How to Grieve
Have something awful happen to you. An accident, a death—something that leaves you winded and unsure how to proceed with your life. “I knew how to exist before, but I’m confused now. I think I’ve actually forgotten how to be. Someone must give me a map…a clue….a reassuring smile.”
Have everything around you sound like white noise. Simple errands are now met with the ultimate resistance. Going to the corner store feels like a climb to the top of Mount Everest because there are invisible weights on your chest, on your brain, on your arms, on your legs. Everything just drags: Feet, time, mouth. Limp.
Don’t drink or do drugs. That would be the worst thing you could do. Everything would feel amplified, your grief would be in HD. You would cry and shake like a little leaf, and your friends’ faces would go ashen every time you would take a sip of “I don’t wanna feel” juice. The ironic thing about using drugs and alcohol as a way to numb yourself is that it often just makes your misery feel more raw. It will put a flimsy coat over your nerves but one wrong move and you’ve turned into jelly on the floor. You’re back at square -4 with a hangover.
Realize you have to feel everything 100% in order to actually get past it. Get weirdly excited if you start to sob in the cat food aisle at Walgreen’s because it means your mind is in the mood to process things. Welcome the tears and remember that every time you’re miserable and crying, you’re actually being slowly brought back to life. Crying at commercials, crying to the lady who’s selling you a candle, crying to your rug: All of these things are normal. Not crying is the real freak on a leash moment. You better pray those tears come down eventually. It’s your only chance at eventually feeling good again.
Move into The Bell Jar for a sec. Don’t get out of bed, don’t touch your food, and waste away in a nightgown. Only sign a month long sublet though. You can never sign a year lease at The Bell Jar. It’s always in and out. You have your moment and then it’s done. There will always be someone right behind you ready to take your place.
For the first time in your life, you might have to make a conscious decision to be happy. You’ll have to actively work at maintaing a positive mindset, have to strain and sweat to even feel an ounce of “okay.” Before the terrible thing that happened to you, happiness was expected, an absolute guarantee. That was just one of the luxuries you lost.
It’s really cheesy but Michelle Williams once said after the death of Heath Ledger that “Grief is like a slow-moving river”, and it’s true. You’re never completely out of the woods; there will always be days that will feel like the first day. The goal is to face grief every time it says “Sup?” and be like, “What the fuck? You again? I thought I banished you after a year of therapy! Ugh, fine. What do you want to do today? Lie in bed and listen to sad songs all day? Fine! But you leave tomorrow!”
Things will never be like they once were. You’ll never be like you once were. But this is how things work, this is what life is all about. You were never the same after the first time someone broke your heart and you’ll never be the same after you experience a tragedy. These losses will change you in important ways. Now it’s your job to not let them swallow you up completely.
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