Grief Changes You: Learning To Be Okay With The Changes
This would have been my son’s senior year of high school. I keep seeing pictures of all his friends in the full swing of their last year, and it’s heartbreaking. I wanted to see my son take his last football team photo. I was helping him with college prep, and we never got to finish. I’ll never get to help with his graduation party, or see him walk for his diploma. The reality of this hasn’t really set in yet. And when all the moms are hugging their kids goodbye I will have nothing to hug. I didn’t get a goodbye.
Friday night we will be going to the first home game of the season. We still go to support his team, and his girlfriend, who is doing an amazing job at living her life again. I am so proud of her. In part we go to the games as a show of support. There is also a part of me that knows that we don’t have to go, but I am compelled. It’s hard, but it’s where I feel like I am supposed to be.
Living without one of my children has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I think about him all the time. I think about the man he was, about the what ifs, and about the huge hole he has left in our lives. So many things remind me of him. Last night, my daughter said something to me that was almost exactly what her brother had said not long before he died. When did they grow up?
Then I come to the sad reality that he will never grow up more than he did. He will never be a husband, or father-the thing he wanted most in his life. He will never go to college, or land his dream job, or visit other places. He is done. His life is done. There are things I am grateful he doesn’t have to go through, but I wouldn’t ever trade those experiences for his life.
Now I have to move on. Don’t mistake that for me forgetting, or not loving him. I have a daughter, and for her I can’t stay stuck. He also would never want me too. He always wanted the best for himself, and everyone around him. He was good like that. He was optimistic even when people dissipointed him, he tried to believe the best in them. He wouldn’t want people to freeze in their pain, he would want them to live.
Living for me means that I don’t stay in bed all day. It means cleaning my house, and showering, and meeting with people, and working, and eating healthy food even when I don’t feel like it. It does not mean that I have to be dressed up to go out. It does not mean that when I clean my house that it all gets done at once or that I am spring cleaning. It does not mean that I have to go to parties, or events when I see people.
Living while you are grieving doesn’t look like living did before. It looks like doing what you can with what you have. I am more forgetful now, so I write more down. I don’t always feel great, so I do what I can, and then I stop. I care much less about what other people think that I did before. I have less of a filter, and more difficulty putting up with nonsense.
Guess what? This is all okay. It’s okay to not be the same person you were before tragic events happened to you. It’s okay to not do all the things you were doing before. It’s okay to limit yourself in areas, or expand yourself if you need too. Life isn’t the same. My life looks, and feels, and is a lot different without my son. It is perfectly acceptable to be a different person, with different points of view, and different priorities. It would be a impossible not to be a different person. The question is do you embrace the differences in you, or do you fight them?
The changes that you go through physically, and mentally when you have experienced something tragic are life changing. If you act like they aren’t then you are going to be fighting what is naturally occurring inside you. I’m sure you already know that never ends well. Embracing the changes is how you heal. To rebuild you have to willing to start where you are not from where you were. How you see your life will be different, because it is different. Use that to your advantage.
There is no time limit on the changes grief brings either. Many people have told me after different events in my life that it was time to move on. Let me reassure you that you can, and should take all the time you need. Rushing through grief means that you haven’t dealt with all the things you need too. Something always gets missed. So take your time, it’s okay. It’s your life, no one else’s. So don’t push yourself through the healing, and changing that takes place.
Last, please know that many people need help through the grieving process. I have gone to a therapist off and on for years. I have friends that are supportive, and understanding when I am processing or hurting. If you are religious, the church can be a great place to find others to walk through this with you. A yoga community, knitting class, gym, a club of some kind, all of these things promote the atmosphere needed to have people come behind you and support you. There are dark nights, and lonely days and they are not meant to be navigated alone. So as life changes don’t expect yourself to be able to do everything that you were before without help.
You will come through it, and you will live again. The changes will simmer down, but they will also be essential in your healing. Let them happen. The grief will become easier to handle, but don’t carry it all alone.
Grief brings change, and change brings healing. Allow yourself the strength to say that it’s okay to change, and respond with the ability you have now. And know that it won’t be forever because it is all part of your healing.