Over the past 10 years I have experienced a significant number of losses including my child, countless pets, friends’ children, family members, and a significant other’s two suicide attempts. I’ve seen many people being pushed to speed up the grief and recovery process, or to try to rush through the “stages of grief”. The stages were one person’s experience of walking through accepting their own death, not a guide on how to grieve.
Honestly, there is no real guide. Each person experiences each and every loss completely differently. I have yet to have two affect me in the same way. Because I am a deep feeler and love deeply, it is always hard on me and goes all sorts of ways each time.
While my son was alive but regularly losing abilities, I went through tremendous levels of grief. This meant I went through the grief process over and over, trying to establish a new norm at each step. During this same time, two beloved family pets passed away as well. After my son passed away I again went through the grief process, then put all of my energy toward building something to help others who went through similar things. A year later I started working in accounting again. Honestly, I was still very raw and had a very difficult time being around people, but I pushed forward. It was overwhelming, but I was able to stay in the game at the time.
When assisting families that had similar issues with their children, I knew that other deaths would follow. Through all of it I felt so much love and compassion for all of the families. When it was an unexpected death I was devastated and deeply affected. Yet, at the same time, I knew the depth of my grief displays how deeply I love each individual.
Around two years ago, the man I was seeing and living with attempted suicide. After it occurred, while he was in the hospital, we moved our relationship back to just friends with the assistance of his counselor. I agreed to do couples counselling with him to work though things, as he worked on getting better himself. The hospital was switching and adjusting his medications too. A week after his first attempt, he tried again much more violently, and almost died. Thankfully he pulled through, but it has been an extremely long and painful process for him.
This time around the grief was excruciating for me. He was in the same hospital as my son had been, having similar surgeries performed. I had to unravel myself from the relationship as it was affecting my PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) from my son’s illness so severely. When I went to see him I would spend days after in a full-blown panic attack. I was running from my grief, but I did not realise this at the time because he lived. I so over-scheduled myself that I barely had any downtime.
Avoiding grief does not actually work. It starts coming out in very wonky ways. Concentration deteriorates. You start forgetting things. Periods of time just disappear. Staying present is next to impossible no matter how many mindfulness practices you do. In actuality, I was in full blown shock for months after and did not realise it. It came out in all sorts of ways – difficulty with work, unhealthy connections with men, etc. In fact, I went through 3 different jobs in less than a year as I could not handle much of anything. Before then, I stayed in most positions 3-5 years. Since I could never express my anger and rage towards him over what he did, it festered inside of me. I had no clue how to pull it out, or that I needed to because, again, I was in shock
About six months after the incident I met the most incredible and amazing man. Within a few months I was completely and utterly in love. He understood and loved my grief. In fact, he was the one telling me he knew I loved so deeply as I grieved so deeply as well. This was the first person that I knew who was not trying to rush me or disregard my feelings. He was not telling me to suck it up but just to feel everything, and that he wanted to be there with me while I felt all of it.
A year after the incident I sold or gave away basically everything I owned and moved from Austin, Texas to the Netherlands to be with this amazing man. We had a horrendously difficult time while in the Netherlands. Six months later we were married in a castle and have since moved to Norway.
Two days ago my 3.5 year old cat passed away after fighting for a bit over a month with some sort of illness that kept trying to shut down his organs. This amazing man has held me and loved me in my grief, not pressuring me in any way as he knows how deeply I am hurting. He is loving me completely in this spot while missing and grieving our cat as well. In fact, he truly understands a piece many do not – that when one has had a deep loss, then with each other loss that comes, everything that still needs to heal comes back up to the surface to get freed.
For now my heart is broken wide open again, but I know it is loved and cherished, plus that there is no rush to heal it faster than it is ready to be healed. This time around I get to take the time necessary to build back up how I need to so that less will have the potential to become stuck. In reality, this is what creates the ability to not only heal more fully, but to heal at a healthy pace.