The best way to describe my experience with grief is that is’ like having my head in the clouds, only my entire being is not just in the clouds, but of the clouds.
I am floating around half-numb, half-deeply-stricken with a pain that is uncontrollable and at times unbearable.
If that sounds horrible, that’s because it is, and it is nearly impossible to predict when a wave of depression will come along and take me out with its force, knocking me under for days or weeks at a time, giving me no other choice but to rest, slow down and surrender.
I used to try and fight it, telling myself my deceased loved ones would want me to be happy. Stay positive, remember the good times, don’t cry, it will be okay.
I have love and compassion for people who have not experienced a great love and loss, and have no idea what to say or how to react to losing someone so dear to suicide. But just like you would not tell me to try and control Mother Nature and the ocean, please do not suggest I can control my grief.
Believe me—if I could, I most certainly would. It does not feel good. Like a surfer being taken out by a huge, powerful wave, we simply and literally have to ride it out.
I never thought I would be an “expert” in healing from and dealing with grief, but after two of the loves of my life both killed themselves in one year, I’ve come to understand grief more than I’d care to.
If you are or have been experiencing grief, here’s what I’d like you to know:
You are not going crazy—you are recovering.
The intense, uncontrollable feelings of pain, confusion, shock, fatigue and exhaustion were foreign to me. I remember leaving work one evening, walking into a coffee shop, ordering my drink and sitting down at a table to relax. Seemingly out of nowhere, I started sobbing. There was no stopping my tears.
I missed him. I didn’t understand why.
I couldn’t bare to think of the amount of pain he must have been in to jump off a bridge out of nowhere, unknowingly transferring his pain on to those of us who loved him so much. I cried knowing I would never see him again, touch him, look into his eyes and smile, hear his voice, hold his hand.
It was all too much.
And there I was, sitting by myself in a coffee shop in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by people, feeling isolated and alone—that same feeling my two friends must have felt when they took their own lives at such a young age.
When I reached out to friends and family, I got the, “I’m sorry, you’ll be okay,” response, which only made me feel more alone.
They couldn’t feel my pain.
I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, but was it normal to be feeling this sad?
Whatever feelings are coming up for you are “normal,” and are there to help you heal. As the saying goes, “You have to feel it to heal it.” Try to embrace your emotions, rather than fight or control them. Find a friend or support group who understands what you are going through.
Some days I think to myself, “Shouldn’t I be feeling better by now?” Even though it’s only been five months. I get irritated that all my body wants to do is rest. Really, another nap? I have things I want and need to do!
How much time is it going to take to get over this?
The answer is, as long as it takes.
It isn’t about getting over something—it is about creating a new normal.
Surviving the death of a loved one, especially a sudden, traumatic suicide isn’t something to “get over.” We have to accept that we will never be the same person, and that’s okay. Opening up and sharing your story will help both you and others heal. You can choose to turn your pain into your purpose, and offer some sort of peace and comfort to others.
Easy does it.
Be extremely gentle with yourself. If this means not getting out of your pajamas and staying home all day doing nothing, then so be it. No judgment. Radical self-care goes a long way when it comes to healing and dealing with grief. Bubble baths, healthy, nutritious meals, walks in nature, journaling, spa treatments and naps are always on my agenda.
If we want to be supported, we must learn to support ourselves first. Check in with your body, head, heart and soul, and ask, “What do you need to feel better/great/happy/cared for?
Grief is different for everyone.
Comparison is never a good idea, but especially when healing from grief. One person may deal with their pain by staying extremely busy and active, where another may need to stay in bed for a week. There is no right or wrong, good or bad when it come to healing—with the exception of “bad” being, say, if one were to cause harm to themselves or others.
You are not alone.
There are dozens of professional organizations available to those of us who need grief counseling. All it takes is asking for help. People want to assist us in our recovery.
Author: Kate Eckman
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Author’s Own