My sister passed away 6 months ago and the process of grief has come with plenty of surprises. I want to share “20 things I wish someone would’ve told me about grief” with the world so those going through it understand more about this intense experience and healing journey.
1. Become overly attached to those whose love feels soothing
I’ve become quite needy with my boyfriend. I’ve found myself having strong emotional reactions to changes in plans, especially those involving not seeing each other when we were supposed to. Sometimes while going through grief we become dependent on the emotional support some people can provide. When this gets in any way threatened, strong reactions may appear.
If this is the case for you, remember not to place so much responsibility on to your loved ones. Be grateful for their support but also seek ways to cope with the death of your loved one without putting too much pressure on your relationships.
2. You might become extremely resistant of some people who remind you of your loved one
There’s a bunch of super close friends of mind that I have no longer been able to connect to. Maybe it is because they bring it all back to me, because they remind me of my sister or because they represent something unconsciously I don’t want to deal with. Whatever the case, I find myself making plans, making a real effort only to be defeated by the intense resistance that makes me cancel plans, every single time.
My suggestion would be, to be honest with them and explain that you’re perhaps not ready for reconnection with certain friends.
3. You might experience a lot of anger due to grief
As a yoga teacher and healer, my usual mindset is pretty uplifting and filled with gratitude. After the loss of my sister, I find myself being very angry, having uncontrollable negative thoughts, tons of judgment towards others and a general sense of anger towards the world. I find myself being very sarcastic and bitter.
I try not to be too hard on myself and give myself permission to feel whatever needs to come through. I try to channel the anger by going to the gym and writing, instead of giving everyone a piece of my temporarily sour mind.
4. You might feel tired all the time
Grief manifests as physical symptoms as well. I find myself exhausted most of the time. It feels like depression, like having no energy to function and feeling dragged across daily responsibilities. I feel great some days and completely depleted others. Those days staying in bed seems like the only choice but making an effort to go outdoors, to the gym or near nature really helps. It doesn’t go away completely but a breath of fresh air can help you accept it all as part of the process.
5. You might feel like a part of a VIP club
I feel like no matter whom I try to talk to, very few people understand what grief feels like. I would like people to understand that just as depression, grief doesn’t necessarily mean you are sad and missing the person. Sometimes it feels like a mental haze, physical exhaustion or a bubbling of uncontrollable emotions. It is a process with a life of its own and all we can do is be very patient. Most people will not understand, trying to explain becomes very frustrating and people tend to say inappropriate things. Be patient with those trying to help, they may just not know how.
6. You might feel fear of being broken beyond repair
After my sister’s death, I began experiencing a lot of different symptoms I didn’t fully understand. First, the painful mental pictures of her illness came back as flashbacks to me and PTSD was very present (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Then symptoms of depression, anxiety episodes and sudden outburst of anger appeared. I have found myself researching tons of things, all leading towards grief. I have felt a lot of fear of never being able to be the same after all experienced. I will definitely never be the same but I want to think it will hurt less and less as time goes by.
7. You will feel crazy sometimes
8. You might accidentally forget you’re grieving and compare yourself with those who aren’t
I have found myself looking at my yogi friends Instagrams and feeling completely left behind. I see people eating healthy, doing yoga, surfing, traveling, having so much energy and innocence and feel like my hands are tied and that reality is just not available for me right now. We need to understand grief will require patience. Sometimes all you’ll want to do is eat a ton of ice cream and stay home watching Netflix. One day, I’m sure I’ll be back to my high vibe habits but for now, I will seek comfort in the healthiest ways I can. Even if that is well below my previous standards.
9. Channeling energy towards work and inspired projects really helps
Having a lot of free time is a window to spiral down, in my opinion. I have found making the effort to exercise and focus on work, has really help me keep a sense of normalcy.
10. Life goes on
No matter how you are feeling, bills need to get paid. No matter what triggers come up for you, rent is still going to be due. It is easy to fall into a victim mentality when there’s no one around you that can help you with this but at the end of the day, we need to love ourselves enough and honor the fact that we are still alive for a reason. Making the effort to keep the pieces of our life in order will give us space and freedom to grieve and live more comfortably.
11. Social Isolation
I don’t know where this comes from exactly, but I don’t feel like seeing anyone from my past. I have allowed certain people to stay close but 90% of my friends I have pushed away or created distance from. The idea of catching up with someone I haven’t seen in a while is excruciating because that means I need to talk about it and tell them how it all went down. People tend to ask incredibly insensitive questions and say ridiculous things when they’re trying to connect with someone going through grief. I have found it easier to isolate and I trust allowing people in again will be a natural process.
12. Easy and regular activities might become really difficult.
13. You might feel embarrassed about your changing emotions
Grief will make you move through many emotions. You will not always understand how these are stemming from the grieving process but more often than not, they are. Expressing your emotions allow for natural and genuine intimacy in your relationships. Even if it’s hard, it will create a bridge between you and your loved ones.
14. It might be hard to trust others at first
When your emotional bandwidth has been saturated by grief, it feels like you can’t afford to have another thing go wrong. Therefore you might find yourself becoming more controlling or very careful about whom you let in.
15. Grief’s timeline and schedule will push other timelines out of balance
You might want to stick to a weekly schedule, you might have appointments planned and you may have a routine you want to stick to. All of your plans will fall second in the face of grief. I have found in my case grief appears unannounced and takes me out of any ability to fulfill my desired schedule. When it appears, I allow it to bring in the emotions that need to come through me, I cancel my plans and give it the space it is asking me for.
16. It is possible to be completely messed up and at the same time be completely healthy
It is healthy to experience all the aspects of grief and unhealthy to avoid them. Therefore the healthiest thing you can do is allowing yourself to be a mess for a while.
17. You might become very quiet
Before, I used to be very open. I would share my thoughts emotions and inspirations online and feel connected to my community while doing so. After my sister died, I feel like I have literally nothing to say. I feel as though I speak a language very few understand. I feel like a lot of people resist and dislike the idea of death and what I feel is not pleasant for anybody except those going through the grieving process.
18. Grief has physical symptoms
Headaches, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, muscle ache, skin rashes and all sorts of physical manifestations are direct experiences of grief.
19. You might find yourself completely emotionally unavailable towards others
The idea of congratulating all of my friends on their birthdays, answering all emails and texts, going to celebrations and events has become absolutely impossible for me. I constantly feel like I’m disappointing people because I keep getting invited to things, I keep saying no to everyone and a lot of guilt appears. While going through grief, I have found I need to be there for me, before being there for others. Lots of people will not get this. They will make demands on you, get angry at you, distance themselves from you and you need to be ok with it. Sometimes you just have to prioritize your healing over the feelings of others. Those who are real connections will understand.
20. Learn to distribute your energy accordingly
Somedays you will feel great, try to make the most of those days productivity wise so when the down days appear you can afford to lay in bed, feel your feelings and sleep tons if you need to.
I lost my only child 14 years ago and I totally understand what you have written. He was 27 years old, a graduate of Arizona State University and was heading into a great career. I was a single mom and raised him myself. He was my best friend. The world does not stop but I know he is and always will be with me. I still talk to him and hear his voice.
Your sister will always be with you. Stay strong and know that she is just a whisper away and always by your side.
You are an inspiration to others and have a beautiful gift.
I am sorry you had this experience of loss of you sister. I too lost an older brother, to whom I was very close, to colon cancer. Your insights at the time would have been extremely helpful, but I too managed to find my way. Several years later when my mother passed, she was my safety net in life, everything changed and I became determined to transform myself to survive. Part of this long journey has been to learn how to reconnect with transcended loved ones, communicating and experiencing them as they are now. Such a gift of Spirit to have them once again a part of my life, knowing they are with me and their love continues has proven to be a tremendous source of healing as well as guidance. Growth never ceases as long as we welcome it. We are never alone and understanding and support are simply a request away. Blessings to you for your willingness to share your life journey to benefit the world.
Katie, I just read you 20 ways to grieve!! I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister! I too lost my sister to an illness She was 39 years old, she was my world but I know one day I will see her again!! She would have been 65 this year!! Thank you for sharing your grieving experience with us and I can relate to everyone of the 20 steps to heal. I always tell people that are grieving to just let it flow, you unfortunately have to go through the painful process to be able to let yourself feel it in order to heal your body mind and spirit it is all normal to feel depressed angry and all the other 20 things you have listed.! Thank you again for sharing!! You will heal and you feel normal but we never forget and remembering all the wonderful memories that you shared with your loved ones that can make you smile!! Just writing this is making me feel better!! I should be an expert on it by now, My brother passed away also at 50 , he was in a car accident he would have been 67 this year, and then in 2018 I lost my mother to lung cancer ,she was my best friend. But she did live a full life she was 88. God rest her soul, and then just last month I lost my boyfriend to of 15years. This was harder for me in some ways , than losing my mom! But I can tell you I will rise up again and be me again!! I feel some day I will be with all my loved ones together forever.
God Bless!! I would have never wrote all this without your support from this reading!! Thank you Katie!! Love Laurie!