Grief is complicated, guys. I mean, duh. Right? So I lost my dad TWENTY ONE years ago. To complications from cancer. A cancer where they gave him 6 months to live and he lived for 6 more years, I might add. (People wonder where I get my mental toughness from?! Haha!)
Anyways…Today is his birthday. He would have been 68 years old. At this point, I have been alive more years without him than with him. So. Weird. I usually get all reflective around his birthday or the anniversary of his death. Here is what has been running through my mind:
1.) Grief has NO. EXPIRATION. DATE. Repeat after me, “Grief has no expiration date.” Just because (fill in the blank) amount of time has passed, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel sad anymore! Do not feel guilty or ashamed about not “getting over it” or “working through it” in a certain amount of time.
2.) Find your people. Or person. The one(s) you can always go to for support, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen. If you don’t have this in your life, consider therapy. Therapy can offer a safe space for all of this, including working through the complexities of your grief.
3.) Grief doesn’t ever go away. It just becomes less in the center of your world with time and healing. Of course, the first year is SUPER. HARD. Yes. And the “firsts” without your loved one: first Thanksgiving, first vacation, first birthday. But also? Sometimes you can be brought back to your grief even as time gets farther and farther away from the loss. Like, every year, it makes me sad that I have the same pictures of my dad. And, MAN. The fashion back then? AWFUL. But seriously, it makes me realize how long it’s been without him, to see the same REAL PICTURES (picture of a picture on social media) year after year.
4.) You are allowed to be OKAY without the person you lost. You are allowed to move FORWARD in your life (notice I didn’t say move ON?). You are allowed to heal. You are allowed to laugh. You are allowed to love. You are allowed to have great days.
5.) Share the good memories with people who never knew your loved one. My kids never knew him. I became a parent long after he died (11 years later!). There are studies that show that sharing nostalgic stories of your childhood with your children can be associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety in them! I am NOT. KIDDING! I didn’t make this up. So even if your loved one wasn’t the St. Teresa, recount stories that you are fond of, with your offspring. You are helping their mental health in the long run!
6.) And finally. A loss is a loss. Whether it's the death of a family member, a pet, the loss of a friendship, transitioning in stages of life. Grief is valid when it feels like grief TO. YOU. No one can tell you what it should feel like for YOU. You do you, boo. And get support. No matter WHAT the circumstances.