Grief: Inexplicable

A month and two days ago, I received a message. “Bad news mate, [they] died this morning.” My body stopped working for a minute. It was like my brain had frozen solid and any knowledge of where I was, or who I was, evaporated. There was an explosion of emotion in that moment but I didn’t weep, I didn’t scream, I didn’t even shed a tear after that. Something inside me refused to accept what had happened, refused to talk about it, refused to even feel it.


It was two weeks after finding out that he had died that I received another message; I was sent images of the suicide note. This is when my grief changed from denial to a sensation I cannot explain. Crippling anxiety has flooded my body and brain constantly. I started having panic attacks and nightmares, and at first I couldn’t work out why. I was re-reading the note for the thousandth time when it clicked: all of the pain and anger that is trapped inside me is being masked by anxiety, and until I truly process the loss, I’m going to be a big old anxiety ball indefinitely.


So, here are five things that I have learnt about grief in the past month:


1. There is no ‘right way’ to grieve.

I spent weeks feeling guilty about the fact I couldn’t grieve. I felt like I wasn’t honouring the person, and that I should be mourning outwardly, because that’s how it happens in films. I’ve realised that grief is such a personal experience, that it really doesn’t matter how you choose to do it (as long as you stay safe, please) because it’s your grief and yours alone. Cry or don’t cry, scream or don’t scream, speak or don’t speak - it’s totally up to you.  



2. It’s okay to be not okay.

Constantly believing it’s necessary to keep a straight face, to stay composed in all situations and that my grief makes other people uncomfortable is the least helpful thing I could have done for myself. I’m not okay at the moment, and that is okay. I’m allowed to grieve and mourn a huge loss, and other peoples’ opinions on the matter really shouldn’t affect that.



3. Grief is more than sadness.

I know sadness very well - an old ‘friend’ of mine. This, however, goes far beyond sadness. Of course, I am sad, but that doesn’t explain the true feelings. Telling people, “I’m sad” really doesn’t do my emotions justice. Pretending to be just sad is unhelpful - it’s okay to be more than sad, and it’s okay to tell people that too.



4. It’s crucial to give yourself metaphorical (or physical) hugs.

This has probably been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Beating myself up for the way that I’ve grieved has done nothing but cause more pain. Instead, I’ve started to give myself some good old self-love. There has been tea, blankets, PS4, and good food.



5. If speech fails, creativity might help.

Sometimes, trying to vocalise feelings just does not work - at all. For me, it’s easier to let out my emotions doing something creative. I draw, I write, I sing, I dance when nobody’s watching… All of these things seem to release more emotion than any conversation.



My grieving process is far from over - in fact, I’m going to see a hypnotherapist to see if that helps. What is most important, though, is looking after myself, and allowing myself to grieve however I may choose.