helped for sure, but I still felt the same pain from the last time I grieved. The difference was I didn’t feel as alone. I had just started a new phase in my life, and was going through so many changes. New home, new job, new everything! It was too much really. I wanted to simplify my grief, and that didn’t work. There’s no magic remedy, but I do think there are some things that help me know the truth, even today.
First, I have permission to feel what I am feeling. No questions asked. Second, I don’t have to always explain why I feel what I feel, and can just say, I don’t want to be alone right now or I just need a distraction. You should come back to this situation or discuss the triggers at some point, but when you are in a more grounded mindset that won’t judge your every single thought.
Third, God is great and can literally take it all. He can handle your anger. I was often angry at him for allowing the deaths to happen. I only made things worse when I thought I wasn’t allowed to be mad at Him. Fourth, don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t getting over things as quickly as you want.
Some days I find myself crying over something so small, and I realize it’s because I remembered something from my grandma or my dad when I was younger. Grief will show up in a cookie sometimes, and that’s okay. Fifth, you need to ask for help. Every ounce of my being disliked asking for help, and I often felt like a burden.
I was worried about not being understood. Honestly, not everyone will understand or know how to help you. They are as imperfect as you feel at dealing with life sometimes. Professional help really helped me navigate my pain and grief and I highly recommend it. I really value all of the therapy I’ve completed, and have often been able to combine my faith life with therapy.
One last thing I want to get across is that grief won’t look the same for everyone. If your friend is going through a loss of a loved one, and you immediately want to say what worked for you, I think you should pause. We just need to listen sometimes. It’s natural to want to fix things immediately, but like I said grief can be unpredictable which mean it’s not always easy to take it away.
Give your friend permission to grieve, instead of trying to get rid of it as quickly as possible. And even if you are allowing yourself time to grieve, it can still feel like you are doing things wrong. Remember, just take it one day at a time, and just keep fighting the good fight. It does get better. I promise.
P.S. You are enough.