Personally, grief is the most difficult feeling I have ever felt. Truth be told I've spent the majority of my life running from the deep, helpless sorrow that accompanies loss. Loss can come in many forms, and today I want to share about loss in the form of losing a loved one. Stick with me to the end folks, I plan to channel these icky feelings we all experience in life due to loss, into a way to connect and support each other. We can help each other learn to cope with loss and live a happy, healthy life. Death and coping with loss is a multifaceted topic in my opinion.
My experience with loss began at the age of seven, but continued over and over in my life, including my dad's passing in 1986, which sent me into a very dark place. I was not prepared to deal with a loss that big. I stuffed it down along with all the grief I didn't know what to do with most of my life. Losing one of my best friends suddenly in 1977 was my first taste of these feelings I would try to avoid over my lifetime.
Here's just some of my story with grief. My friend and I played all the time. We hung out running around the neighborhood all day, just like all the other days. We stopped at her house to eat and play with her giant German Shepherd. It was just another day. We played silly games and laughed a lot. A bit later she started feeling nauseous and said her head hurt. We figured it was due to the green "Tic Tacs" we had put on our tuna salad sandwiches her mom made us for dinner. Her mom said I should go home so she could rest and I told her I'd see her tomorrow, as always.
The next day I called her to see if she could play and her mom sadly explained she had died over the course of the night. She had a brain aneurysm.
BAM! The BIGGEST feeling of shock and disbelief riddled my little body and heart. Just like that, my dear friend was gone from my world. I was so sad. I didn't know what to do with myself. I cried, I missed her at school, I missed her in the neighborhood. I rode my bike past her house and just felt so sad. I worried I might die suddenly too. No one really talked about it, so I shoved it all down and carried on with life.
I had no idea I was going to experience the biggest loss of my life at the age of 15, but first more grief was headed my way. When I was a young teen, my friend and next door neighbor died suddenly in a motorcycle accident. My Aunt Dood that I adored died sometime after that, and the dog I'd had my whole life was put down. I don't remember anyone really talking too much about any of these losses.
When my dad's mom died I was more sad for him than any loss I'd experienced by the age of 13. We had been on a father/daughter white rafting trip on the way to see her in the hospital. We were too late arriving to the hospital and she passed while we were having fun on our trip. I could feel how helpless my dad felt. I could feel his despair and regret for not being able to say goodbye. I felt guilty somehow and wished I could change everything so he could've seen her one last time. Still we didn't talk about it much that I remember.
The day my Grandma Long died my dad quit smoking cigarettes after decades and decades. I had witnessed him try again and again for years to stop the nasty habit that always returned. Sadly, he was also too late in quitting for his lungs to recover.
The story of my dad's passing at 49 years of age is just too much to give in detail in this blog post. I was very close to him and at 15 years old it devastated me. He'd been sick with cancer and had one entire lung removed, but I really had no idea he would actually die. Nobody talked about death or that he might die. I believed he would be fine, even though he was going through radiation. It just wasn't discussed. I was told not to cry at the hospital. Some months went by as my dad suffered quietly through his cancer treatments. I was a bratty 15-year-old and skipped my usual good night hug and kiss to him the night before, something I regretted deeply for many, many years to come.
His death felt just as sudden to me as my best friend years before. I couldn't cope with the sorrow. I felt sick. I felt regret. I missed him more than anything in my life. I locked myself in my room and refused to talk to anyone. I didn't know how to navigate those feelings that ripped my very soul to pieces. I was a "daddy's girl" and I was shattered. Even now, 36 years later I am sobbing as I recount the sadness I felt so deeply.
Over the years that followed my dad's death I continued to experience the death of many people that were very dear to me. My half-brother committed suicide and another dear aunt passed away. My grandparents both died within six months of one another. Each loss and the feelings experienced with these losses where gathered up and put in a deep place within myself. I let them out in rehab a tiny bit. Several people said they had never seen anyone cry so hard. I remember thinking my contacts would fall out of my eyes with all the tears. I assumed I had learned to deal with old grief and I carried on with life.
There continued to be losses of dear friends over the years and massive loss in other areas of my life. 2020 arrived and with it the craziest times in history that we all experienced together. However, that July I experienced the second biggest death of someone so very dear to me in my lifetime to date. I found myself distraught and unable to function very well. I was in a fog for some months. I was depressed. I felt deep regret over things in the past. I cried and cried and cried for all the people I had lost over the years. I had some very intense moments during this time and even considered having a drink to make the pain go away after 13 years of sobriety from alcohol.
Thankfully I had the support of MANY. I gratefully received all the LOVE I could from everyone willing to sit with me and listen and encourage me to just let it all out. The pain ran deep. I faced it and did whatever I could to allow the sorrow to flow out. I found relief from all the feelings I never wanted to feel my entire life. I stopped running from all the years of sadness of people leaving this earth and all the regrets I had, as well as the LOVE I just wanted to continue to share with them in this crazy world.
We grieve because we LOVE.
I seemed to feel compassion for the whole world's grief at that time. So many losses in 2020 were happening all over the world. I wanted to take everyone's pain and sorrow away. I wished to help in someway, to somehow give people some peace, to give myself peace. To help others know it's OK, somehow, it's going to be OK.
I have come a long way with grief since I was a child and since 2020. I'm still crying and grieving and finally it's OK. I am still grieving this loss and ALL the loss that continued to come my way down the road. What I know now is, it's OK. Grieving never goes away. It's OK. It really just sucks and it's OK. It's OK and necessary to talk about death.
These feelings have to be felt and released or they will get stuck in the body and cause physical manifestations in the ways of sickness and/or pain in the body. Worse yet, addictive habits can develop when trying to avoid grief and loss. This is also a topic for another blog post!
I have always had a passion for helping others. I'm bringing this passion to the masses to help facilitate healing and recovery from loss. The fact is: grief is sad... and can be all-consuming at times. We all grieve differently. It is a roller coaster and hits you out of the blue in every situation imaginable without warning. Grief and loss ARE a part of living as a human being on this planet. We must learn to deal with our own grief, and become more comfortable loving others through their grief.
Even though we've all experienced loss, many of us still feel uncomfortable or don't know what to say, or we say and do things that aren't helpful. People avoid the topic or the person grieving all together in order to escape their uncomfortable feelings. Many of us think we should do 'this or that' or keep quiet so others aren't uncomfortable. This is something we can all learn to deal with, especially with so much loss happening all around us and in our own lives.
The holidays are approaching and everyone needs help coping and you know what? It's OK!!!!
I am launching online (and in person) small group workshops (4-6 people) to help us all become more comfortable with this topic. I went through training for this recently, however, I am not a counselor. I'm not here to fix anyone. Professional counseling may be helpful on your journey. I simply want to hold space for groups of friends, and people I have yet to meet with this one topic in common, loss.
We will discuss things to say and not say regarding grief. How to navigate holidays, special occasions, family traditions and respecting cultural differences. We will discuss things you can do to heal from your own grief and how to find hope for the future and more.
My dream is to bring people together so we may help each other navigate loss through workshops, various healing work, conversation, support, self care techniques, various types of healing retreats (groups and 1-on-1). The past few years have changed my entire view of death. I have found so much peace finally in the midst of grieving. I hope to help others find peace recovering from loss.
For more information on workshops please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org