How to Cope With Grief and Loss
Today I want to talk about a subject that’s not-so-easy. It’s a little uncomfortable and one that we all, unfortunately, have experience with.
*Disclaimer: if you’re triggered by death, grief, loss or sadness, you might want to skip this post and check back in next week. If you think you can handle it, grab a Kleenex and let’s hold hands. I’m struggling today too.
In May 2015, I lost one of my best friends.
My grandma, or Granny as everyone called her, was my second mother, raising me from the time I was born to when she passed away when I was 23. She was the ultimate source of light in my life, and one of the very few things that remained constant.
She was at every dance recital, drove me to every piano lesson, soccer practice, dance class, picked me up from school everyday, made my favorite foods, and told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be.
“I’ll see your name in lights one day,” she’d always say. “This is something that I know.”
And I believed her.
She got sick in the beginning of 2015. I had just moved back in with her after breaking up with my boyfriend at the time, who I had just signed a lease with. I don’t think I ever told anyone that, but there we have it.
I watched her as her body grew tired, and noticed when she was in pain. She didn’t want to worry anyone, but since I was living with her, I saw the moments when she’d wince or become frustrated that her body was moving slower than usual or at how exhausting it was for her to “do her medicine,” which was counting out her surplus of pills and organizing them in her medicine box.
Her mind, however, stayed sharp. An avid lover of crosswords and Sudoku, the reining champion of Wheel of Fortune, and the originator of what I knew to be “sass”, my Granny’s mind and wit was unmatched by anyone and everyone who would try to challenge her.
I will never, ever forget it.
I remember getting the call from my mom that day in May.
I was housesitting for a friend, working at a coffee shop and rehearsing for a play at the time. I had a lot going on, and yet everything seemed to stop when I heard the words, “You might want to say your goodbyes.”
Since I was a child, I’ve had anxiety. My #1 fear is the people I love dying, so I’d try to push those thoughts out of my mind with every waking breath.
I never thought my Granny would die.
She was too strong. She was a survivor. She was the matriarch of the family. We needed her. She couldn’t die.
It was a week after Mother’s Day when she took her last breath.
I saw her the day before she died, and I knew she’d rather be anywhere but in that hospital bed.
As often as I repress sad memories, it’s this memory that I will never forget. It’s burned into my brain, and I remember each and every detail, down to the way her eyes looked when she locked them with mine, so tired and unable to say a single word. But I knew she was saying I love you.
I haven’t been the same since.
Everything in my world changed.
It wasn’t until I realized that I was grieving that I began to identify my feelings for what they were and nurture myself accordingly.
Grief is an individual process, and everyone goes through their own personal stages. But the following tips helped me, so I’m sharing them in hopes they’ll help you too if you are also coping with grief and loss.
Take Your Time
I have good days, and I have bad days. There’s no end point to healing, and I wouldn’t even say it gets easier as life goes on. It takes time to find the sunlight again, but it will happen slowly and over time. It will take its time, so take yours.
Confide in Trusted Friends and Family
This was a new one for me, especially because I don’t typically talk about how I’m feeling, but I knew I needed to reach out when I was having a hard day. Surround yourself with loving people during your time of need. People will understand, and they’ll lift you back up again when you feel as though you’ve fallen into the darkest hole there is.
Acknowledge When You’re Feeling Down
Yesterday was my grandma’s birthday. November 9. It was hard. I recognized it, took the time I needed for myself, and allowed myself to cry and smile and relish in memories. It’s okay to feel, even if those feelings make you sad. It’s okay.
Relish in the Happy Memories
When my grandma passed away, I’d rely on the happy and funny memories to get me through, like how she used to dance, or her sassy comebacks she’d make at the dinner table, or how she’d light up whenever her entire family was in the kitchen together cooking. I remember her bright red lipstick, how secure I felt when she’d hug me, and her seafoam green eyes. Hold onto those happy memories and think of them often. They’ll get you through.
Get in Tune With Your Spiritual Side
Whether you choose to pray, meditate, sit by a candle in the morning, take a yoga class, zone out on your runs, do it for you with the sole purpose in mind to nurture yourself and get realigned. Slow down. Breathe. Exist, and then discover how to exist with a purpose that’s right for you.
There were days when living until the end of the day was the greatest accomplishment I could have imagined. There were days when I didn’t know if I wanted to even try. But I simply took a breath and then took a step, and I would do that over and over and over again until I made it through the day. Try it. Set a goal for yourself to breathe.
To my Granny, I love you and I miss you, and I carry you with me wherever I go.
To you reading this, I love you and I’m sorry you’ve had to suffer from a loss. I’m sorry you’re grieving. I hope these tips helped you, and I’m thinking of you. Take your time.
Care to share a tip that’s helped you during a difficult time? Feel free to leave it in the comments. ❤
*Disclaimer: all opinions expressed are my own. I am not a grief professional. While these tips have benefited me in my time of need, they may not work for everyone. If you are in need of assistance, I encourage you to reach out to a professional to get the help you need.
Originally published at www.poweredbysass.com on November 10, 2017.