Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim- Vicki Harrison
I never knew how true those words were; until I lost close family members in death. There are days, months even, when you seem fine and you actually convince yourself that maybe time really does heal all wounds! Up until you come across a song, a memory, one of their favorite movies, something so small that triggers back the painful memories, which remind you of the wound that time doesn’t necessarily seem to heal.
I did a daddy/ daughter photo shoot a few months back, and I remember how eager I was to finish the shoot and go back home. At the time, I didn’t know why I felt so uncomfortable with the shoot, until recently when I decided to edit the photos. When I got to capture that moment between a father and daughter, and saw the look in her daughter’s eyes; the gaze that assured her that she was safe and protected in her father’s arms and that nothing would ever separate the bond between them, the tears came flooding down. I kept telling myself to get it together, it’s been 10 years since my dad passed away, I shouldn’t be acting like this, but I realized that when it comes to grief, you don’t have a time frame or expiry date to get over it.
Allow Yourself Time to Grieve
In our African culture, expressing our emotions has never been one of our greatest points, especially when it comes to grief; often than not, people expect you to be over it after a certain duration has passed. When in actual sense, we all grieve differently, some may appear to be okay within a few weeks, and some may need months, sometimes years to get back to a normal daily routine, hence why you should never feel like you need to be okay after a certain time period has elapsed; it takes times to get to that point where you get by without waking up feeling like there’s a dark cloud hovering over you.
Talk It Out
As simple as it sounds, it’s never easy to put into words, the pain that you’re going through, but it helps to talk it out with someone who understands you. Even if you feel like you are blabbering on and not making sense, confide in a close friend; write it down or pray about it, it really does make a huge difference.
Embrace Your Emotions
When the waves come crashing down, the best way to deal with it, is by riding that wave; don’t hold back the tears, if you need to cry, let it all out. If you feel angry or hurt, learn how to embrace those emotions. Don’t suppress it in; allow yourself to be in that moment.
Find a Coping Mechanism
I remember after my dad died, I buried myself in poetry. I would write and write until I felt like the ink bled on paper! I found a way of transferring the pain I felt to something else, which made it bearable. It’s good to find a coping mechanism that helps; be it a sport, learning a new skill, exercise; basically any positive mechanism that will help you get by.
Don’t Take Your Friends On a Guilt-trip
One thing about grief, we always feel like our life has come to a standstill, yet everyone else seems to be moving on with life. Sometimes you might feel angry, and wonder why your close friends seem to be enjoying life, yet you’re engulfed in a dark pit that you can’t seem to get out off; we forget that it’s our life that has changed, not theirs. We might make them feel guilty by how we react around them, or what we say. I remember for a long while, I would deliberately be late for weddings, just so I could avoid seeing the bride walk down the aisle, clutched in her father’s arms. I had to come to terms with it and accept the fact that despite how I felt, I needed to be there for the people I love no matter what.
Granted we all grieve in various ways and have a way of dealing with it in our own way; there’s no manual or instructions that we can follow, that will make it all better at once. Grief is like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly; that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but somehow you still learn to dance with the limp!