Grief isn’t as linear as the plethora of articles, videos, and books out there portray it to be. We live in a fast-paced culture of ‘go through it’ and ‘move on’ as quickly as possible. The healing philosophy of a breakup, divorce, addiction, abuse, or any kind of rejection revolves around letting go, forgiveness, and vigorously sprinting forward in life. But the truth is, this philosophy of healing cannot be applied to grieving. It is different. It is like a fingerprint, an onion—unique to each individual and has unpredictable layers.
Before losing my beloved father to Covid-19 a few months ago, I also carried the same notion about loss and was unknowingly dismissive in my advice to others who were already grieving before me. There is a side of grief that people don’t talk about much because it is harder to deal with it and harder to accept. But like the inevitably of the sunset and sunrise, we can’t work our way around it as easily as they say.
Here are some things I have observed in my ongoing journey of healing to let the bereaved know that they are not alone in this and what we are going through is valid, even if the world carries a different perception.
1. It Does Not Magically Get Better With Time
Time heals all wounds, so they say. But grief isn’t a wound, bruise, or scar; it is like a tattoo instead. It looks the same throughout time, exactly as the first day you got it. Like a balm, the words you read or hear will only soothe the itching, but it will always remain etched into you; it will become an indestructible part of who you are. You can distract yourself but never really forget about what happened. You cannot brush it away, you just find a way to continue living life with this tattoo as a permanent part of your personality.
2. People Will Expect The Old Version Of You After A While
After losing someone dear to you, your roots will shake, and you will no longer be or grow the same. For others, it will be like watching a tragic movie, and all movies end. Right? But this one doesn’t, and some people cannot fathom it. They will urge you to go out, do things that you used to, and go back to your old sense of normalcy. They wouldn’t know that even if you look just the same and the surrounding facts of your life are the same, you are different and you have changed. ‘Normal’ will be redefined and reshuffled for you, and not many will be able to embrace this new version of you.
3. People At Some Point Will Stop Asking You About How You Are Doing
The first few weeks of grieving include a lot of people showering you with good wishes, hope, strength, and support, but gradually, the number of messages and calls will decline. The sympathy and empathy will come not at your hour of need, but at the convenience of others. And the movie will have ended for them and they won’t realize that it will never really be over for you. And that is okay. Like I said, our experience of grief is unique to us. It may be ‘too much’ or ‘too long’ for some, especially those who have not lost a very important and present person in their lives. They will assume that you are better now, and will stop checking up on you after the socially acceptable timeframe of grief has passed.
4. A Lot Of Things Will Become A Trigger, No Matter How Much You Try To Fight It
For me, I still can’t see ambulances or hospitals without feeling an earth-shattering sadness. One moment I am okay, and the next a character in a movie or a song playing on the television reminds me of my father. It could be anything. But the memories of the pain barge in and sting the same as the first day it happened. And you have to find out ways in which you can calm yourself down and get past this emotional whirlpool. But yes, a lot of things will trigger that soul-crunching pain over and over again.
5. The Phases of Grief Are Interchangeable And Do Not Have A Timeline
There are no rules attached to the loss of a loved one. No strict timeline or phases that you will endure on your journey. The depression can come before the anger, the anger can come before the crying, the crying can come before the acceptance, or the depression can come even after the acceptance. It can be all jumbled and make no sense at all. One day, you will wake up and feel like you’ve finally got the emotions under control, and on others, you will feel like you’re back to square one. It may take months, years, days, or a lifetime to find inner peace or healing. And you will have to learn to be okay with this unpredictability.
Megan Devine rightly said that ‘Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried’ and you should not feel compelled to be a part of the cult of toxic positivity. The landscape of grief is full of valleys, terrains, and mountains that you cannot map. So, trust your journey, acknowledge your feelings, and hope that it will help you reach wherever you need to be. Grief is not the same for everyone, and your path to recovery will be only exclusive to you. So, forgive those who have the best intentions yet do not understand and forgive yourself for wanting them to. All I wish is for you and me to find a beautiful way to tread through life alongside this pain that will never really say goodbye.