If there is any unalienable truth about life, it’s that it’s inherently temporary. Pardon me if I’m bumming you out, but it’s worth acknowledging that someday you’ll lose someone you love. And whether it’s your grandmother, your best friend, your partner or your parent, the death of this special person will prove just how fragile you truly are.
And although grief feels different for everyone, there are some milestones that you’ll hit, and that will take you by complete surprise. So here are five ugly truths about grieving that I hope will help you someday.
It will hit you in waves
Before I ever knew the pain of grief, I’d heard the above figure of speech about waves. I pictured days when I might be sad, and days when I would be OK, that would last for long stretches of time. But when it comes to grief, you’ll experience starkly different feelings from moment to moment. When my boyfriend died, it was common for me to feel indescribable sadness, then irrational anger, then glorious numbness, and finally frightening hysteria, all within the course of an hour. You will feel OK by noon on days when you woke feeling dead inside, and you’ll be clutched by panic during times when you’re otherwise distracted.
Remember, whatever you feel and for how long, just embrace it. Let the wave engulf you. I promise it will spit you out on shore before you drown.
People will be weird
Eventually, when you’re ready to resume your routine, don’t be surprised to encounter coworkers, classmates, and some friends to act shifty around you. Not only do these people not know what to say, they’re scared to intrude on your personal life or make things worse. My advice? Acknowledge their concern, thank them for their support, then crack a joke. It shows you’re ready to laugh, even if you’re unfathomably miserable.
You’ll think about God
Whether you’re a devout Christian or a staunch atheist, when faced with death you will almost certainly ponder the afterlife. You’ll wonder whether that person’s soul lives on, and if so, will you ever join him or her? If these questions are nagging you, seek answers wherever you’re comfortable. Although I wasn’t ready to walk into a church, I asked a religious friend about Christian mythology and his thoughts on eternity. Not only did he ease my fears, he offered some wisdom that helped me put my loss in perspective.
You will feel alone
Mourning a death is a deeply individual process, and although others who are sharing your grief will try to help, you’ll feel alone in your struggle. You’ll think that this person didn’t have the same affect on others’ lives and that nobody can fully understand what you’re going through. And for the most part, you’ll be right. So own your grief and acknowledge that the person was special to you. But try to lean on those around you when you can.
It will arise when you least expect it
Sure, you’re prepared to cry at the funeral. But you might not be prepared for the most difficult moments that will certainly unfold in the coming weeks and months. You might have a realization that makes the loss real, you might hear a song that reminds you of the person, or you might have difficulty dealing with the loved one’s surviving belongings. The most painful point in my grief was when I realized I would have to drive myself to class, as the person who once picked me up was gone. No matter how it happens, you will be confronted by grief when you’re going about your day as normal, and it will be shitty. Keep some tissues nearby and let it out.