Six Things I Wish I Knew About Grief

It’s no secret that the last year of my life has been the hardest year that I’ve had to walk through.  Navigating my way through grief was not an easy journey and I still find myself having to ask, “am I doing this right?”  Looking back, there are a few things that I wish I knew about grief before I was forced to walk through it.

  1. It Hurts like Hell.  Losing my niece was to date the most painful experience I have had to walk through.  I remember the days following her death where I would grab my chest because the pain felt so heavy upon me.  My entire body felt like I was hit by a truck and simple tasks felt like burdens. Grief is so heavy that your physical body begins to ache from the emotional toll and there are moments when you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it through the day, but you will. You always will.

  2. It Can’t Be Avoided. After my niece died, my introverted habits suddenly disappeared and I found myself wanting to constantly be around people.  At the time, my current roommate and I were having to share a bedroom until we were able to find a house, so even then I wasn’t alone.  I found that if I was around someone that I didn’t have to face the pain that was raging inside of me.  After a few weeks of suppressing my emotions, they would surface without warning.  In the middle of the mall, the checkout line in Target, or at the bank while I was making deposits for work where I felt I would have to apologize to whomever was helping me and explain that my niece just passed away.  About a month later my grandpa passed away and I was now not only grieving the loss of my niece, but also my grandpa whom was like a second father to me during my childhood. It was then that I decided to embrace the pain, no matter how hard it felt, I had to give myself permission to be a complete wreck if I needed to be. I didn’t care if my sadness made other people uncomfortable because letting it out meant that I was giving my heart and my pain a voice.

  3. Grief Makes People Uncomfortable. As a culture, we’ve learned to look at pain as a bad thing. Have a headache? Take a tylenol.  Having a bad day? Go to happy hour.  We want a quick fix.  Unfortunately when it comes to emotional pain such as grief, the only way out is through and sometimes that can be a very long and dark road.  I found in my own journey that many people wanted me to bounce right back to normal and declare that “God is good” despite my sadness.  They didn’t want to know that I was struggling with why God allowed her to die or how to manage my anger towards Him.  They were quick to throw “spiritual Tylenol” as I like to call it at me and quote scripture about the goodness of God.  The problem with that is I felt like my process and my emotions were not being validated. It’s like saying to someone who’s crying because they broke their arm “Stop crying! Your leg is completely fine!” People don’t always know how to respond to other people’s pain and they may say things that hurt you.  Just know that at the end of the day, their heart is only to love and help you.  Sometimes they just need a little direction in how to do so. 

  4. There is No Right Way to Grieve.  I have a high D personality meaning that I like to be productive and I like to do things the correct way the first time.  It’s hard for me to not have a set answer or solution for something, so when first going through the process of grieving, I found myself constantly stressed that I was “doing it wrong.”  I found myself thinking, “It’s been three weeks, should I still feel this sad? Should I be in the acceptance stage? Should I be putting all my emotional distress into something more productive like working out or volunteering at a charity?? Why is it still a struggle to get out of bed?” The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to grieve and the cliché is true that everybody grieves differently.  I finally had to get to the point where I stopped over analyzing where I was at and just allowed myself to be wherever I needed to be in the moment.  Some days I needed to veg out on the couch watching Scandal for hours on end while saving the world vicariously through Olivia Pope, and some days I needed to paint my nails and go to dinner with my girlfriends. Whatever my heart needed, I allowed myself to be okay with that.

  5. Anger is Part of the Journey. I’ll never forget the moment that my mom called me to tell me that Abby had died.  It was a Friday afternoon and I had about an hour left of my shift at work. I answered the phone and the words, “Rihanna, we lost Abby” came flying out of her mouth and I calmly said “Ok” and hung up. It was a strange reaction, but I have a tendency to resort to becoming very calm when something scares or shocks me.  I grabbed my purse and as I walked to my car I began to violently shake. Anger, shock, and disbelief all came over me as I began to yell at God, “Are you f—ing kidding me? Is this a joke to you?!”  I felt like the world was spinning and the rage and anger just continued to pour out of me.  Although the initial rage soon subsided, I found myself still battling feeling anger and resentment towards God. The weeks following, I found myself at a church conference where people were being healed left and right from various illnesses. Anger began to rise within me and I knew that in that moment, I had a choice.  I could choose to partner with resentment or I could surrender my desire to understand and celebrate the healings surrounding me.  At first, I felt unauthentic but over time God began to heal that part of my heart that only needed reassurance that God still saw me. 

  6. God is Faithful in the Process. It’s been a little over ten months since Abby left us and 8 months since my Poppa joined her.  There were times when I felt like I would never fully heal or ever feel close to God again.  However, having to walk this journey has showed me levels and parts of God that I never knew existed previously.  In the times when I felt overlooked or forgotten, His sweet presence wrapped itself around me and carried me through.  I wish that I never had to walk this journey, but at the same time I wouldn’t trade the moments I had with God through this for anything in the world.  

Grief is painful.  It cuts us to our core and forces us to look inwardly and face who we are and what we believe.  If I could go back and tell myself anything before having to walk this journey it would be this: you’re going to make it through.

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If you liked this post, you may also like When I Stopping Believing in God and I Stopped Believing in Prayer