Grief is a roller coaster. It twists and turns through your body, leaving you exhausted and curious wondering what you will feel next. It is unpredictable, for you never know when you will experience the slow incline up, full of anticipation of what lies ahead in life. Likewise, you never know when you might creak your way onto a bend for which you are sure you will not survive the ride.
Sometimes, it feels like a pit in your stomach. You can’t accurately predict what message this “pit” is trying to send your way. It starts like an “I might be hungry” pit but you feel as though you never want to eat again. Then it morphs into a “my high school boyfriend just broke up with me” pit and you remember how you were devastated at the time. Oh, how you wish you could go back to that kind of “devastation.” You wish you had never been exposed to the truth – That that wasn’t devastation at all and it now sucks to know the true meaning of the word.
Sometimes, it feels like the worst headache you’ve ever experienced. Imagine your worst hangover…. Then double it. Imagine a sinus headache after weeks of coughing and sneezing… Then triple it. Imagine that dull, achy headache you get after staying up too long trying to finish a deadline for work… Only imagine it a lot more intense and lasting a lot longer…. Like a lifetime. You see, it isn’t a headache at all. This “headache” is your new brain. Your new brain trying in vain to navigate each and every day of your new life without that person whom you love. Your new brain is trying to adjust to living with this lifelong ailment, disability, truth.
On happier days, it sometimes looks like singing along with the radio in the car at full volume…. And feeling so proud that you finally can. Life is good! I’m singing along to the radio! Then, all of a sudden, you come to the top peak of your roller coaster and slam into a wall of guilt. How can you sing along to the radio when someone you love isn’t here?? How can you celebrate life when life has been pulled out from under you?? My suggestion: Accept the guilt. Accept the brief happiness. Enjoy the moment.
I woke up this morning with a headache so intense, I had to ask myself how much I drank last night? Is my stomach saying it’s hungry? Is it saying I might be sick? Oh, no… That’s right. Now it’s coming back to me. My stomach and my head are both telling me my mom is STILL dead. It’s a crazy thing, this grief. I feel like I am Bill Murray starring in the movie Groundhog Day… I know how each day will begin and yet I still have to go through the motions of reliving my reality. Now that I have ONCE AGAIN been reminded of my daily reality, I will myself out of bed. Only now, in this new life of living with grief, it is more difficult. It is no longer an act of hearing my alarm and willing myself not to feel sleepy. It is now an act of hearing my alarm and willing myself to ONCE AGAIN accept my truth and still decide to begin my day. What’s that? You can’t relate? Oh, you must not be able to share in my level of grief. Perhaps you are further along in your own grief journey. Perhaps you haven’t experienced grief in this magnitude. Perhaps you process things differently, as we all do. Perhaps I need to improve in my own mental stability? Here is what I have learned about grief. It is an awkward thing for everyone. Some people offer to sit by you in the roller coaster because they so badly want to do something to help you get through the ride. They will gladly hold your hand, hug you through it, and offer words of encouragement in many forms. Others passively sit by the ticket booth, watching from afar. They’d like to help you, but how?? Others see you weaving through the starting gate and bolt in the opposite direction of the theme park…. STAY AWAY FROM THE CRAZY PERSON! What if she cries? What if she yells? What if she doesn’t say anything at all??
To all those who have sat beside me on the roller coaster, who have watched and wondered from the ticket booth, and for those who have simply walked to another ride…. Thank you.
I am about to embark on the fourth anniversary of my mom’s passing. I continue to be securely strapped into my roller coaster seat.