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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

In January of this year, I posted this picture on my Facebook page where it has remained all year. The caption reads:

“2014 is MY year. No more compromises. Life is way too short for those, I’ve learned. It’s MY life, and it’s going to be played by MY rules, not someone else’s. I have goals that WILL be met one way or another, and no one is going to stand in my way. 2014 is MY year.”

2014 is my year pic

Now that it is the end of the year, I think it’s a good time to reflect.

Coming off losing my mom in 2013, I thought I was ready to move on. I thought I’d done my grieving and that it was time to get back to me. My job had been conveniently given to someone else the year before (while I was away at my third family funeral, no less), and I found myself at a bit of a crossroads; did I return to the kind of life I had – being chained to a desk for forty hours a week – or did I use this time in my life as an opportunity to do something else?

You see, I’d started an online craft business a few years prior and did fairly well, but as many have discovered before me, you either resign yourself to it as a ‘hobby’ or you turn it into a business.

After much thought and consideration, I decided to turn it into a business.

I went from a little shop on Etsy to having my own website and newsletter. I already had a Facebook page and Twitter account for it. I had many new items that I wanted to make now that I could devote all of my time to it.

And then I discovered what grieving truly was. Anyone who has followed my blog the past couple years knows it’s been a rough time. All of the plans that I had put in motion in January came to a screeching halt in March. I went from being excited, motivated and busy to an empty shell. Getting out of bed was a big accomplishment, though I lost count of how many days (weeks) I spent on the couch not because I was tired or lazy but because I was absolutely incapable of doing anything else.

sad girl

Ever been in a fog? You know, those times when you just can’t concentrate? You know that little voice in your head is reminding you of all the things that you have to do, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t. And the tears…I’ve cried more in one year than I have in probably the last ten. And I don’t mean crying for a few minutes and being done. Oh no. I mean, lying on the floor, curled up in a ball, sobbing as if I was in physical pain. Repeatedly. Day after day. Week after week.

I was in pain – horrible, gut wrenching, ‘my life is over’, emotional pain.

girl crying

I wondered if I was losing it. I wondered if I needed counseling. I wondered if what I was going through was normal. I wondered if it would ever stop because there were so many days when I thought it never would. Honestly, I was growing to hate life.

Just when I thought I was ‘getting better’ – when I thought a little sunshine was finally making its way through the storm clouds and I could start functioning normally once more – it would start all over again, and I was pulled down into the abyss whether I wanted to be or not.

By June, I was not good company to be around. I was upset and on edge, and one little thing would set me off. I wasn’t happy, and I felt like the entire universe had decided to use me, and only me, as its personal dumping ground. And I was tired of it.

June also brought my fortieth birthday. I told myself that since my thirtieth was awful (another whole blog right there), I was going to have a good fortieth come hell or high water. I decided to make reservations out with my boyfriend (we never go out), and I even scheduled an appointment to get some henna done (I love henna designs, and I hadn’t had any in a while). I was determined to have a special day. I was going to make it special one way or another.

henna for blog

And then hell came. My dress for our special dinner was out on my bed. The reservations were made. I grabbed my purse and headed out for my henna appointment with somewhat of a smile on my face. I got in the car, put in the key…and nothing. The car wouldn’t start.

Now, in reality, that is not a big deal. It’s annoying, but not life ending. To me – given the extremely fragile state I was in – it sent me on a dizzying downward spiral that caused bouts of explosive anger; the kind of anger that just makes you want to destroy everything in sight. I was useless for two weeks. I even deactivated my Facebook account for a day or so because I could not handle any birthday wishes. I didn’t know what I’d done, but I was convinced that the universe hated me and that it was out to get me. Because I needed that on top of everything else I was going through.

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By July, I was at another crossroads. I’d reached a very bad – very dangerous – place emotionally and mentally, and I knew my next move was going to be monumental to my life. I was ready to give in – to give up everything I believe in and stand for. I felt like the only choice I had was to go find a doctor to give me some ‘happy’ pills and go find another desk job and become like everyone else.

And that thought alone made me more angry and more bitter than I already was. Hateful even. There’s nothing wrong with having a regular “9-5” job, but not when you feel like you’re “settling” for it or because you feel like you’re incapable of doing anything else. My thoughts were toxic, and no enemy could have said anything any worse to me than what I was already thinking…what I was telling myself all day every day. It was beyond horrible, and it didn’t take long to start believing it.

I was driving home from an errand one day in July when I passed a reiki place. I’d seen it plenty of times, but it stuck in my head that day. I’d learned about reiki years previous when I lived a more ‘metaphysical’ way of life, and I started thinking that maybe I’d check it out. It was close to home and not expensive. I was so desperate for help – I felt like it was my only chance to break away from the path I found myself on. I knew it was about energy, and I knew mine was not in a good place. Why not try, I thought. What have I got to lose at this point?

I already felt like the ‘me’ that I’d known was gone, anyway, and I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to get her back.

I had one thirty minute session, and it was life changing. Truly.

reiki

The practitioner gave me a ‘message’ at the end. “You need to start being grateful,” she told me. “You’ve haven’t been feeling grateful for anything.”

No, I certainly hadn’t. I didn’t feel like I had anything to be grateful for after the couple years that I’d had. And feeling like the universe was picking on me and using me for its proverbial litter box didn’t help, either.

She told me how important it was to be grateful for big things and small things. She reminded me of how we – and everything in this world – are nothing more than energy. If we’re constantly sending out negative energies and ‘taking’ all the time, we’re not going to create much positive around ourselves.

grateful

I agreed with everything she said. I’d learned it years ago, after all, but I’d gotten away from that previous mindset. Galaxies away. I told her I would try.

And try I did. Every night before going to sleep, I would take a few minutes and ‘send out’ gratitude for things. It’s amazing how the more grateful you are, the more you find to be grateful for. And I started meditating. You wouldn’t think that sitting quietly with your own thoughts could be profound, yet it is.

My entire year turned around from one decision. And it was noticeable. My boyfriend noticed the difference immediately because my attitude and countenance changed almost overnight. When I went back for a second reiki appointment, the practitioner also noticed immediately that I was different and not wound up ready to explode like I had been previously.

It made me feel good. And I hadn’t felt ‘good’ the majority of the year.

meditation

2014 was my year in many ways. It was my year to hit rock bottom emotionally so that I would seek out help and be reminded of the path that I should be on; the path that I’d chosen a number of years ago. It was my year to learn that you will always face your darkest days with no shoulder but yours to cry on. It was my year to learn that just because you do nice, thoughtful things for others does not mean it will be reciprocated. It was my year to discover that when someone is too nice, they’re being fake. It was my year to learn how to be nice to myself and to not be so strict with the schedule that I make for myself. It was my year to be honest with myself about my thoughts and feelings, even if they weren’t pretty. It was my year to learn about the devastating tunnel of grief and how to come out of the other side of it still intact and, in some ways, stronger. It was my year to connect with myself again and to remember that I must be grateful for everything every day.

We learn with every single experience in our lives, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If you’re not constantly learning, you’re not paying enough attention.

And I’m happy to report that I have returned to my initial goal that I had set at the start of the year – to pursue my craft business full time. I am devoting 2015 to doing everything I can to make it successful – I will be setting up at shows and markets all year (something I’ve never done).

Whatever happens, I will continue to be grateful. I will continue to learn and grow.

And ironically, amidst all of this internal chaos, I’ve learned the secret of being happy. But that’s for another blog.

happiness

2014 was my year.

And 2015 will be, too.

Oh…and in case you’re curious…this is my business: www.psychedelicsnowflake.com.

psychedelic snowflake logo

And this is me at my very first show. Hopefully, it’s the start of many!

renee at first show

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“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

“Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?” – Voltaire

“Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar

These greats were 100% correct. Sometimes we must fully experience something before we can fully understand it.

I did not understand grieving until I went through it. No one understands it until they go through it. It’s unlike any other emotional time in life.

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Suppose your best friend’s mother passes away. What do you do? You offer your condolences, tell them to call you if they need anything, you attend the funeral (if you can), repeat your condolences as you hug them and then go home. It’s over for you.

For your best friend, that funeral is the beginning – not the end – of a painful, dark and life-changing journey that is one of the hardest things they will ever have to deal with.

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As the weeks and months pass by after the funeral, you notice changes in your best friend. You might not see them as much as you did previously. You might not see their presence online as much. You might not get as many – if any – texts as was normal. You might notice that their emotions – if you get to see them – are more than just sadness. On the contrary, you might notice that when you’re around them, they always seem to be smiling and insisting that they’re okay.

They’re not okay – they’re grieving.

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You realize that you have no idea what to say to them because you’ve never grieved before. You know it’s more complicated than them just being ‘sad’, but what do you do?? You can’t ignore them because you know they’re hurting, but you have absolutely no idea what to do to help them.

Most people choose to do nothing because they think that they’re ‘giving them time’ and feel like that’s the ‘safer’ course of action.

It isn’t. Read on.

Having been on the side of not knowing what to do AND having been on the side of grieving over the loss of my mother the last year or so, I decided to write this blog in the hopes that it would help those who are grieving get the emotional support that they need AND that it would help those that haven’t grieved to be able to give the emotional support to their loved ones that need it so desperately.

Understand that everyone is different – so everyone will grieve differently. It’s not an exact science; this blog only serves as a guideline. Adjust as necessary for your loved one.

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Let’s look at what grieving is first. Grieving is not just sadness or depression (as commonly thought), but sadness and depression are part of grieving. Grieving is a process that happens over time; it could be a few months, or it could take a few years. The easiest way to explain it is like the Space Mountain ride at Disney – you’re in the dark, have no idea which (emotional) twist or turn is coming next and are just along for the ride until it ends. Grief can hit at any time, too; you can be going along your days, thinking everything is fine, and then BAM – you’re down for the count for days, crying and useless.

Wikipedia, oddly enough, has a great explanation: “Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something, that has passed away, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss, along with saudade.”

(Saudade – pronounced ‘sew dahd’ or ‘sew dahgy’ – is a Portuguese term that doesn’t have an English equivalent, but roughly translated, it means a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. This is something that can last forever.)

BuzzFeed posted a great article about depression that completely applies to grieving, as well. Read more here.

It’s not just the sadness and depression that you experience. There’s anger, guilt, confusion, fear; just to name a few. Your self-esteem and self-confidence can be affected. Your sleeping patterns and appetite can suffer. You question your own mortality. It’s a downward spiral of thoughts and feelings, and not a very pretty one. Until you have ridden the roller coaster of grief, you have no idea of just how dark your days can be; you have no idea the maelstrom of destructive emotions that will course through your veins – and mind – and burn you from the inside. I know I didn’t.

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You also have other family members to deal with who are grieving as well, and often times, you see sides of them during the process that you don’t particularly like because it’s a side of them that you’ve never seen before – and they’ve never seen it, either, more than likely. Bills, possessions, wills, properties, heirs – all sorts of legal things have to be dealt with, and often, not everyone agrees on how/when to do it. I’ve learned that death changes people, and usually not for the better. People will behave in ways that you never imagined that they could. Grief is the biggest part of what causes such severe personality changes. And the less someone deals with their grief, the worse their behavior becomes.

It’s truly one of THE hardest things to experience. The person you are when you go in is not the person you are when you come out.

grieving 9

After you’ve gone through it personally, you usually have an idea of what to say to someone or how to treat those that are going through the same. For those of you that have not experienced grieving, it creates an awkwardness that usually leads to silence. You know your friend or family member is hurting, and the last thing you want to do is say something that is going to hurt them more or sound insensitive or cliché, so you do the safest thing – you say nothing. You might think of them often, you might even pray or send out positive energies for them, but if you never tell them, they never know. To them, it’s like you did nothing.

The one who is grieving is typically incapable of telling you what they need. They are too lost in their pain and downward spirals of turbulent emotions to be able to articulate the kind of support that they need to help them feel better or help them feel loved and thought of. Grieving is a lonely process to go through, and you often feel isolated from everyone. (Read my other blog The Island of Grief for more about this.) It just makes an already awful situation even more awful.

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I lost both of my grandfathers when I was six…I lost a cousin when I was twelve…I lost my grandmother when I was fifteen…but I had never grieved until I lost my mother. I’ve always been on the other side – that feeling awkward-not knowing what to say-just remaining quiet – side. I never knew what to say when someone was grieving, so after the preliminary “I’m sorry for your loss” bit, I didn’t say or do anything else. I thought bringing it up again would be painful, so I didn’t. I assumed that maybe they didn’t want me to or that I wasn’t supposed to. I never checked to see if they were doing all right later. I never let them know that I was thinking about them. I didn’t do anything because I didn’t know WHAT to do, so I thought it was better to do NOTHING.

Now I know that that was wrong.

The last year and a half since losing Mom has been a very bad, very dark place for me. It’s been THE worst time of my life; let’s just say it like it is. I have also never felt more UNloved or UNthought of in my life. Does that mean that my friends and family don’t love me or hadn’t thought of me during this horrible time? Of course not! They thought of me often, and periodically when I’d post on Facebook about being in this awful mindset, they would leave a comment in response and support.

But that’s not what I needed. And I know I’m not alone with my needs. I’m just one of thousands.

I needed those that cared about me to REACH OUT to me on their own without being prompted. I needed a ‘thinking of you’ card to show up in the mail. I needed a text message saying ‘hey, just letting you know I’m wondering how you are’. I needed a voicemail that said ‘you don’t have to call me back if you don’t feel like it, but I know you’re hurting and I hope you’re ok’. I needed an email that said ‘if you feel like talking, I feel like listening’. I can’t tell you what those sorts of things would have meant to me. They probably would have made me cry, to be honest. I’m sure I speak for hundreds of others in this way.

grieving 6

So why didn’t I get any of that? Why don’t any of us in that situation get what we need? Because not only can the one grieving not tell you what they need or how much they’re hurting, most of us don’t know what to say or how to treat someone grieving (if we even know they are), so we say or do nothing – it really is just that simple.

After sending out a survey to ask others about their experience grieving and what they’d like others to know, I’ve compiled all the responses and made a list of 5 do’s and 5 don’ts that come ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’…a grieving one, that is. With each of these, please consider the specific person that is grieving and adjust if necessary to better fit their personality. This is a ‘one size fits most’ – not a ‘one size fits all’ – list.

dos

  1. DO send ‘thinking of you’ cards, letters, texts, etc and more than once, if you can. Even if your loved one doesn’t respond, know that reaching out to them DID make a difference and that it DID touch them to know that someone was thinking of them. It tells them that they’re loved when they’re feeling very unloved. It doesn’t matter if it’s two weeks after the funeral or two years, send those messages of support – your loved one will tell you when they’re feeling better (and basically when you don’t need to send anymore).
  1. DO offer to listen if your loved one wants to talk about their deceased family member/friend. Tell them that specifically; don’t wait for them to mention it. Sometimes the ones grieving think that no one wants to hear about the past, that no one wants to listen to them relive memories, because it’ll be sad. (And, of course, that’s not true.) You could say “I just want you to know that if you ever want to talk about ______, I want to listen”. Your loved one will either tell you that they’re not ready, but that they will be in the future, or they’ll take you up on it immediately. Most that have not experienced grieving think that those of us who are don’t want to talk about the one causing us the pain, but this is usually not true. If you have any special memories and/or pictures of their loved one, by all means, show them (or give them a copy of) the pictures and share those memories with them. It might make them cry, but that’s okay. It helps in their healing. It’s a happy cry, as strange as that sounds.
  1. DO offer to take them out for coffee, dessert, lunch, dinner, etc. They might say no a few times, but keep asking periodically. One day, they will surprise you, and they will say yes. The one grieving often doesn’t have the ability to do the inviting, even if they’re feeling slightly better, and they are much more likely to say yes to someone asking than to gather up the energy to do the asking. They need love, support and encouragement, but they usually can not ask for it. If you’re very close to the one grieving, like a sibling or best friend, instead of asking if you can do something for them, just do it. Cook a couple of their favorite dishes or make their favorite dessert and take it to them after calling to let them know you’re on the way. If you ask if you can do something, you’ll always be told no. If you just do it, it’ll always be accepted and appreciated.
  1. DO hug your hurting loved one when you see them and give them a big smile. Often those who haven’t grieved almost feel guilty for being happy around someone who is. This is not true. If you are happy, share that happiness. Don’t be afraid to talk about positive things that might be happening if your life. It will help ease the pain of your loved one. You will be a brief ray of sunshine in a stormy world, and it will be appreciated. Just because they are sad doesn’t mean they expect you to be.

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  1. DO have an initial, direct conversation with the one grieving. Pretending that someone hasn’t died and that everything is normal won’t work. Your loved one’s life has been forever changed, and they will not be themselves for months and possibly even years. It will require extreme patience from you, and it will also require a “proactiveness” on your part that you’ve not been accustomed to. A few weeks after the funeral (because they’re in shock until at least two or three months after; sometimes longer), call them and tell them that you want to support them but that you’re not sure of how. Don’t worry about saying the ‘right thing’ – there is no right thing to say. Tell them that you will periodically check on them (in whatever way is comfortable for you), and encourage them to not be afraid to tell you if they need more support from you or less. It will change as the weeks and months pass, too, as they work through the different stages, so you might need to have another direct conversation. The one grieving will welcome the opportunity to talk to you about where they’re at emotionally and what they need from you.

donts

  1. DON’T use clichés ever. They are empty sentiments and mean nothing to the person that you’re saying them to. You know the kind; “hang in there”, “be strong”, “let me know if I can do anything”, “I’ll be here if you need me” and the like (don’t misunderstand – some people truly do mean the last two, but more often than not, the statements are said with little meaning behind them). If you don’t know what to say, tell your hurting loved one just that. Tell them that you know they feel awful and that you wished you could do something to make them feel better. Tell them you want to be there but that they will need to tell you when and how. Tell them that you’ll check on them in a few days/weeks/months. Tell them that you have no idea what to do; that’s okay, too. Just be honest and mean whatever you do say. The honesty will be truly appreciated, even if you feel like you said nothing of value.

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  1. DON’T ignore them. I know all of us get busy with ‘life’; sometimes it’s all we can do just to tend to our own issues. BUT, even if you only send a card or text twice in a number of months, while seemingly insignificant to you, it can make the entire day or week of someone grieving. What doesn’t seem like much to you is momentous to someone in pain. You might think of them often and hope they’re doing better and other niceties, but if they aren’t told, it’s the same to them as if you hadn’t thought of them at all. And the worst thing for someone grieving to feel – along with the other awful things they’re feeling – is forgotten. It’s debilitating.
  1. DON’T suggest for your loved one to seek grief counseling. Now, don’t get me wrong here – grief counseling is a good thing, and it often does need to happen to help some people work through their grief. BUT unless you are super close to that person (sibling, best friend, child, etc), making that suggestion, especially too soon, tells them that they’re ‘too’ depressed or ‘too’ upset, and it will close them up from you. It will make them feel like they ‘should’ be happier around you or that they ‘should’ be over their grieving quicker. It makes them feel like what they’re going through and how they’re handling it is wrong – which, of course, is not what you intended at all. You have to remember that your loved one’s emotions are raw and that they are easily hurt and/or offended. They truly might need it, but if you suggest it only a few weeks or months in to their grief, they might not contact you for some time only because they’ll feel like they’re being judged; like something’s wrong with them or that they should be ‘over it’ already.

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  1. DON’T assume that your loved one wants to be left alone. Those that are grieving do need some time to themselves, of course, to cry and be angry and all sorts of other messy, emotionally draining things, but don’t assume that they don’t want to hear from you or that they’ll call you when they’re feeling better. There are some that truly do want to be left alone, and those are the ones that will tell you in no uncertain terms that they’ll contact you when they’re ready. But most people grieving are not going to tell you that. Unless someone has firmly stated so, don’t wait for them to contact you. They want space, yes, but they don’t want to be forgotten.
  1. DON’T pretend like nothing has happened. There are some folks that think the best way to handle someone grieving is to essentially act like nothing bad happened; to treat the person in the same manner as they had previously and to expect that person to behave the same as they had previously. That is a disaster waiting to happen, and it happens more with work and acquaintance type relationships more so than with close friendships and family ties. I worked in purchasing when Mom passed, and so I placed orders with and took orders from the same people month after month. I emailed one lady in particular and explained that I had been out of the office so much because my mother had passed, and she absolutely ignored me. She never offered condolences, she never acknowledged my loss and she went so far as to make ridiculous comments like “the sun is shining in ____” (whatever city she was in), and I just wanted to reach through the screen and strangle her. I wasn’t looking for a shoulder to cry on given our work relationship, but we’re still human. Loss will affect someone harshly, regardless of the relationship, and to ignore it in any situation will cause resentment and breed contempt.

There are more that could be added to each of these lists, but this gives you a very good idea of just how to handle that grieving loved one. This blog gives you a little glimpse into their minds as to what they need and want from you. Overall, the most important thing that I can stress is to COMMUNICATE with them along the way of their painful journey. You will be a tremendous help to their healing if you do.

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Have other suggestions? Feel free to post them below so that others can see.

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The Island of Grief

As I lay awake in bed, unable to sleep as one am neared, it suddenly dawned on me what dealing with grief was like.

These were my exact words on Twitter – “Dealing with grief is like living on a deserted island. People know you’re there, but they have no idea how to reach you, so they don’t try.”

People – your friends and family – know where you are. They know you are on the deserted Island of Grief. The problem is that they don’t have ships, maps or compasses; they have none of the necessary equipment that they’ll need in order to navigate the waters to reach you. And let’s face it – everyone has their own struggles. Even if by chance they actually had ships, maps and compasses, they have so much going on in their own lives, they wouldn’t be able to take the time to search for you. Instead, most people will put messages in bottles and toss them into the ocean in the hopes that one will reach you. They know you’re ‘out there’ somewhere. They know they can’t get to you. It’s all they can do.

We can’t really be angry about that, either. How many of us have chartered ships to go out looking for one of our friends or family members when they were on the Island of Grief? (Because, eventually, everyone has their turn.) The answer is none of us. We put messages in bottles and toss them into the ocean, hoping that one will reach them. We stand on the shore and hope that our loved one will find their way back home from the island and soon. Then we go back to our own lives and our own struggles, just trying to get through each day as best we can.

Ironically, like death, grief must also be experienced alone. You can talk to people, of course, and that definitely helps in its own way. Others can share with you their experience of grief; how long it lasted, their ups and downs, things they did to try to make it easier, etc. But ultimately, it is a path that you WILL walk alone. There is no schedule, there is no order of emotions and you have little control. It’s like riding a roller coaster – you’re just along for the emotional ride, wherever and however it will take you.

Imagine your arrival on the Island of Grief. You don’t want to be there. It’s not where you’re supposed to be. You’ve got things to do – a life to live. You don’t have time for this island mess. Yet you’re there with no ship to board to go back home. And you didn’t get to pack, either, so you have nothing you need. You have no extra clothes, no food, no nothing. You feel lost – you’re completely alone – and you immediately miss everyone. You wonder if anyone is looking for you. Will they find you? Will someone be able to rescue you?

You wander around aimlessly. You’ve never been to this island before. What’s even there? Will you be able to survive? You’re scared. You’re upset. You’re angry. You’re a myriad of emotion.

The first few days are ok. You stay busy with familiarizing yourself with your surroundings. You gather a few of the native pieces of fruit. You find a somewhat comfortable place to sleep under a thick brush of trees.

But then days turn into weeks. The once sunny island is now dark with cloud cover. There’s always a consistent threat of rain. It’s gloomy, and you miss your life. You miss the normalcy and your routine. You have nothing where you are. Time doesn’t matter. Morning or evening, you feel the same regardless.

Weeks turn into months, and you wonder if anyone misses you. Are they even thinking about you anymore? Wondering what happened to you? Do they even still care? You’re completely cut off from the world. In some way, you know you can’t be a part of it, anyway. You’re just not capable.

You cry and often. Sometimes they are sad tears. Sometimes they are angry tears. Sometimes they are self-pity tears. Sometimes they are guilty tears. But there are a lot of tears. Your eyes burn. Your face becomes stained. Your brain becomes so clouded that you can’t focus on the simple things. Some days you forget to eat. It’s just too much effort. And you don’t really care, anyway. Your stomach can rumble in hunger, but you barely notice. The pain from the grief is so immense; there is nowhere to go to get away from it.

It drains you physically. You no longer wander around the island. You lie down a lot. You become lethargic because you have no energy to do anything but cry. Sometimes the crying hurts so bad, you wish life itself would just stop…that somehow, in some odd way, it would be easier to deal with. Days of your life pass you by, but you can’t do anything about it. You feel more alone – more isolated – than ever. And that makes you cry, too, because, after all, you didn’t choose to be on that island.

You have minute moments of clarity where you try to talk yourself up, but the dark clouds overhead increase, and you can feel the oppression they cause. It drags you down physically, emotionally and mentally. Your brain becomes mush.

The sadness is so much more than just overwhelming – it’s debilitating. But you’re powerless to stop it. You’ve tried. You’ve tried so hard.

You don’t know how to get off the island. You don’t know how to make it all stop. All you know is you’re alone, you’re miserable and you’re lost. And it seems to hurt more every day.

I know because that’s where I am. It’s where I’ve been for most of this year. And I’ve never felt more alone in my life. My eyes burn, and my head pounds from all the tears that I’ve shed. I have weeks – not just days – where I’m incapable of functioning. There is no going to the grocery store or doing dishes. Getting out of bed becomes the big accomplishment of the day.

When I was doing research for Mom’s cancer last year, I ran across The Spoon Theory. A woman with lupus came up with a brilliant way to describe what it’s like to have it, to deal with it, on a day to day basis. Most people start out with an infinite number of spoons each morning. Each spoon represents energy needed to accomplish tasks during the day. But someone with lupus or arthritis or any other physically demanding disease starts out the day with a limited amount of spoons. They don’t get to do everything they want because they will quickly run out of spoons. They have to pick and choose their tasks for the day.

Dealing with grief is just like that. The spoons represent both your emotions and your physical state of being. Thing is, you have no idea how many spoons you’re going to wake up with each morning. It could be twenty. It could be two. Regardless of how many, that’s all you’ve got to get through that day, at least until the next morning.

Sadly, today is a two-spoon day for me. Getting up took one spoon. Writing this blog took the other. Hopefully tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up with more than two.

That’s my wish every night when I go to bed, actually. To wake up the next morning with lots of spoons.

 

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