Question: Why Am I Stuck in the Month That She Died?
Answer: Stuck is an interesting word to use here.
Ask a Grief Coach is an online column to address commonly received questions in private work with my clients. All names are kept anonymous, and the questions are shared with permission. As you read, keep the context of your own story in mind. No answers found here will apply directly to your circumstance because your grief is unique to you. However, the hope is that you will find tools and tips of support, whether you are the griever or the supporter.
I am about six months out of the month that my grandmother died. It was sudden; one minute she was fine and the next, fighting for her life. After she died, our family did all the usual things to sort through her belongings and estate. We’ve grieved together, spent the holidays together, and had no issue with sorting through our loss together from what I experienced.
But in my daily life, I think I’m stuck in the month she died. My brain keeps reverting to that week. I keep thinking my calendar has agenda items from that week, expecting certain appointments. I’ve even written that month as the current date. It’s all subconscious, but I don’t understand why. It’s disruptive — I feel like I can’t get a grip on my life today and don’t get why I’m feeling so trapped in the past. Is this normal? What can I do to get out of it?
Stuck in September
Take heart — this is a really common occurrence! The loss of your grandmother felt sudden, even if it wasn’t immediate. In the wake of these events, where answers seem few and far in between, your brain is attempting to rationalize the loss.
Our minds want order before they will settle. In fact, the idea of gray space or unanswerable questions causes a non-grieving person to use all kinds of mental gymnastics to find the easiest rational idea available.
That being said, it sounds like you’re spending a lot of time thinking about your grandmother, her health, what went wrong, and maybe even wondering if it could have been prevented or changed in some way. In fact, these thoughts are so common, they should hand out a booklet at funerals explaining precisely how human this behavior is. It doesn’t mean you are stuck in the past — it means you are centered on the past, pouring your energy into trying to sort through disparate details.
When your brain and thoughts are centered on your life when she was here, while she was sick, and what happened right after, it makes perfect sense that the month itself would stay in the front of your thoughts as well. For example, recently I was considering some plans in March, but when asked about said plans, mentioned the event as happening in November.
So all of that said, let’s remember that it seriously sucks to have lost your grandmother. It sounds like the two of you shared a deep and meaningful connection, and that your family spent a lot of time building connection in the wake of her loss.
Go easy on yourself as you try to make sense of life right now. It’s going to be confusing and hard, and this brain fog may last longer than you expect. For now, you might practice thinking about if she would laugh at the mistake in the dates, or even poke fun at you. Considering her response might help you feel a little more at home in your own skin, even though everything else about life might feel a little foreign.
And in time, with some intention, you will begin to bring your thoughts back to the present day. Inviting her memory into your moments of life, rather than solely ruminating on the past, can also restore a sense of presence and mindfulness that you are healing, one day at a time.
With a prayer for your recentering,
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Mandy Capehart is an author, small business owner, editor, certified grief and life coach, and creator of The Restorative Grief Project. The Restorative Grief Project is an online community focusing on one another’s stories and new methodologies for grief, creating a safe environment for our souls to heal and our spirits to be revived. To learn more, visit MandyCapehart.com or follow her on Twitter. She thinks she is pretty funny. The jury is out.