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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How I tried to outsmart grief

When my brother died, my life was put on pause. I didn’t know what to do so I didn’t do anything for a while. I didn’t talk. I didn’t see friends. I didn’t go out. I was just a mute version of myself that look confused and scared. I was confused. I was scared.

Like most people that experience a tragic and unexpected loss, I didn’t believe what was happening was real. I kept waiting for my brother to send me text or show up to a family dinner. But he didn’t. And it started to sink in that I would never see him again. And that scared the shit out of me. Because I knew it was going to break me for the rest of my life. And it did. How could it not?

Being the control freak that I am, I tried to outsmart my grief. To always be two steps ahead of it. To always have a say in how, and when, and where I grieved. Or, more realistically, to make sure that I never grieved, because then it would mean that everything was real. So I tried some coping mechanisms that didn’t work so well.

I tried to medicate my grief into submission.
I doubled up on my anti-depressants in an attempt to numb my grief to the point that I couldn’t feel it. All that really did was make me feel like I had constant grief blue balls. Like I was so close to the relief of crying but could never actually shed a tear.

I tried to drink away my pain.
I drank. A lot. Feeling slightly buzzed was better than feeling completely sad so I indulged in too much wine too much of the time. All that did was lead to an even heavier overall cloud of depression—and it’s super fun friend, weight gain.

I tried to go it alone.
Finding myself mostly alone after my brother died, I decided to stay that way. I stopped having people over like we always did. I stopped making plans to go out. I stopped socializing at all. I stopped being me.

I tried to run away from my grief—literally.
I strapped on my running shoes and tied to outrun my feelings. I would run and run and run. I would think about my brother but mostly I would just spend my time thinking about myself. About how I was going to “fix” this situation. But there was no fixing it.

But some things did work.

I sought solace in my daughter’s tiny arms.
On nights when the darkness was too much to bear, I would slip into my daughter’s room under the cover of night and wrap myself around her to protect myself from the pain. Sleeping next to her innocence was often the only way that I could escape the brutality of my brother’s death racing through my mind.

I made new friends.
It is hard to heal the friendships that are broken by a tragedy. Though I am a very forgiving person, I have never really been able to forgive the people who weren’t there for me after my brother’s death. So I made new friends. Friends that didn’t shy away when I talked about how I was feeling. Friends who checked in on me when things were bad. Real friends.

I got help.
I had to kiss a lot of frogs to find the two therapists that would be my princesses, but it was worth it. They have helped me work through my grief and actually experience it. In a way that makes me feel like I am part of the solution, not just the cause of the problem. The two women who have helped counsel me through my grief are the cat’s pajamas.

I let go.
I let myself be OK with being weak at times. I made myself feel that it was good to express my feelings. I gave myself a pass on feeling obligated to keep up friendships that no longer felt positive to me. I stopped feeling like a loser for still feeling under my brothers death and not over it. I let myself be sad. I let myself be angry. I let me be the new me.

Though I may be a broken version of my former self, it is a self that I have built up from the ashes and I am damn proud of it.

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  1. This sounds like the exact story of my last two years. It's comforting to know that someone else has experienced the same things and I am not some huge anomoly. Thank you for sharing. You don't know how helpful your words have been

  2. This is so important. Hugs, beer bitch.

  3. Welcome back love. I'm so glad you are writing again, its good therapy as well, in my opinion.

  4. Thank you for sharing. My best friend passed away unexpectedly in January and I have been doing everything possible to avoid dealing with it. Your advice will definitely help me out. And I love your blog and look forward to reading more!

  5. You are such a bad ass mama jamma. IMO, this is one of your top ten best posts. I love your funny business, but the occasional glimpses into your personal truth are totally inspiring. If you can face this and deal with your truth (and all of the self control that that entails), then you can do anything.

  6. I can relate to SO much of this. I lost my first pregnancy earlier this year and on top of everything else I've experienced and had to deal with, I did not expect to have to deal with losing friends/friends not being there for me in the process. I am grateful for the people that were/are there for me when I need them. But I'm also hurt and angry at the people who basically cut ties as I experienced tragedy.

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your brother; I can't imagine the pain you went through and still go through. Thank you for writing this. It helps to know I'm not alone in how grief feels and what grief does.

  7. My Mom unexpectedly passed away 5 years ago and this post is so me. I applaud you for being able to come out and express these feelings. Moving on feels impossible at times. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing this!


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