Healing after a loss.

Healing after a loss

My personal passage through grief.

Written By: Courtney Geary-C

Healing after a loss.

My personal passage through grief.

Written By: Courtney Geary-Cox

Grief never ends, but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay.

Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith,

It is the price of love.

~ Elizabeth I.

Grief is a personal process and is experienced differently by everyone it touches.

Some of us process it internally and never show our grief to the world after the initial impact. We bottle it up and take it out once in a while to look at.

Unfortunately, it usually finds a way to manifest itself in other ways.

In October of 2018, I lost my mother suddenly and unexpectedly. Her passing threw me into a whirlwind of different emotions. These emotions are ones I have repressed since my father passed away nearly 17 year prior. Five weeks after her death I lost one of my dearest friends. I had just spoken with him, in person, three weeks before his death.

His last words to me were, “I love you, Sis.”

Grief is strange in that it will sneak up on you when you least expect it.

My grief is like a persistent nagging. Sometimes it will manifest as anger or a “don’t try me” attitude. Other times it comes out as sadness and feeling completely hopeless and loss.

My panic attacks often catch me off guard, taking my breath away without any warning.

At times I would drive home from work and just feel numb and lifeless. I would even try to make myself cry to be sure I still could.

Then one day the dam broke.

I let myself feel it and I quit trying to hide behind a wall of strength and tenacity.

The memories catch me off guard and hold my attention for far too long. Sometimes something as little as a whiff of their old perfume or cologne would even stop me in my tracks bringing me to a tearful halt.

You suddenly notice all of the little things you miss the most. The silly texts. The long talks about nothing. The “I love you’s” before you leave for work. You are constantly on the lookout for any signs they are still present with you. Many of us hold out hope that they don’t actually die forever, they live on somewhere just out of reach and are watching over us.

Loss is a traumatic experience for anyone.

Like most people, I was busy. Busy with work. Busy with kids. Busy with life.

I tried keeping my mind as busy as possible to push the grief to the side and keep moving.

As I took on the role of the matriarch of my family, I was reminded that even the strongest people have a breaking point.

In February 2019 I had hit a new low. Depression was rearing it’s ugly head. By March of 2019 I was full of anxiety and sadness. By April I found myself sitting in my doctor’s office in tears.

It is now June 2020.

My grief is still here. She sits with me as I write this. However, I am getting better. I’m finding my strength. Strength I didn’t know I had until I finally sat with my anger and guilt and admitted I needed to face the losses head on.

My personal journey is not for everyone. Some of you may be experiencing grief on an entirely different level.

I’m writing this for everyone who has experienced the traumatic loss of a loved one, but especially for those of you who think they need to be strong all of the time.

I see you. I feel you. I am you.

I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober for 6 years thiscoming October.

During my grief I can’ t say I never wanted to drink again. I can say I did not give into the temptation.

I didn’t want to get drunk and forget. I wanted to feel it all until I didn’t.

When I feel it creeping up I tell myself, “You don’t need a drink. You need to feel this. All of this. So you can heal.”

The healing comes when we are ok with showing our grief to the world. When we stifle it then it becomes something more. I actually developed a “tick”. I started grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw.

I would like to touch on some ways I’ve been able to help heal myself. I am not a physician and I don’t have a degree in anything to do with mental health. This is all from my personal experience.

Try not to take on any unhealthy coping mechanisms to mask your pain.

Drinking and/or drugs have never solved one problem for anyone. It’s a temporary fix for a permanent situation. To me it’s like putting a band-aid on a wound filled with pus and dirt. It will fester under there and it won’t be pretty when the band-aid falls off.

Share you feelings with your family or closest friends.

You know who you can and cannot confide in. Find those people and vent it out. Let them know you’re struggling. My family and friends have been my most precious resource. I have told them I’m depressed and they understand. They have been kind and have offered their help to me. Don’t be afraid to reach out. I know it can be truly hard to ask for help but when we feel overwhelmed we need to be ok talking about our issues.

See a doctor.

If you have been experiencing depression that does not subside in a few days or are having panic attacks, please make the appointment. It’s worth it. Your doctor has many resources available to help you process your grief and not just with medication. Talk to them and see what’s right for you. Voice your concerns. For instance; Since I am an alcoholic I know I have an addictive personality. I was concerned about taking anything that could possibly be habit forming so we have gone a different route with my medicine.

It has taken me a few different prescriptions to feel normal but I’ve finally found a good combination that works for me. Don’t give up. Be open. Most importantly, show up to your appointment.

Join a group.

There are a lot of groups out there who focus on grief. A good friend of mine suggested I join some on Facebook, so I did.

It’s therapeutic for me to be able to vent about my feelings to complete strangers who have also had similar experiences. A few of these groups also have in person meetings and online group chats. I’m not quite there yet and this may not be for everyone. I was a member of these groups for several months before I was comfortable posting my story. The support and positive feedback I received was wonderful.

Start a daily meditation.

I’m not a religious person but I do believe in energy and what we put out into the world comes back to us. I meditate to clear my head. I do this for ten to twenty minutes per day. It helps quite a bit. For a short time I am relaxed and my mind isn’t buzzing with a million different thoughts. It’s healing and helpful. You can look up guided meditations on YouTube.

Clean your home.

I don’t necessarily mean go directly into OCD mode. However, when things are tidy and organized it helps put our brains at ease. When things are disheveled and piled all over, it creates and anxious environment. Start small. Organize one shelf. Paint the cabinets one at a time. It won’t only help clear your head but it will help you feel accomplished as you finish.

Start a journal.

I keep notes on my phone about how I’m feeling on certain days. I really only do this on the bad days but it helps to me see I am getting better when I haven’t had many entries in a while. This doesn’t need to take a long time. Just a few words will do.

Go to the gym or join some classes to move your body.

Check with your doctor first before starting any rigorous program, but I highly recommend working out. It helps get those good chemicals moving again. I struggle with weight gain so this has had a huge impact on my mental health. I feel so much better since I signed up for a class. I go one hour a day, four days a week. This is absolutely not a cure but it has helped aid in my personal healing process.

Get a pet.

I understand some people may not be able to get a pet for many reasons or maybe you just don’t like animals and that’s ok. My husband sent me a text in October of 2019, almost one year after I had lost my mother. He asked if I wanted a puppy. I don’t know why I said yes. I didn’t need another animal as I had inherited several from my mother. This was one of the best decisions I ever made for me. Bella has been an angel. The unconditional love she has is is absolutely astounding. Also, she licks my face when I cry. If you’re not an animal lover then this may seem odd but to me she has been sent by the universe to help me heal and her puppy kisses are dear to my heart.

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself.

Stop the negative speak. Love yourself. When you feel like you’re getting down you owe it to you to be kind to you. Take a relaxing day off. Spend some quality time outside alone and take it easy.

You are amazing and you are here for a reason. Be the light to yourself and to other people, as well.

Our grief is invisible on the surface which means other people are struggling with things too. Be as kind to you as you are to strangers. I’ve been working on this and have had some wonderful results.

I believe we can all help each other through grief by listening and being present. I also believe we can help ourselves make sense of our losses.

I don’t believe it ever goes away but we can help ourselves manage it in our own ways.

I pray everyone who reads this can take something from it to help them on their journey through loss and grief.

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