Grief has no preferences. It doesn’t pick and choose. It doesn’t care about your socioeconomic status, your race, or your gender. It doesn’t care if you went to Harvard or if you dropped out of High School. It doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall, but somehow you get chosen. 

We don’t have time to analyze every experience with grief that I have ever had, but I will say this; grief is an old friend of mine. We go on lunch dates, and we have spent a lot of time together over the years. It’s like in the movies where one of those old high school flames that you get rid of, and life is good, but then they come back into the picture at the most inconvenient time. I have been on a revolving door with grief that I could not figure out how to get out of. 

I lived 23 years of life with grief, but I never knew it. I had the debilitating thought that when something hurts, you need to push it down. The stuff that really hurts? Push that down even further. Avoid it at all costs. Abort mission. Admitting to the pain was admitting to weakness, to submit, and that was the last thing on my agenda. This became a pattern that I had formulated at such an early age that when I was experiencing grief, my natural instinct was to avoid it. When I couldn’t avoid everything that I had bottled up anymore, I would have my oscar winning blow up, and then act like nothing had ever happened. I would be on this hamster wheel for years until it did real damage. 

When we start to feel pain such as grief, we kind of go into panic mode right? It hurts, and I have to do something about it, I have to get rid of it. How do you recognize grief? What do you do with it? These are real questions that I, myself and im sure many other people have toyed with for years. I don’t know everything there is to know about the subject, and I never will. However, I do know that what I was doing wasn’t working. I was putting myself through the pain over and over again without any real results. 

Earlier this year, a very important person in my life had passed away and I went through it. I went through it, and I went through it hard. My heart was hurting so badly and I had no idea how to monopolize it. I felt so discombobulated and I didn’t know which way was up.  I just continuously had the thought; How do I get rid of this? How do I make the hurting stop?  Just as I always had done before, I wanted to just forget about it so I could smile enough that nobody asked questions, and I could move on with my days. There was something though, this time was different. Instead, I let myself feel it. I can’t tell you what led me to it, but for the coming days and weeks I allowed myself the hurt. I was angry, I was sad, I was laughing, but all in all my heart was really hurting. 

In the midst of my hurting, I began to shut out anybody that asked questions because in my mind, nobody could understand. What I had to come to realize is that everybody knows the familar feeling because grief is something that every single person you meet will have experienced. It’s something that everybody has in common, but it’s a total uncommonality at the same time. My biggest worry is always being a burden to somebody else, but I didn’t realize that when I am going through something like this, I am not myself and that is a bigger burden than what I was trying to shield them from.  I learned it is okay to reach out and let somebody know that you are hurting. Share your pain, you don’t have to expect any answers or solutions. Sometimes simply having somebody helps. 

There is a seven step process to grief. The steps include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance.  I, like many others have been on every step of the process model in one way or another, never in any order, and never for any rhyme or reason.  Is it a load of crap? Maybe. Who’s to say? Like I said, I don’t know everything there is to know about grief, but we are old friends.  What I do know is that grief is an experience that comes with the tides. Some days you are at a high and nothing can stop you, and some days you are angry that life has moved on when you thought it couldn’t. You cannot control how grief will present itself, but you can take it one day at a time. Let yourself feel the lows, and let yourself ride the highs. Don’t let it manifest your entire being, and don’t sweep it under the rug. Take every day in stride, and understand that grief will never go away, not 100%. The tides will change, and sometimes you’ll need a life jacket, but you do what you need to do to survive. 

I am still learning about grief. Some days I am in the hills and some days I am in the valleys. No matter what, grief will never stop showing up to the party. It will be a piece of my life forever, but I will never let it take over my whole life again. I will accept the life preserver, I will let my heart have the pain it deserves and when it’s all said and done, I will pick myself up by the britches and carry on.