Life has been a little less than kind lately. The universe provides, but the universe does take away. Over the course of the last few years I have lost two precious members of our small, close-knit family. As a result of both these harrowing experiences, learning to cope was not really a choice.
I lost my father first and though I was not very young (but not too old either), it was quite a blow. My father was ailing when we lost him, so it seemed better for him that way as opposed to suffering through his illness. My first reaction was relief… for him. But, as the loss started to sink in, it became quite unbearable. Days wore on and the effects of his life and what he meant to us as a family became that much more obvious. Thus far, reliving my childhood with my father (which i still do, after 6 long years) has been the most difficult thing I have had to do.
A mere year after losing my father, I got married and moved away from where I had lived all my life. In more ways than one, the move was both painful and healing at the same time. While hanging around where I grew up would stir memories at every turn, moving away provided the much needed change of scene. On the flip side however, my heart yearned for all that my childhood was. After all home is where the heart is. Still grieving, I resigned myself to the move and started to better accept the loss fate dealt me at that point in time. But all was not easy! I had severe mood swings and seemed to be on edge almost all of the time. Though I had the wonderful feeling being newly married, every time I was alone, the sense of loss just gripped me and I would cry endlessly. This slowly turned as i adjusted to my new life and I started feeling better both physically and emotionally. I cried a lot less and my mood was lighter. Unfortunately that didn’t last long.
In a short span of three years since my father passed I lost my sister too. Her loss was harder to bear as it was quite sudden and unexpected. What I felt after can only be explained as post-traumatic stress. I also developed anxiety and it was tough to deal with and come out of.
What I Learnt
Considering these losses, here is what I took away from it. You will/may feel a range of emotions; sad, low, fatigued, angry, denial, disbelief, yearning, guilt, humiliation, despair, confusion and shock are some of the many. There may also be times through this grieving process where you start to question your mental stability. I know I did. Just know that this is expected and a part of the normal grieving process.
I eventually learnt that it is okay to let go. It is okay to let yourself feel the barrage of emotions that you have no control over. Though I may have looked strong and calm on the surface, a storm was definitely raging on the inside. I was angry, I was hurt and I was in pain. As a society we have may been taught to hold back our emotions where social situations demanded it, but, in the face of such loss, I think it is cathartic to let yourself go for a bit. How much you let go of yourself is subjective to who you are, but rewarding nonetheless. Before we misunderstand each other, letting go would not mean putting yourself or those around you in the way of harm, it simply means confronting what you feel instead of suppressing it. Once you are done facing what you feel, you will find that the anger starts to go away bit by bit. I will be honest and say that it may never stop hurting, but what you learn is to live with the pain and carry on.
However, the most important lesson that I learnt and one everyone should imbibe is… it is okay to ask for help! At a time of loss, you need your family and you need your friends. Though most often they are around you whether you ask for it or not, you still need to know that you can and must ask for additional support. There is no shame in this and it does not make you seem weak or helpless in any way. I say this, because I felt that way for a while. But, when I could not take it anymore, I realised that reaching out is my best option and so I did. It changed my life.
My husband and my closest friends are who I reached out to and in the face of a dreary situation, it was the best thing to have happened to me. I may have snapped at them or lost my cool more times than I care to count, but, in the end, every little word, thought and prayer they put out for me, calmed me. Once you seek people out, make sure that you express how you feel. If you are creatively inclined you can channelize your grief through creative expression or you can focus on taking up some hobby that you always wanted to pursue, but never really got around to.
It has been 5 years since my dad’s passing and 2 years since my sister’s, and this is the first time I have taken to writing what I went through and how I coped. Though it may seem like I took too long to put this out, it is important to understand that everyone heals at their own pace. If you feel like people are judging you for moving on too quickly, know that it is okay that you moved on when you felt it was the right time. Do not also let people tell you that you are taking too long. Be you, do what you feel is most organic to help restore a calmer mental health stance. Also strive to achieve grieving in a healthy way so that the end result leaves your mental health intact. And if that requires reaching out to professionals, do it. It is OKAY.
Taking care of your health should also be at the top of your list. Grieving can result in physical changes like loss of appetite, excessive eating and disturbances in sleeping. It could also worsen an existing medical condition or bring on a new one. The process of grieving is long drawn, as you may experience, so I would say, be patient. Embrace your grief and accept that life is for the living. You are not alone.