My dad passed away just recently. He’d been suffering from Parkinson’s disease in recent years and when dementia kicked in, I made an effort to mentally prepare myself for the worse.
But it’s true what they say; no matter how prepared you think you are for a death, you can never be fully prepared for the loss and grief you will experience.
It’s what I can only describe as initial shock, followed by cycles of being okay one moment, then sad and crying or angry in the next.
For instance, since my father’s death, I noticed that I can be going along okay and then all of a sudden, be hit with memories and emotion.
It seemed grief came in these waves, much like waves in the ocean, that you just have to ride out. And then there would be a break.
But when you’re experiencing the kind of loss and grief associated with the death of a loved one – or with divorce or loss of a relationship, loss of financial stability, or loss of health, to name a few, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-advocating. Which is not so easy, at least for me.
My go-to has always been to keep the inner turmoil of my emotional life to myself or share with only a very select few family members.
I didn’t want to “burden” anyone and, for years, I believed and told myself that I needed to “keep busy” or “go to work” to keep my mind off things.
But I’ve since learned that this only suppresses and prolongs the grief feelings that are just so necessary.
What I’ve also come to learn is that emotions need to be released or they get stored in the body. And that can manifest as painful physical, emotional, or mental symptoms.
Knowing this has helped me overcome what I call the “burden syndrome.” And that others do care and genuinely want to help. So, it’s okay to tell your employer or colleagues, “my dad just died,” and I need some time. And they will understand (if they don’t, that’s another issue).
It might be more difficult to share, for example, “I’m having a particularly tough time with my divorce,” But nevertheless; grief is grief.
And even if it’s the last thing you want to do with that time, do this. Acknowledge that the waves will come at you. Ride them out. And do it again.
And perhaps during a “break” in the waves, you can experience something you enjoy. Or something that seems more “normal.”
It’s not pretty. it’s not fun. But as I now know, it is necessary. And it’s good for you in the long run, as the waves become farther apart and eventually dissipate.
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