For me, one of the worst types of human suffering is grief ( I get that it needs to happen and it’s a necessity to heal) but when it crosses over and becomes chronic, it’s just like a dope addiction on the brain. So what can we do? How can we heal trauma? How can we help those who we love?
I need to explain the difference between Grief and trauma, real quick.
Grief is the normal and natural response to loss. It’s the conflicting emotions that result at the end of, or change in, a familiar pattern or behavior. Grief is the feeling of wishing things would have ended differently, better, or more. Grief is the normal and natural feelings after a trauma.
Trauma is an event. It can be any event that causes psychological, physical, emotional or mental harm; such as a death or diagnosis. A traumatic event could also be called a loss event. If someone dies, that’s a loss. Whether you want to call the event trauma or a loss is ok, but the result of a traumatic event is GRIEF
Not only did cancer make me grieve my own life, I have had my experiences with losing people. I don’t say this lightly. I mean I have buried my own child. I have seen a lot of death of family and friends, it hurts every time! No, it doesn’t get easier! Time does not heal all wounds—it is what we do with our time that matters!
Two years ago a good friend of mine lost one of the most influential people in her life. At this point in her life she was a young 20 something with some of the typical milestones reached..(high school grad, owner of her own company, engaged) it seems like life was “perfect”.The expectations that were put in place were going according to plan. With a not so perfect, completely messy childhood, all she ever wanted was “normal”.
In the first few years out of high school came a rebuilding of a broken relationship. That bond that was formed was indescribable. It was just like the moments you would see on a Disney show. This was always the expectation that she had for the man she called Dad. This was what she wanted growing up and she had it! This was normal.
I wish I could write that this story ends with a happy vibe….NO, it doesn’t.
In this case, normal came with an out of the blue cancer diagnosis for her dad. It didn’t fit in the plan! This is not the way this was supposed to go! My friend was a witness to watching her once healthy dad, waste away in a matter of months, and take his final breath! This has severely impacted her in an almost debilitating way. The amount of grief that surrounds her makes it almost unbearable for her to carry out a normal day without a breakdown. Of course, it does! This is trauma that she went through.
While I have a very heavy heart for anyone who has been witness to this experience. If you stay in grief…Not only can it physically kill you, but it will also damage your relationships with the living.
I write this blog not to belittle or make light of grief, but to shine awareness on the topic of when it becomes unhealthy. No, it’s not a mental illness, but it can turn into one!
You see no matter what, no one is ever prepared…for the death of a loved one, or from a cancer diagnosis. Here is a list of things that I have put together if you are grieving a loss of someone, or grieving for your own life pre-cancer.
Admitting that life will not be the same is tuff. Seeking out help is hard when it comes to our mental health. For some it makes them feel “weak”, or that they can’t manage their own life. For others, it’s fear of judgment, or that they won’t get the “perfect” fit in a counselor. Then there are those who “know what they need to do”, but are just not doing it.
Find a Trauma Counselor. What you are experiencing is traumatic! The PTSD is real. This is not a joke. This is not a quick fix. This is not a game. My suggestion is that you pick one without judgment and go for at least 4 sessions with NO expectations of what will happen. If after 4 sessions you don’t feel like you are connecting with the counselor, pick again and repeat.
Don’t pull away from the people who know you the best. Detaching is wonderful if the relationship is toxic. However, detaching and severing real relationships is not healthy. Yes, these people know what you look like without your ‘mask”.Yes, the ride or dies are going to make you talk about how you are feeling and will call you on your bullshit when you say “I’M FINE”. A fake smile is nice, as it can trick your brain into thinking your ‘happy”..but it can’t trick your tribe! The opposite of avoidance is the key to recovery!
Write a letter to the person or yourself. Instead of using words like
*I hate how lonely
*I wish you were here
*I can’t live without you
Challenge yourself to write things that read more like a tribute
I am letting you go
I will be strong
I will be a light just like you
These are just a few examples. I think writing is therapeutic, and words are powerful. Grief needs to be felt in order to heal. I believe through my own experience, that there is fear of forgetting, or the idea that we should be guilty because we are still here..or maybe the feeling of love slipping away. After you are done with your letter, take it someplace and set it on fire…and hold space for that person. Knowing nothing will alter the love you have and death can’t take that from you.
Look into EFT(Emotional Freedom Technique) to release deep thoughts that maybe you don’t realize you are hanging on to.
Grounding meditations for when your anxiety is through the roof. Sign up for my newsletter and I will send you my favorite one right now.
There are many ceremonial things that you can do to honor the person. I read the most beautiful thing the other day about using a shipwreck as a metaphor for grief.
“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked. You’re drowning, with all the wreckage around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and magnificence of the ship that was and is no more. All you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float and stay alive.- Anonymous “
Wherever you are today just know that I love you. Life won’t get better…it just gets different. Keep on floating until you can build a boat with the wreckage, and get to shore. There you can look out at the waves and know that you survived.