Yesterday I listened to this podcast about grief from Jen Hatmaker, which led me to spend some time reflecting on my own experience with grief. If you are alive today, chances are you have grieved something, whether it was the loss of normalcy from this pandemic, the loss of expectations for how things would be, the loss of a loved one, etc. Everyone’s grief and circumstances are different, but one thing that I found extremely helpful as I was grieving the loss of my marriage was hearing from other people who had gone through a similar experience. So here are some things that I learned through my grief, in the hopes that they might help anyone else out there in the trenches.
Make sure you make time to feel your feelings.
This was TERRIFYING to me at first; I remember being at work, very early on in my grief, and having to fight off a panic attack. It felt like the feelings were going to be too much to handle, almost like they would drown me. I threw myself into some work to keep my mind busy, went home, and walked the dogs, but I could feel the sadness lurking. I knew I needed to let it out, so I sat on the floor next to my dog and sobbed it out. It didn’t feel great to do; screaming into a pillow feels pretty low, and I went to bed completely exhausted, but it needed to happen. And you know what? It didn’t break me. I was bigger than the grief.
Never underestimate the impact of a meal.
Adjusting to being newly single and cooking healthy food for one person was overwhelming. Some days I ate cereal standing in the kitchen, a few days I didn’t eat dinner, and other days I got it together and made a real meal (and then had to send pictures of it to my mom so she knew I was eating). A dear friend sent me a Chipotle gift card and that was LIFE to me. I could focus on just getting through the day, knowing a burrito bowl was waiting if I didn’t have it in me to think about food.
Go outside, often.
Walking my dogs got me out of the house and into the sunshine and nature, which helped remind me there is a whole big world out there besides my problems, and it is a world full of beauty, as well as pain. Laughing at the dogs, feeing the sun on my face, and stretching my legs gave me moments of joy when being home alone felt really, really hard.
Look forward to something positive.
I spent many nights creating a vision board of places I wanted to visit, which later turned into what I called my “grief road trip” through the Big 5 National Parks in Utah. Researching campsites and hikes helped fill lonely evenings and made me excited about something wonderful in my future. I wanted to craft my own happiness and this made me feel less like a victim of circumstances, and more like the leading lady of my life (if you will forgive the cliche).
Give yourself permission to not answer the question: “How are you?”
This question was so overwhelming to me because I felt so many feelings all the time, and it was exhausting trying to sum them up in a text message, even though it meant so much to have friends reaching out. I told many friends and family that I wouldn’t always be able to talk about it all. They could expect to receive a red heart emoji text, meaning “Messaged received but I just can’t articulate more than that right now.” (The podcast recommends asking people “How are you right now?” or “How are you today?” instead of just “How are you?”).
Lean on your support network.
It was SO unbelievably hard to be going through everything while being thousands of miles from my close family and friends. Phone calls were life-saving; sometimes I had to call someone crying, other times to be angry, and other times because I just needed help putting one foot in front of the other to get dressed and out the door to school. I called A LOT. At all hours. God bless my friends and family
Know the lowest moments don’t last forever, even though it can feel like it.
Grief comes in waves, which means sometimes it is strong, and sometimes it is quieter in the background. If it feels loud, know that it won’t always feel so strong. Other moments will come that are bearable and even joyful.
Love to those of you in the thick of it.
Any suggestions I missed? Share below. And if you want to read more posts sort of similar to this, check out my reflections on moving, what to do when you can’t control anything around you, or How a Divorce is Like a Pandemic. Or if you want something completely different to cheer you up, I had a fantastic time writing way too many things about Key Lime Pie. Thanks for reading!