Grief, What Is It? How do I do it?

How do I grieve? What does grief look like? These are some of the questions I asked myself.

My father’s passing really made me re-think life. This life-changing event shook me to the very core that it made me question who I am and who I am becoming.

Then there are the different emotions I went through that seemed more like phases rather than simple feelings. When asked what is grief, I used to relate it to sadness. However, I found out it was so much more.

Grief, in my experience, is a complex state when I felt a multitude of emotions, such as sadness, anger, denial, and regret, as I long for someone who is no longer present in my life. I also went through the pains of letting go and unbecoming the person I was when a certain person was still present. It pushed me beyond what was once my comfort zone.

There was no time limit when going through the emotions. At one point, it made me assess the kind of person I am becoming and unbecoming.

I felt all the redundancies in my life. I became anxious but also started not to sweat the small stuff, because I started recognizing them for what they really are. Just small stuff. I started living one day at a time and living without a purpose or goal. Not even a set schedule as to what I want to accomplish a week or month after, something that was relatively new to my system. I felt different and found myself going back to my truth. I started rediscovering who I truly am at my very core. Not the person defined by my family, people I am associated with, or what I do for work or as a hobby.

I started working on stuff, based on my own values and identity, as well as on my own pace.

I had my first encounter with grieve July 2018. I didn’t know at that time that I was already in the process of longing for what my life was. A life with my father being the strong foundation of our family and the person we all depended on.

My grieving was in forms of denial, escape, and coping. My father became very ill so fast and by that time, we already witnessed the effects of all the four strokes on him. He spoke less, sometimes not at all, and if he did, it would just be a handful of words. His comprehension went down the hill.

My escape and forms of denial were alcohol, work, and going out almost every night. I did this so that when I came home, I’d be dead tired to even think about what was really going on. I didn’t neglect my duties to him or to my family. I would go straight home from work to spend time with him. But when it was time to rest, I’d go out to drink or to talk to people. There was a time I would sleep for just barely 4 hours. Just enough rest so that I could function to work the next day. And this cycle continued way after my father passed away.

This habit stopped come October because I had ended my 3-month contract with my employer and looked for some freelance work just to have more flexibility of time. It was during this time when I finally faced the harsh reality that my father was gone. It made me realize all the escape and denial I did that I just decided to stop it all.

During this time, I encountered depression. I would often lie flat on my belly and stay like that for hours. I stood up to go to the bathroom and eat a bit. It was not as simple as sadness or longing for my father. There were pain and hopelessness. Extreme heartbreak and not caring anymore about my own life.

If I could avoid social encounters of any kind then, I would. I hid this to my mom of course. I tried to act as normal as I could since I didn’t want to add to her worries and sadness.

I got through this phase with the help of good friends who would force me to leave the house and see them. They would often ask for “help”, they don’t really need. But just so I could find some sort of achievable task for the day. I would just say yes to people pulling me out of the house and not caring so much where I would go or what I would do. They were patient with me and listened to my blabbing. I didn’t need any advice, just someone to talk to and someone who will listen.

Anger and regret followed and I am still going through them at the moment and I’m not sure when I will be done. The only difference now is I am recognizing them as they come. I am able to put them into words instead of just abstract ideas and feelings that I thought nobody would understand. I guess I can call that as an improvement.

My biggest learning on grief is there really is no timeline and that I just have to allow things to come. I learned to respect the feelings and my space at the moment as they pass. I don’t need to rush it. Instead, just bask in it while I can and say goodbye like a familiar friend when it’s time to move forward. I’m still working on these things, until I begin a new normal for my life. Maybe only then, can I say I am really ready for what lies ahead, just maybe.

Until then, I continue to learn more about myself and my own capacity to feel and heal.

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