If you are a human being on Earth, you experience grief. It’s part of the deal. That which is born, dies. That’s how it works. We are relational human beings, so it’s likely not going to be a one and done situation.
It’s important to recognize what early grief looks like for you. Does your heart race quickly? Are you having panic attacks when you think about your loss? Are you sleeping 15 hours a day, or one hour a day? Do you lose 10 pounds in two weeks? Do you gain 10 pounds in one week? What things are happening in your body that aren’t “normal” for you?
If your grief manifests into physical symptoms, the very first thing to do is to vertify with a medical professional that you’re not actually have a heart attack, or a stroke, or a gallbladder attack, or have not contracted a fatal sleeping disease, or [fill in very awful, terrible, horrendous thing here]. After you do that, your job is to go with it. Feel the feelings, practice self-care, keep your stress level down as much as you are able to, and go with it. I fully acknowledge that people with more privilege generally have more options for practicing self-care and keeping stress levels down. That’s a conversation for another time. Do what you can with what you have. Do your best.
Are you feeling road rage that you never have before? You may feel less if you acknowledge this as a potential grief reaction or response. Don’t use your car as a lethal weapon to rail against the entire Universe at-large. Uber if you can. You could try walking if you don’t have far to go.
Do you break out into uncontrollable sobbing? Perhaps it’s a good time to cancel some business meetings, or if you are able to, do online versions where you can turn off the video or the audio, or feign connection issues. Better yet, take that PTO that you’ve been hoarding because you think your company will fall apart without you. Chances are it probably won’t.
Are people irritating and annoying you when you’re usually a chill person? Give that some time. You don’t want to burn any bridges right now until you’ve stepped out of your grief enough to decide if a particular bridge actually needs to be burned. It may, and it may not. Don’t travel that bridge for awhile and see what happens.
Now may not be the best time to quit your job and tell off your co-workers and boss. Trust me on this one. Or storm the capital. Also, hold off on the “God Is Dead” tattoo. Or any tattoo. Just for now.
In that vein, don’t make any sudden moves until you are relatively certain that you’re doing it from a place of authenticity and not a place of grief. If you are safe, secure, and supported, hunker down a bit and see what happens. If a long-term relationship just ended, take a beat before taking a vow of celibacy and entering a monastery. If you are a lifelong atheist and suddenly have the urge to stand on the street corner and chant “Hare Krishna” with those cool people in orange then don’t. Just for now. Yes, their clothes look very comfortable. I agree.
Keep going. You can revisit all situations as your grief unwinds and untangles itself and your future unfolds.
Go with the grief flow baby, ride that wave, because your grief is not going to feel itself. That’s the bad news and the good news.
If you give yourself permission to grieve and allow yourself the space and the time to feel the grief, it is very likely that you will feel better, or at least not as crappy as you feel right now.
You’ve got to feel to heal.
There is also the possibility that you may be transformed. Think about that. How could you not be? If you love someone so much that part of you dies when they die, nature tells us that when something dies, something else takes its place. Hopefully it won’t be a weed. But give it a moment. Don’t spray it with weed killer until you can get a sense of what’s happening.
I speak from my vast experience as a human being here on Earth. I have grieved loved ones who have died. I have grieved loved ones who have not died - relationships I thought would never end. I have grieved jobs. I have grieved pets. I have grieved houseplants that probably died because of me. Yes, I killed them. Not on purpose. I have grieved the person I used to be. I have grieved my relationship with substances. I have definitely grieved my relationship with complex carbohydrates and processed sugar. Multiple times, in fact.
Here’s a plan to consider and modify for yourself:
- Make sure you are safe - physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Whatever safety looks like for you. Grab a pen and paper, or open up a Notes App. What does safety look like for you? What do you need? Do you need to watch Facebook reels of happy babies and pets to feel safe? Go for it. Chimps anybody?
- Make sure you're supported - whatever support looks like for you.. Do you need a grief counselor? Do you need a grief support group? Do you need to make a list of the five most supportive people you know and proactively reach out to them? Do you need to make a list of the five most unsupportive people you know and proactively avoid them for a time? Do you need to access a spiritual community?Do you need a hug? Is the last thing you need a hug? Do you need to binge watch Ted Lasso or Little House on the Prairie? (Seriously, never, ever underestimate the restorative power of Little House.) Do you need to change you relationship with processed sugar and carbs at least temporarily - one way or the other? Do you need chocolate? Dark or milk? Everything in balance, of couse. What does support look like for you? What do you need?
- Make sure you have tissues, and lots and lots of them.
- Make sure you are very kind and particularly gentle with yourself. What does being kind and gentle with yourself look like for you? Keep it in mind. What do you need?
- Revise the plan as needed You are going to change and your grief is going to change. Revisit the plan periodically and ask yourself what needs to be updated.
Don’t freak out. You’ve got this. You’ don’t have to white-knuckle it alone. Figure out what you need and go out and get it. Do your best. If you need emergency mental health or physical health support, call 911.
In loving memory of DMM & JEM.