It sucks that I know so much about grief, but I figured my knowledge may come in handy for those who just lost someone for the first time ever.
I still remember life before a loss, so I know how frightening and lonely those early days, weeks, months and years are. So this is some advice I’d like to pass on to new grievers, you can take what you want this is just stuff I would’ve wanted to know myself back in 2009.
First of all, I am so sorry. I’m sorry you have lost one of the contemporaries in your life. I’m sorry you may don’t even know what you’re feeling and if you feel something, you may not know what that is, what words to use to describe it. I’m sorry for the road ahead and the uncertainty of what life will be now without them. I’m sorry if you don’t have a good support system or if you struggle to open up to people. I’m sorry for the person that lost their life, and for the ever-lasting longing, you will experience in life. This paragraph, as frightening as it sounds will one day make total sense and not make you gasp as it may have already. There is nothing we can do to bring them back, but these are some of the things I’ve done that helped me so much during my first year, some of them you may find helpful and if not, at least you won’t be thinking about everything else as you read this.
I would say the biggest, most terrible mistake I made that first week after both losses were to think some of the people in my life would be supportive and caring.
This mistake, however, was very needed. You may find out about this yourself, it could be anyone like your parents, your partner and some of your closest friends. If you do have support from all of these people though, trust me, you are one very lucky griever. If you don’t though, as many of us, it will be heartbreaking. If you’re like me, their words might resonate for a while but this will eventually fade and when this is over, this being, you at your rawest, you will find yourself surrounded by the best people. You will appreciate these people at the end of your journey way more than you could’ve ever imagined and it will be one of the things you feel most grateful for in life because, after all, you can choose who stays in your life. Don’t feel sorry about cutting off a family member who might be harming you, people do this all the time. I have done this myself, it’s okay, don’t let them manipulate you or make you feel guilty for this and if they ever say something along the lines of ‘what if I die?’ try to ignore it and see it for what it is a d**k move. Honestly, if they die, you’ll grieve, and there’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t sacrifice your sanity for people who are trying to take advantage of you.
As far as showers, eating, cleaning, taking out the garbage and all of that, well it’s a tough one. People may judge you for it or try to shame you, but I get it. It’s so strange to have to shower when they first die. It literally makes no sense to put shampoo on your hair. I took a week off work and did not shower until Thursday I think. Some of the things you can do when it’s hard to shower are to buy or ask someone to bring you those little wet towels and put them in your bathroom so you can be more thorough when you use the toilet to prevent infection if you’re finding it very hard to shower. If you have visitors you could wash your face, put on clean clothes, wear a hat and put on some deodorant, maybe some lotion. You could light up a candle. But again I find it utterly reasonable and you shouldn’t feel sorry about it, even when people keep telling you ‘a shower will make you feel better.’ It will, by the way, but that’s not the point. For me, it’s been more about the process of going in there and washing my body while I had lost theirs. It’s deeper and so complicated. Nobody should be shamed for this, and if you are well… they’re wrong. They don’t know yet, what this is like.
So eating is a little more comfortable for me, but only after some planning. I tend to lose a lot of weight when I’m depressed, and apparently last year I did as well. I forget to eat or refuse, I just find it ridiculous, and the food doesn’t even taste like anything anyway so I would skip a lot of meals, and that really didn’t help my mood – it made me feel worse. What I did this time, my second time grieving, is that I followed a diet and tried to make some plans to eat with some people so I wouldn’t forget to eat and I could also interact with someone. If you overeat, you could try this too, a diet and company so you’re aware of when you’re eating and what you’re putting in your body.
Cleaning is tricky, I mean if you’re like me. I hired someone. I wasn’t going out that much so I had extra cash, so I got someone on handy.com. There are maid services on Craigslist and other places too, they charge $30 – $60 / hour and they are very efficient. Something else I did, later on, was to clean with a friend, and we did some deep cleaning, I donated seven bags of clothes and left some old furniture outside. That also felt really good, because it happens with grief I think, I tend to question everything and wonder if I really need this and that. Grief has definitely made me lighter.
Go for walks, your mind will be so restless it’s nice to step outside sometimes and be with yourself for a moment.
Avoid drugs and alcohol, and by drugs, I mean hardcore drugs. Since my first girlfriend was a drug addict, I’ve always stayed away from them but I’ve turned to drinking at the beginning of my grief, and all I got was some bruises from falling and a drained bank account. I am, however, very supportive of weed. When I decided to quit drinking for two months after he died, I would still go to bars with my friends and smoke doobies instead of having a drink. It’s relaxing and social, I enjoy it.
One of the huge ones is memorabilia. Do not delete their texts and photos, keep them safe. If looking at them is painful that’s fine, put them away but don’t destroy it because one day, not so far ahead but also not next week, you will be grateful. And what you have, anything you have is limited there will be no more photos or texts. I know it’s painful to hear that right now, but I have to be blunt to prevent you from making a big mistake. I have kept everything from them, but I have accidentally lost some stuff and each one of those items I have misplaced or accidentally deleted I have grieved crying for hours. Makes me feel like I’m trying to hold on to water, but at least I have a decent amount of photos, videos, texts, clothes and gifts from them. It’s so painful when I see what I have, which is a lot, I can see how close we were, and my struggles with depression make total sense when I think of it that way. Maybe you can too.
When the time is right, try to go on a road trip with your friends or throw a party, try to celebrate life in some way, even if you’re not feeling it. You will get into the groove of things, or maybe not the first time but keep trying. When it comes to life and death, we tend to think of it as black and white when in reality it’s all gray, it always is. A life well lived can only be more vibrant if you allow yourself to feel and you will learn so much through this process, you don’t wanna skip a beat. Death is gray, in so many ways, I have literally typed all this text due to death, and I have learned about all these topics because of it too. I see life similarly, I have good and bad days, but I have days, I’m still here.
One of the most overwhelming moments I get while grieving is when it starts sinking in, it’s so sudden and overwhelming. I’m so sorry if you’re dealing with this right now. It blows, there is nothing you can do to feel better. What you’re supposed to do though, is talk about it, and if you can’t speak, write it. When I’ve done this, mainly by talking to someone and crying a ton, I’ve felt literally sleepy after. Sometimes I’d cry on the phone and pass out. It changed me so much. Processing emotions change you, and it makes you, in many ways a better version of yourself because you have a greater understanding of life.
I also watched a lot of movies on grief like Wild and The Lion King. I’d recommend watching sad movies, mainly if you didn’t cry like if you’re numb and tears aren’t coming out, you should definitely do this because you might just be stuck and need a little push.
As you can see most of the things I’ve shared have a lot more to do with actually allowing yourself to feel sad and none of that positive stuff people are continually trying to force down our throats, because like yeah. I’m alive and yeah life goes on, or life is tough, oh and I hate that religious thing about how God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. What a load of crap. The main thing I’ve learned to do while dealing with grief and depression is to allow myself to feel everything, all the anger, the sadness, the frustration. One day you will start to feel grateful, way later, but if today is not that day, fuck it. Don’t shower, eat Oreos, watch that asshole, Scar, take over Mufasa’s kingdom and just chill out.
Somedays, all of this is entirely okay. In fact, everything you feel is totally okay.
Karina, also known as Grieving Young, writes about loss and grieving on her blog. She had so much support after the loss of her girlfriend and best friend from her family and therapist, but felt they didn’t understand because they hadn’t lost anyone. She wrote her first post to “get it out of her system”, and started finding people who related in such a profound way.
However, it wasn’t until recently she started using her name on the blog. Until now, she has been anonymous. In her words, “I finally felt heard. It means the world to me to be able to create something positive out of the excruciating pain I have experienced while grieving”. She hopes that her journey helps others feel less alone and helps in some way.