Normally, this column is reserved for an issue, generally political, that I feel needs to be addressed in a public forum.
This week I have decided to delve into something personal in the hopes someone can relate and can benefit from what I have learned.
On June 7, I lost my grandfather after he battled lung cancer for the better part of seven years.
He had requested no funeral, no obituary, no celebration of life.
All he wanted was to be cremated and thrown into Lake Michigan from the Chicago shoreline where he had spent so much time as a kid.
It felt like someone had sent me adrift in the middle of the ocean and much like the water, it ebbed and flowed.
Sometimes the grief was so bad that I was curled up in a ball in the darkness of my room.
Other times I felt like a weight was lifted and I could go out into the world with no problems.
I cried initially, but after that, I threw myself into my part-time job as a line cook at a bar in Easton and tried to keep my mind off of the trouble in the back of my brain.
Pro tip: don’t do that.
It came back and bit me harder once I ran out of work to occupy my mind.
You need to talk to people about what you are feeling even if it is hard to put into words.
There are five stages of grief but it is not as clear cut and defined as the 1969 book, “On Death and Dying” make it out to be.
On any given day, I oscillated between the five stages depending on my mood and it felt like muddied water in my brain where I would go to remember something or say something and my thoughts would just evaporate as suddenly as they appeared.
What made the grief feel even more strange was my complicated relationship with the man who raised me for the better part of 20 years.
He was a jaded alcoholic but he also took me in when no one else would.
As a result, as I processed my grief, I felt conflicted because he had hurt a lot of people but had helped me.
What I learned amidst the confusion is that no one person is all good or all bad and that the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Also, I spent way too many long nights drinking.
Pro tip: don’t do this.
Even though the emotions themselves may seem unmanageable, it is better to face them sober and with a clear mind.
What made the grieving more bearable as time passed was learning how to break my day down into small tasks that were easily achieved.
As a friend explained it to me, the key is doing the next right thing.
For example, if a goal for the day was to be productive around the house, I broke the tasks down into small steps like getting dressed for the day.
Under normal circumstances, it may seem mundane, but in the throes of grief and depression, even the smallest chores seemed to be next to impossible.
The best recommendation I have through all of this is to communicate with people.
It’s easy to shut the world out and sleep for hours and block out the world.
Keep talking, talk to friends, talk to family, talk to a therapist or a person in your religious organization.
It doesn’t need to be directly about the grief of loss, but you may find something out in the midst of a conversation that may help you going forward.
For example, I was talking to a friend and all of the sudden I blurted out, “I feel angry and left behind” and it helped me understand what I was really feeling behind the grief.
The moral of the story: there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I promise it’s not a train.
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