Grief can take away your energy and motivation. There have been so many times I wanted just to be able to press a button and magically have the strength to go do huge things. Hell, there are days I wish I could press a button that would magically make me want to even dream about doing big things. Although there are days we feel stronger and cable of more, there are always going to be down days, no matter how long you’ve been grieving. And that is 100 percent OK. There is nothing wrong with feeling weak and sad.
“I don’t understand what you are feeling right now. It almost hurts too much to even imagine what it would be like if I lost my little brother. ”
These are words a friend spoke to me while I was crying on her couch, as I found myself short of words to describe the pain I was feeling after losing my little brother.
Hearing her say that was a breath of fresh air. She honestly admitted that she wanted to have all the right things to say and she wanted to make it better, but she couldn’t — yet in that simple statement, she made me feel so much better. Those words relieved me of the weight of having to somehow explain, justify and perfectly describe my pain. She let me hurt.
Allowing someone you love to hurt is so hard and so painful. No one wants to watch the people they love hurt. They want to somehow make the pain go away. They want to say something to comfort you. They want to distract you from the intense pain you feel. They want to fix it.
When we are grieving, our needs are constantly changing. There will be times when the pain is so overwhelming and suffocating that a distraction is needed. But there will be times when distractions are dangerous because they cause you to bury the pain too deep. The best thing someone can do for a grieving friend is to let them grieve and to be accepting of them no matter what they need in the moment. Love them. Expect and anticipate the wild ups and downs. It is so hard to watch people you love hurt, but that is what love does. Unconditional love can be so painful, but it’s always worth it.
We cannot fully understand what another person is feeling. I can’t even understand the pain my siblings feel over the loss of our little brother. We are all completely unique. Although we all lost the same person at the same time, we each process differently and struggle with different things. I could probably relate to them more than anyone else, but I still can’t fully understand. I just use what I do know to love them well. This is one of the biggest things I have learned about through my own experience with grief.
When people don’t know how to just let you hurt and feel it all, they can tend to try to be your super-intense personal trainer, saying unhelpful phrases like:
“You don’t want it enough.”
“You’re not trying hard enough.”
“You’re stronger and capable of more”
“You will get better, the pain will go away.”
“You need to be distracted and get over it for the day.”
“Just cheer up! You’ve got so much good in your life.”
In spite of the forward progress I have made in making my “big” a lot bigger, there were people in my life who weren’t impressed because I still had days when I cried myself to sleep or couldn’t function completely. I had to let those voices go and listen closely to those who had been there with me in the trenches, speaking love and encouragement, because that is truly the only thing that is going to begin to heal a broken heart.
It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you are going through so much pain. You feel so broken and thrown off. It’s hard not to believe that because you have gone through something so very broken and messed up, you will be messed up and forever broken. Surrounding ourselves with people who only make us believe that lie even more is so toxic.
It is so easy to get in the mindset that grief is a steady walk forward, that one day we will be capable of just as much as anyone else, and it will just always stay that way. Although it’s true that it won’t always be a crushing pain that is constantly present on your mind, there will always be bad days when you can’t do much, no matter how far you’ve come. One day we take two steps forward, and the next day we might go back five; it is the inevitable, unpredictable dance of grief. I’ve had to learn to go easy on myself when those bad days sneak up and shock me. It’s like someone is saying to me, “Nope, today we’re going back two miles, and you are just going to have to sit back and feel what you need to feel.”
Comparing your capabilities to other people’s is dangerous. Even comparing yourself to what you used to be capable of before loss swept in is dangerous. Your definitions of “big” and “small” will change drastically when you are going through a painful life event. What I consider a “productive day” is not what the person next to me would. My “productive day” might look like getting out of bed, eating right, showering, working out, getting a ton done at work and spending quality time with my family. Those can be surprisingly hard things to do when you are in such deep pain and shock. To someone else, those things may seem small, unproductive and insignificant, but it doesn’t matter what it means to someone else. It matters what it means to you.
Your pain is your pain, and your triumphs are your triumphs. They might not look big and shiny to the person standing next to you, but despite that, they should remain huge to you. Don’t ever let anyone deplete them of their beauty. Be wildly and unashamedly protective of the things that make you happy.
When you’ve lost someone, they are always near your mind, consciously or not. The weight and feelings will always be there. What we feel when we think of them will continuously change. Time is not a defining factor of how you should be feeling one week or 10 years down the road.
No one can tell you when the pain is over.