Things I’ve learned about grief

This is supposed to be strictly a music blog, but due to my mom’s recent passing I have not had the energy to deal with my music career just yet. It will have to wait a little while longer. In the meanwhile I see a theraputic purpose in keeping the blog alive with my personal thoughts and feelings throughout this difficult process, so here we go.

It’s been five months since my mother died… It feels so weird to say that.
Since she passed away I’ve learned a lot about myself, about other people, about relationships that weren’t what I thought they were. I’ve learned a lot about the grieving process both from my own experiences, from the tales of others and from a lot of research that I never had a reason to look up before. This entry isn’t aimed at anyone or really intended to be a lecture, but rather a form of writing therapy for me. If someone learns something new, that’s great.

1. Grief is a different experience for everyone
Some people don’t show their grief and don’t like to talk about it, while some, like me, are very expressive and want to talk about it as much as possible. Some run from their grief as fast as they can and trick themselves into thinking that they’ve moved on. Some become depressed, posting sad statuses on Facebook on a weekly basis and perhaps even having to quit their jobs. I’ve seen examples of all kinds of grief.

2. Grief is not something you ‘get over’ with time
… It’s something you learn how to live with to survive. Before my mom died I spoke to a woman who had been brought to tears at work due to overhearing a collegue say that she was gonna pick berries with her mother this weekend. This woman had lost her mother seven years ago. I remember thinking ‘Wow, seven years, she’s not over it by now?!’. I can now say that was ignorant of me to think. Losing your mother is like losing a part of yourself; it changes you forever. Whether you’re a child when it happens or whether you’re retired, it’s a harsh reality to not have your mother around any more. I’m only five months into the grieving process and I can already tell it’s gonna be a loooong ride. I will most likely tear up at the very mention of her name fifty years from now. I saw a video of Steve Harvey recently where he did a tribute to his mother who died 15 years ago and he could barely get through the segment… I get it.

3. There is something called ‘secondary loss’. It refers to an additional loss you may feel as a direct result of the loss of a loved one. This can be a financial loss, or loss of a relationship with another family member, or perhaps the loved one filled a practical function in your life that you now have to deal with yourself. In my case, I am dealing with the loss of another family member as a direct result of my moms passing. Without going into details, I can say that this person has been anything but supportive since my mom died leading me and my sister to want to part ways with that person possibly for good. So now I am feeling a new loss ontop of the loss I already feel and this is a painful reality. These losses may take place months or even years after the loss of a loved one, and it is not a separate loss but rather compounded to the loss that is already felt. I spoke to someone who’s stepfather abandoned him a couple years after his mom died, that must have been so tough.

Never underestimate how much a person is hurting just because a certain amount of time has passed, and never ever tell that person that they need to move on – they will handle their grief the way they will handle it and it’s not anyones business to lecture and put pressure. I’ve already been lectured by someone after only 4 months of grieving that I needed to move on, which felt absolutely humiliating and incredibly insulting. I don’t consider myself to be a dweller or a pessimistic person in general, on the contrary I see myself as a strong person with a positive outlook on life, so to have someone tell me I wasn’t ‘happy enough’ made me feel very misunderstood.

4. There is no ‘timeline’ for grief
Never assume that just because it’s been a year, or 5 years or whatever since a person’s loved one passed away, that they have ‘gotten over it’. Some people actually don’t properly grieve until much later. I think I’m one of those people because I was very close to my mom and yet i haven’t really had a good cry yet… It’s like my brain is protecting me from the harsh reality I now live in. I read about a woman who’s mother died 10 years ago and she hasn’t really confronted her grief until now. She was so preoccupied with taking care of her family and the family finances etc that she had to stay strong throughout it all. It wasn’t until her dog died 10 years later that all the emotions she had been holding in finally came out. I spoke to another person who said it took a year before she started crying and confronting her grief, for the same reasons.

5. Not everyone knows how to deal with a grieving person
During times of turmoil, you’d think that everyone you know would be reaching out in every way that they can to help you get through the tough times. You’d think that the experience of loss would bring families together and bond them even closer. Well I have gotten closer to most family members since my mom died but also drifted apart from others. Some family members have reached out in every way that they can and provided me with so much warmth and love and comfort while others have stayed away completely and even alienated me from family gatherings because they didn’t realize/care it would have been inappropriate not to invite me. It’s fascinating how experiences like this makes you see people’s true colors and change how you feel about them over night.

And that’s not even the worst of it. I had a bitter semi-stranger say to me, out of nowhere, ‘Your music sucks and oh, your mom just died’. I never dreamed that there were people out there that could be so cruel.

Most people, however, have been very supportive and loving towards me and my sister and for this we are very greatful. Strangers have reached out to me and shared their experiences and said all the right things. My boss has been amazing and my collegues remind me often that I should let them know if I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Sometimes it can feel like nobody cares to ask me how I’m doing anymore, like as if it never happened, which can make me feel a bit neglected. But I understand that the subject of death can be very uncomfortable for many and that the feeling of not finding the right words to say can lead people to want to avoid the subject completely for fear of saying the wrong thing. Perhaps people don’t want to bring up the topic for fear of making me cry. I was there myself just half a year ago.

6. You can’t always tell someone’s grieving
When I’m at work, I put on a face and get the work done. I join in conversations and joke around as if nothing’s changed. It’s not all fake, I genuinely do feel ok many days. But that doesn’t mean I’m back to normal. It doesn’t mean I’ve got thick skin and can handle being lectured like I could before. If I screw something up, be careful with how you handle me. I am extremely fragile and for all you know, I may have just cried in the bathroom. Once, I burst out crying just because my boyfriend asked me in an annoyed tone of voice ‘can you empty the dishwasher for once??’ This isn’t rational, it just is what it is, so be careful with how you approach a grieving person.

So those are some of the things I’ve learned about the grieving process that I never reflected on before. Already feels a little better. <3

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2 Responses to Things I’ve learned about grief

  1. jessielein says:

    A very nice writing, it tells me a little bit about how is a grieving person’s feeling. My current boyfriend and I started dating for three months only before his sister died of cancer (his mom has passed away since he was a kid, his dad remarried and he doesn’t have a good relationship with his step-mom). He has changed since his sister died and said once that his feelings for me has disappear, which made me shocked. I’m not sure whether he is just grieving or he just doesn’t like me anymore. We are still together until now since his sister passed away two months ago. But I feel like I am in a died relationship… He said sorry many times that I am maybe unhappy with our relationship, which I am. I try hard to understand but it’s very difficult to have a relationship with someone who even doesn’t care about you or even think about you… I don’t know whether I shall leave, I really want to be there for him but seems like he pushes me away. Is it also a part of the grief? It tears me up somehow…

  2. Elodie says:

    Hi Jessie!
    I just saw your comment now, sorry for not answering earlier. I don’t know where you’re currently at with your boyfriend but my advice would be that perhaps now is not the ideal time for you guys to be in an intimate relationship. He seems like he has his own issues to sort through and probably can’t be a very good boyfriend to you or anyone else because of that. My advice would be to be there for him as a friend, but to try and distance yourself from the intimacy of the relationship until he’s back on his feet again. Since grief is a different experience for everyone, it could take him months or maybe years to move on with his life, so you’re doing yourself a disfavor by waiting around for him, especially if he also tells you he doesn’t have strong feelings. If you’re meant to be together, he will come back to you like a bouncy ball when he’s ready, I can promise you! Either his grief is so strong that he is not able to see clearly in his feelings for you, or he is telling the truth, either way I don’t think you should wait for him. Just be there for him as a good friend. Good luck to you! xoxo

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