The Grueling First Month of Grief

My grief journey was the most difficult in my entire life. Back to back grief increased the intensity. My mom passed away from a terminal illness and two and a half months later my close friend died of respiratory issues. Being torn apart was an understatement. If you can relate to deep grief, the grueling first month breaks you apart in ways you have never experienced.

The first month made me feel the grief journey will never end when it had barely begun. I had to learn and accept parts of myself that were magnified during this time. Life perspectives changed in an instant and life passions disappeared. I am living another "new normal" as the first was caring for my mom during a terminal illness. The journey was encountered with days of fear, but hidden strength would appear as I maneuvered through the medical community. Grief began an entirely new journey of resilience and self-compassion. All the work developed during my role as a caregiver was obsolete and I needed to restart building strength.

I needed to recover so I took a month off from work. I had to get my emotions under control, accept my situation, and rest. I was burnt out. I never believe in the motto of bouncing back quickly as that can do more harm than good. I needed space to absorb the situation and take care of myself. This process during the first month was tough.

It was a tumultuous period of crying, anger, helplessness, depression, and disconnect. My body and mind shut down from exhaustion. I fought the same illness and wondered how I survived. My mom was gone, yet I remained and questioned my presence on earth. My eyes barely opened on some mornings and it looked like a bee stung them. One night I was exhausted and my brain would not signal my body to fall asleep. Sleep difficulties made grief harder.

I started getting body aches in the chest and stomach. After about five weeks my lower back gave up and froze one morning at work. I had to get help from a coworker to give me a pain reliever and the next morning unable to get out of bed and barely move was helped to urgent care. The best advice from the doctor was to control and relieve my stress with relaxation and meditation and stretching exercises for my back. I knew the strong opiates would be short term. Those drugs knock you out. I could not function at work on these so luckily I was able to stop.

My sister and I thought it would be a good idea to disappear from home and settle our emotions somewhere else. We traveled to Charleston and Savannah. No matter where you go grief follows you and not for the best. This was not a feel-good trip. I was numb to my surroundings and unable to appreciate anything. I became nostalgic for better days and faced homesickness. I was better off grieving at home.

We explored those towns and sometimes walked in silence and other times I forgot where I was visiting. I rented a car and wanted to drive forever. We drove from Charleston to Savannah on one long rural road filled with trees. I didn't know what life existed or where I was headed. My worries were traveling with me. I need to return but continued my committed trip. Life was hollow. My mom chose cremation and that created undue anxiety the entire time. We have to make these human choices since we are temporary on Earth. I hated the feeling of knowing her body would be gone forever. However, I understood death and accepted it as everyone's ending.

The pain was intensified when I got the phone call to pick up the ashes. That added a whole new layer to grief. It is understanding over and over that your loved one is gone. I was in the gardens of a visit to a plantation. We finished touring the premises and I was walking in sorrow and the story of when there was slavery added to my sorrow. I could relate to their pain while experiencing my pain. I empathized with that history while trying to give myself self-compassion.

The first month culminated in another hard day of sleeping most of the day. I was unaware of my surroundings and tripped on the pet water bowl in the kitchen. Realizing that it could have been fatal as I bumped the left side of my body and head on the floor. I heard my sister's words of "Are you okay, do you want me to call the paramedics?" I didn't know what hit me as I lie there numb from being numb. Perhaps my numbness protected me from being critically injured.

I drove myself to the ER and the waiting is always the hardest part. I got confused as to whether I am waiting for my mom or there for myself. I wanted to be given pain medication to numb my grief and the throbbing pain on my left side. The nurse asked me questions to ensure that I am cognizant. The question about, "Who is the President?" answered correctly made me aware that unfortunately I am present and no brain injury so far. I didn't care at this point as my grief magnified. I would take any news. I was sent home while refusing X-rays and the nurse from taking a blood test. The constant poking reminded me of caregiver visits.

The first intense month of grief was the beginning of a long journey toward healing. As stated in the beginning shortly thereafter another bout of grief entered my life.

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