When my brother Rod killed himself the grief itself made me feel like I was going crazy. One minute I was okay and calm, the next I was hysterical. If we are in the depths of loss and grief, the intense emotions (and sometimes lack of them) often make us wonder, “Am I all right?” or “Am I doing this correctly?”
Most of want to know we are doing something properly– even grieving. Think about it, that’s why there are so many self-help and ‘how-to’ books. For many people, those books are hugely helpful because they help us know either what is coming next or how to work into ‘the next stage.’
While I was in the throws of grieving over Rod, over the loss of ‘what was’ and over the trauma his suicide was causing my parents, I found that I couldn’t follow stages and I could make sense of my grief process. I was all over the board emotionally. When I tried to get it ’under control’ I found it only got more out of control.
Even now, twenty years after his death, I find that the sadness, the tears, creep up at unexpected times. I think of him all of the time, but watching a movie or reading a book, can bring me right into his arms. I miss him as if he was hugging me and laughing his heartfelt, belly laugh. How is that? How can something so unrelated, sometimes even happy, cause me to miss him as if he left us yesterday?
My personal belief is that there are no rules to grief and there is no road map. We may start at ‘point A’ with the loss, the shock, the denial– but where that grief goes and how many directions it takes is an enigma. It depends on who we are, how close we were to the one we lost, how deeply we allow ourselves to feel…and on and on. I also believe that where we end, if there is such a thing as an ending to grief, is a personal decision. I don’t ever want to stop missing Rod. My destination, per se, is to love him and honor him with my life. That’s it. Some days that means different things and I like the freedom of that.
If you are grieving someone, my encouragement to you would be to give yourself the freedom and the grace to be exactly where you are. Don’t rush through grief as I did in the beginning. Realize that you have lost someone you love deeply and miss terribly. If you need help, get it. The rest of the world moves on and at times that feels unfair. As a close friend of mine said the other day, “When my baby girl died I looked around at people pumping gas, buying groceries, laughing in the street and I thought, ‘My baby is dead! How can you be happy? How can you be okay? Because I am NOT okay!’ Friends may go on in their lives but they will not need the same time as you do to grieve. It is your job to nurture and protect your need to grieve. You can’t get mad at others for going on, you just have to figure out what you need.
For me, grief is free form. It is like one of those sand paintings that changes shape and form every minute. It can be scary and ugly and it can also be beautiful. First and foremost, it is yours. As you go through it, see if you can use it to grow and love yourself deeper. Think of that process as a way to honor the one who is gone. Give yourself the love they would want to have given you. In loving yourself, you are loving them.