At some point in our lives we will experience the loss of a loved one. Through my interactions with clients, friends and family I have seen how grief can change over time. I also know about the changing of grief from my own experience, today I am going to break therapist protocol and share some of my own story.
Ten years ago my father died and the world I was familiar with came crashing down around me. Suddenly and without warning everything I knew changed forever.
The days that followed his death were incredibly surreal. I had never allowed myself to imagine this scenario before; the thought was too much to bear. Therefore it did not seem real when I was met with the reality of never seeing him again. It seemed like a cosmic joke with a punchline I didn’t get. When we lose someone I believe our head and heart work at different speeds. Your brain can understand the concept that someone has died but the heart can take much longer to catch up. Especially when you still feel them and see them everywhere you look.
When someone we love dies there is the initial shock. Even if we think we are prepared for the death, the moment it happens we can feel that we aren’t equipped. The shock can last for weeks, months or years. If we do not give time and space for grief, it can be difficult for it to leave us. It may take at least two years to grieve the loss of someone close to us. Two years where you give yourself time to reflect and time to mourn. There are very few people who I have met who gave themselves that sort of timeline. Often by the first anniversary there is an internal consensus that you should be able to move on. Which is incredibly unfair, especially if you look at how profoundly the person you lost touched your life.
After my father died, someone shared with me that they had lost their father twenty years prior and still missed him everyday. In that moment, I hated those words. The thought that I would have to feel as I did then, for what sounded like forever, knocked the wind out of me. Only with the passing of time could I gain an understanding of what they meant. And they were right; I miss him everyday. But it’s different than in those first few weeks and months. In the early days it felt like the grief and heart-break was going to swallow me whole. However, over time that changed and it doesn’t hurt like it used too. Now if I feel that dull ache in my chest, it demonstrates what a huge place I had in my heart for him and him for me.
When someone we love dies it can end up changing the course of our entire lives. I know that I would not be where I am, or who I am had I not experienced such an earth shattering loss. It has defined me in a way that I did not let in for a long time, acceptance was not easy. But acceptance is a better feeling than bitterness which could have grown within me.
If you find yourself grieving at the moment please remember that it is okay to be sad, angry, disappointed and every range of emotions you can muster. You are starting to live in a world that feels new and scary without that person you loved so dearly. Get support if you need it, like all things that happen to us in life you don’t have to go through it alone.
“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” – Walt Disney