An accumulation of things that have happened over the past week have inspired me to write this article, and hopefully it touches a few people as it will be one of my harder to write (and read) posts. One of my generation’s favorite actors passed away from a car accident, and the holidays are a time in general that bring up a lot of emotions about loved ones who have passed away. Through all of the heartwarming stories you hear during this time of year, there are just as many heartbreaking ones being shared.
Grief is something that can’t be explained, because every individual deals with it in such a different way. I have read several blog posts in the past year about grief; some of these were along the lines of how to talk to a grieving person and things you should not say to a person who is grieving.
For me, grief isn’t about being sad. It’s about being lost. You not only lose someone that you always assumed would be in your life, you lose yourself. I lost myself for a long time when Nolan passed away. If it had not been for my friends and family sometimes I wonder if I would have found myself again. There were many times it seemed like nothing could make me feel better or fill the void that was there. My friends picked me up off the floor countless times when I couldn’t pick myself up (physically and mentally), and they helped me keep my life on track in the months following his death. I focus on my friends helping me with daily issues, because they were the ones around me the most at this time. Hopefully what I learned in the year following his death can help just one person that is struggling with dealing with the either expected or unexpected loss of a loved one.
First and foremost, it is okay to cry. I’ve always had a hard time with this. I don’t like for people to see me cry, because it makes me feel like I look like a weak person. Crying isn’t a sign of weakness; it is your body’s natural response to something as life changing as losing a loved one.
If you’re lucky like I was, your relationship with God will only get better through this, not worse. I know a lot of people who give up on God when something happens to a parent or a friend. The easiest thing to do is blame God when you lose someone. God didn’t do this. He never wants to hurt you, but He has a plan for every single thing that happens. The sooner you accept that and stop playing the blame game, it is a huge relief. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Honestly, anything I write after this could never do as much for you as this Bible verse can. You WILL be comforted, if you let Him comfort you.
Mood swings happen. One minute I would be fine- laughing, talking, and acting as normal as ever. Then something would trigger a memory, and that was the end of my good mood. Sometimes I wonder how I am lucky enough to have people who never gave up on me; even when I was acting impossible. It didn’t take a lot to cause a mood swing, a song on the radio might have been all it took and I was raging. Luckily the angry stage did not last very long, because it was exhausting. No one wants to be mean to the people they love, but if it happens try not to blame yourself. The death of a loved one is traumatic, especially when it is unexpected.
This next one might make people look at me strangely from now on, but hopefully it doesn’t. You have the ability to feel your loved one still with you…at least I hope you do. If i’m struggling with something in particular or I might just need a pick me up, Nolan always sends me some kind of funny sign that no one else could understand except me. It is the coolest feeling, because it reassures me that he has never really left. It is one of the main reasons my faith has stayed so strong through this, because his soul is still very much alive. If you feel like you’re getting these signs too, don’t let anyone take your joy away. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like they don’t believe you; they don’t need to for it to be special.
The best advice I read a while back: You do not have a monopoly on grief. Other people are hurting and dealing with problems too. Just because it seems like you have the “most right” to be upset, it doesn’t mean other people won’t be hurting at the same time. You have every right to be upset and emotional, but don’t scoff at other people for grieving over things in their lives. It is easy to want all of the attention on you after a loved one dies, because attention generally makes us feel comforted. Comfort is the feeling we all are blindly searching for after a death. Focusing on helping others feel better is one of the fastest ways to make yourself feel better.
Find something to occupy your mind and your time, because the easiest way to slip into a downward spiral is to focus on all of the bad in your life. If you spend your time doing something you love or even just hanging out with people who make your life better, then you will get through this a lot easier and a lot faster.
Don’t listen to people who tell you: “Oh you’ll get over it soon.” If I ever hear someone say this to someone dealing with a loss, I am just going to walk up to you and slap you myself. First off, you don’t get over someone. Why would you want to? If you’re mourning this person, then they obviously had an impact on your life and made you into who you are today. Why would you want to forget about them? Second, it is no one’s place to tell you when you will feel better. Know who determines that? YOU- not them. If you have ever said this to someone, kindly do not say this again, because it only leaves the person wondering what they are doing wrong when they haven’t “gotten over” their loved one dying in a small amount of time.
It is so easy to feel alone when you’re going through something like this. Death can take your heart out of your body, and it might feel like it is never coming back. One day you will wake up with a different view though. The absolute anguish you were feeling will be a dull ache, and you won’t cry every time someone mentions the person’s name. I have come to the point where I love more than anything to talk about Nolan, with people who knew him and especially with people who didn’t. He was a really special person, who did a lot for me and helped me become who I am today. Missing someone isn’t anything to be embarrassed about, but our society sheds it in a negative light. We are a fast-paced society that wants to sweep everything under the rug as fast as possible, and that’s just not how grieving works. It’s a process, and if you let yourself grieve the way you need to, you will come out a whole lot better in the end than if you try to ignore it.