Grief is my story, and not only mine - but so many others. So why are we so silent about it?
It’s because we’re not comfortable with sitting in the hard spaces, and even more so, we are uncomfortable with talking about it.
It seems like people are always trying to look past their loss and focus on the “brighter days.” Instead of embracing the discomfort and loneliness that grief hands us, we try to run from it and even ignore it.
Worse than running from it, we actually chase it away. Through substances, through unhealthy relationships, through shifting our focus to things like our bodies.. we chase away grief because we don’t want to sit with it.
I know because I’ve chased it away myself.
When my ex-boyfriend, Sam, died in December 14, 2012 - I couldn’t sit in that space. From the moment I pulled my car over in the Ingles parking lot when I got the call about his death, I started chasing it away. I begged my Grandma to call our family doctor and get me a prescription for Xanax. I begged my best friend to bring me some of her own prescription for me to take that night.
I don’t remember how many I took. I wasn’t trying to kill my self, I just couldn’t live with the reality and I couldn’t be sober to face it. How could I face that reality? It wasn’t just painful.. it was literally a pain that was so heavy that I didn’t think I could face it, let alone carry it.
It wasn’t just that night, though, with the Xanax. With the running. On the day of his funeral, I wasn’t sure how I could even function. I swallowed enough pills to get me through the funeral. I slid into the back of the “Family” section and literally let my Grandma hold me, like a little girl. Immediately after his funeral, I went to the bar where I drank so much that I couldn’t even control my own emotions. I wish I could say that I didn’t take more Xanax first - but I definitely did.
A few hours into the night, I stood in the middle of a crowd of people at the local bar that I considered myself a regular at, and I began uncontrollably bawling.
I have a photo of me that evening, being held up by my two closest friends, and we are all smiling but in my eyes is the most broken look that I have ever seen on my face. And believe me, as someone who has struggled with depression my entire life - I’ve seen myself looking pretty broken.
I wish I could say that it ended there, but in reality, it continued for almost a year. Maybe longer. That local bar that I cried in? They knew my favorite drink. They ordered extra of my favorite vodka. When I walked in almost every day after work.. they got my drink ready.
The worst part was that I was heavily medicated during this time. None of my prescriptions should have been mixed with alcohol. What happened when they were mixed? I lived in a FOG. My grief was still there but it was less visible.
It was what I wanted. But it was far from what I needed. I wish this was a story that wrapped up neatly in some beautiful package for you - but it took a lot of personal work to get to where I am now. It took a lot of therapy. It took a lot of tears.
And to be totally honest? I think it really took enduring more loss. When my Grandma died in May of 2014, I didn’t have her to hold me up at her funeral. I couldn’t sit by her bed in the morning like I had after Sam’s death. I couldn’t hear her say “We’re going to get through this.”
Suddenly the WE was just ME. It was my grief. I had let other people help me carry it, I had let alcohol and Xanax help me chase it away, I had let myself run from it... but I finally had to face it, and I had to carry it.
It’s a heavy weight some days. And other days, I can almost forget my pain until something reminds me of it. But the moment I started sitting with my pain, honoring it, delving into it and really facing it.. it was the moment that my life changed forever. And maybe it was even a series of small moments.
But that girl who used to chase away her grief? I love her. I hold space for her. She was, after all, part of my journey. The woman I am now? I face the pain. Sometimes I even hold gratitude for it.
When I placed the prayer flags at Everest Base Camp this year, I did it in memory of all of the people I’ve loved and lost. Like I said - my story is grief. So I placed several flags. But I don’t think it was until I got home from the trip that I realized that my journey in Nepal had given me more time to sit with my pain than ever, and I had returned an entirely different woman than I was when I arrived.
One of those prayer flags was for me, the old me. The new me is doing something that my best friend had written in the very front of a handmade journal that she gave to me after Sam’s death —
“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey” - Kenji Miyazawa
Embrace it, friends. Face it. Carry it. Because I promise you.. no matter how far you run or how hard you try to chase it away - it’s yours and you can’t escape it.