Grief is a really weird thing. I can tell you that, even though I’m new to this. One minute I’m buying produce at Trader Joe’s and the next I’m crying in the checkout line because I can’t get my ID out of my wallet. In the worst times, grief has left me foggy and empty. Sometimes, I absolutely cannot contain the sorrow. Other times, I stifle my sobs in the bathroom because in that moment, doing this alone feels better. Grief hurts so much because it has no agenda – nothing is off limits when it feels like there’s nothing more to lose.
The week after my mom died, I mentioned to my dad that I needed to draft something to post on social media about my absence. He turned, looked at me and said, “maybe you can help someone.”
I wasn’t sure what that would mean or how I would do it, but I hoped that I might be able to. I’m still so IN the process of grief, and I don’t have any idea when this stops… or if it ever stops. I know people grieve differently – I’ve seen that in my own family. So, if you’re reading this and you’re grieving like I am, I want you to know that I get it. I’ve been keeping a mental note of things that have helped me, and I hope that some of these things might help you, too.
What Can I Do to Help My Grief?
As I mentioned before, I know that all grief is different… it’s even different for the same person depending on the moment. These things are not going to make everything better. They may not even help at all, but they have helped me and I want to share them.
Start a Journal
One night after I returned to New Mexico, I had a moment of panic. I was so afraid I was going to forget my mom. The only word I can use to describe the feeling is desperate. Desperate and inconsolable. I just knew that I was going to forget her. I was going to forget all of the things I loved about her. I was going to forget all of our inside jokes. I was going to forget.
I sobbed for several minutes. When I came up for air, my husband suggested that I start a journal. The next day, I found a book and I started penning. I filled up several pages that day. I was just writing down memories and things she liked. Seeing those things on paper made me feel better. Although the moment of panic had passed and I realized that I wasn’t going to forget her, having it on paper reassured me.
Decide to be OK
I admit that this one sounds a little voodoo, and it might be a completely personal piece of advice. However, one day on the way to the grocery store I started feeling really sad and worried for my family in Texas. I have a tendency to get a little codependent. I could tell you that it’s because I love my family a lot, but in reality I know that those two things really should not go hand in hand.
I found myself thinking, if so-and-so is ok, I know I’ll be ok too. Then it dawned on me – I needed to be ok just because I needed to be ok. I didn’t need to be ok contingent on anything else. I vowed right then and there to myself, “I’m going to be ok just because that’s what I’m going to do.”
Saying that outloud was enough of a jolt that I remember it and I remind myself of it when those feelings start to set in.
Acknowledge the Present
At my mom’s viewing, my aunt grabbed me by the arm and said, “Look at me. Really look at me. I want you to listen to what I’m saying. You will not remember this, ok? You won’t remember it. You’re going to be ok.”
She was talking about the pain – the raw, unbearable, crippling newness of it and everything it brought with it. I remember having mixed emotions when she said that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to forget it, but I also didn’t think I wanted to remember, either. Almost a month has passed, and I can say that she was right. I don’t remember the details of most of the days right after her death and I believe that’s all in our design. Can you imagine remembering the rawness of new grief for the rest of your life?
So, when possible acknowledge the present. Acknowledge what you’re feeling right in the moment, and then let it go. Be sad when you’re sad, but don’t dwell on the sadness. Just be however it is that you are.
Over the past several weeks I’ve noticed that grief evolves, and even though it still hurts, I’m thankful to not remember the moments I hurt the worst.
Do What You Need to Do
And lastly, just do what you feel like you need to do. If you feel like you need to take some time by yourself, do that. If you want to surround yourself with others, do that. Give yourself what you need. I can promise you that no one worth your time is judging you for how you’re grieving. Now is not the time to worry with how it appears to others. Take care of yourself and grieve however feels right.
What Can I Do For Someone Who is Grieving?
If you’re not grieving, but know someone who is, you have a special opportunity. This experience has taught me that the most important thing to do for someone who is grieving is to just show up. I am forever grateful for those that did.
In the past, I know I’ve been reluctant to reach out to grieving people. I didn’t want to be in the way. I didn’t want to worry them with me. Now I know better. Now I know that just showing up means so much.
One of the things I do remember from the days right after my mom died is the people. I remember the friends who came just to give me a hug. I remember seeing people I haven’t seen in years – decades even – and feeling so loved that they just showed up.
Of course it’s not necessary for you to bring anything to a grieving person, but there were things that really helped us during that time. Consider bringing food, throw away plates and utensils, toilet paper, photos of the loved one in your possession, and/or flowers. Those were some of the things that really stuck out as helpful and comforting to me. If nothing else, just show up and be there. Allow people to grieve however they need to do that.
I am still overwhelmed when I think about how much love was shown to us. My heart doesn’t feel quite as broken when I think about it because I feel that in a way, the love we were shown is just mom’s love redirected. It’s a living legacy to who she was, who she helped us become, and the lives she touched.
Grief is a weird thing and that’s ok. I do hope that something here helped you in one way or another. If you didn’t take anything away, I hope you know where my heart is. Losing someone you love is incredibly hard. If you’re currently grieving a loss, please know that I’m rooting for us and I’m sending you all the love in my heart.