Recently I lost a very close friend of mine, who was like a sister to me. She was an incredibly special person who touched many hearts and I could literally just write a book about her greatness. Her passing was a terrible tragedy for many reasons, but especially because she was only forty years old and is survived by six young children and a husband. My friend still had so much to achieve and it is remains bizarre to me, that she is no longer among us. It just happened all so fast.
Prior to her death, I was lucky to have never encountered such a loss. Even though her passing did not come unannounced (she was battling an aggressive cancer), it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like the ground beneath me is crumbling and suddenly I was overrun with so many mixed emotions. Sheer ambivalence. There were moments when I was just crying my eyes out, wanted to hide in bed and never come out again. Then I had days that I felt disconnected from everyone and everything. It was a strange state of mind in which I felt incredibly numb and frazzled. I would try to let it all out, but nothing happened. It almost felt like I had changed into a sociopath overnight. No tears, no emotions - total emptiness.
What surprised me the most, is that often the pain and the tears would come out of the blue. In moments when I had expected it the least. As I pushed myself to keep on going, I tried to pick up my life again. Somehow, I ended up bursting into tears at my son’s daycare, I would start sobbing during a workout at the gym or just have a random cry out while doing the dishes.
As I was not the only one mourning, I had the opportunity of witnessing the grievance of others around me and that was a great eye opener. I realized that even in grief we experience social pressure. Some of my friends and acquaintances said things like “why am I feeling like this”, “I am not acting normal” or “I am not supposed to feel this way”. This brought to my attention that when we suffer a bereavement, many of us are not giving our emotions free rein and that can hinder our grieving process. Having studied the “ Five stages of grief ” by Elisabeth Kobler Ross & David Kessler, I knew that I am about to embark on an emotional rollercoaster – but I wasn't sure of which magnitude.
My core message is, that grief is a very unique and fluid process. Anyone who loses someone who is dear to them (could even be a pet) in whichever circumstances, will be overcome with all sorts of emotions. My best piece of advice to you is the following quote “Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go”. While it is easier said than done - the sooner you accept what you are feeling, whether that is an overpowering sense of sadness or even indifference, the smoother your grieving process will be and that will long-term, help you to heal.
Don’t feel guilty for whatever emotions you are experiencing and don’t judge yourself. When you are mourning, you will go in and out all sorts of phases. Nothing is wrong or right, because it is simply not an exact science. In my view, a particular challenging dimension is ironically, when you start feeling “normal " again. You wake up in the morning or you just go about your day and realize that the sadness has faded away. A common reaction to that is feeling guilty and to even doubt one’s love for the deceased. When this happens to you, keep in mind that our psyche – is programmed for survival and that you cannot “overcome” if you are in a constant state of distress. The gradual decrease of melancholia is not a sign that you are forgetting that person, or that you don’t love them anymore. It is just a natural recovery strategy – a coping mechanism, that enables you to breathe again and carry on. Regaining or strengthening “the will to live” is no loss of integrity, but a vital signal that you are on the road to recovery.
*This article was written in the loving memory of Nechama Dina Weiss.