Coping With Grief
I’m sitting on the laminate floor of our home, my husband is laying on the chaise with a vodka and coke in his hand, my best friend (whom I’ve known for 15 years) is sitting in the corner of our couch drinking coffee and eating Pillsbury cookies. This is her first time over at our place but the conversation flows as it always has, with passion and without fear. She’s telling me a story about something that happened at work, she’s smiling and laughing, talking with her hands and making big gestures. She is a magnificent story-teller.
I asked her to come over to talk about grief, for this article but our conversation didn’t enter grief territory so I didn’t push it. She lost her mom to cancer about three years ago. When I heard the news, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to console her, how to be there, or what to say. So instead of wondering what I should do, I sent out a message of love and condolences. I told her I would always be there to talk about anything or listen to anything, she called on me when she needed and I didn’t pry. I remember the viewing and hugging my best friend as hard as I could. If I squeezed tight enough, maybe I could soak up a fraction of her pain.
It took a long time for her to be able to talk to me about her grief, about what she went through mentally and physically when her mom passed away. Looking at her three years later fills me with joy. My friend is happy. She is taking life one day at a time. She is coping with her loss in a way that inspires me to make the most out of every single moment.
For my friend, the hardest part about grief is that people assume you get over it. – People assume that there is a timeline involved. That there is some type of linear process you must go through and that once you change your surroundings you will replace missing them with remembering them and you'll suddenly be fine. They assume you get over it.
What I’ve learned from her is that grief never goes away. There is no magic coping mechanism that will make you forget the pain you feel from losing someone. Over the years my friend has made it clear that not being able to talk to her mom is one of the hardest parts of living without someone you love. Not being able to call her and ask her things like how long do I cook the chicken for? or what outfit do I need to wear to that event? leaves her breathless.
When she first lost her mom, these questions would consume her so she would try to push them away. Now, instead of pushing them away she talks to her mom. She is open to signs, to dreams, to everything and anything that made her mom laugh and smile. She believes that even three years later, her mom is still guiding her, answering her in the most simple and beautiful ways. Her mother was always smiling when I saw her, always encouraging, and always making others happy. Christina is the same way. She embodies all of her mother’s best qualities.
When I set out to write this article, I thought I would be able to write a list of sure-fire ways to help anyone who has lost someone close to them deal with it. The more I talk to my best friend, the more I try to put into words what she has gone through, the more I realize that I cannot write the article I wanted to write. Because as my best friend puts it; there is no dealing with it. Grief is this unwelcome change that bangs on your doorstep and gives you no choice but to live through the turmoil. The feelings that come with grief is the rejection of that change. Everything is different. Your past, present and future are altered. Imagine waking up tomorrow and no longer being able to see what is in your future – you cannot plan, make decisions etc.
The only advice that matters: when it comes to grief, don’t listen to anyone but yourself. Only you can know when you’re ready to go out, or when you’re ready to celebrate holidays and birthdays, or when you’re ready to begin a different kind of life than the one you’re used to you will because you have no choice.
When I asked Christina what her advice for others would be, she said this: My advice is to trust yourself. And trust that your loved one is beside you – he/she is apart of you. Trusting yourself is, in turn, trusting them. Trust that you have already gone through the worst part and that your strength in losing your loved one will only make it easier to cope with the world and the life you have lost in yourself.