Experience with Death
Death is not new to me. I’ve been exposed to death from an early age. I come from a large family and a small community. I’ve attended countless funerals of family and friends over the years since many family and friends have preceded me in death. Where I come from, we honor our dead and comfort the grieving with a gathering together, a viewing of the body, a funeral, a cemetery service, and closing at midday with a gathering of family for a meal.
Finding Your “New Normal” After Death
There are many stages of grief, but each death is unique. After the burial (or cremation), each death requires the bereaved to figure out their “new normal” that does not include the deceased’s presence in their lives. Sometimes the “new normal” bears a strong resemblance to the “old normal” and sometimes it’s a completely different path—depending on the impact of the death on the bereaved. Obviously a distant cousin whom I rarely saw isn’t going to have the same impact as the grandmother whom I frequently called on the phone and of whom I have special childhood memories.
Raw Emotions of Grief
This last week I was reminded how death can cause one’s emotions to become extra raw. I thought it would be fun for Kent and me to see the new Disney movie Finding Dory. I thought a children’s movie would give us a nice break from reality and maybe lift our energy. Ugh. Was I wrong! I forgot how raw my emotions are. Grief can strip you bare so you feel EVERYTHING. I basically have no protective outer shell or even a blanket to insulate me from the outside world right now. Being very sensitive and empathic by nature, these emotions are all the more intense. I had thought (or maybe hoped…) that my grief would actually dull my senses, and it did for a while during the initial shock, but now it seems I’m in a period of intense feeling. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that my emotions were so raw until I was in a dark movie theatre sobbing because poor Dory had a disability that was debilitating for her and she was separated from her parents. The world that is not sensitive nor empathic probably doesn’t understand how painful it can be to empathize with a little blue animated fish and extrapolate in my mind without effort how she must have felt as she traversed her trials of forgetfulness, losing her parents, being lost, being alone, etc. My natural tendencies to help others extended to Dory as I hoped that the writers would hurry up and get through the “all is lost” aspect of the film and just focus on the happy ending.
The Purpose of Raw Emotion
I think sometimes the stripping away of the layer of emotional insulation or protection during grief is a way to force us to deal with grief instead of allowing (or sometimes forcing) our grief to tunnel underground. I don’t need to be a psychiatrist to understand that my sadness for Dory was sadness for Kent and me. Kent’s Dad died. Dory didn’t know where her parents were. My father-in-law’s sudden death is emotionally painful for me and our family and it’s going to take a while for that pain to “scab over” a little bit so that it doesn’t hurt so bad.
Being Gentle With Myself
In the meantime, what do I do when the emotion of grief is so raw that I can’t sit through a children’s movie without crying? I’m grateful to be in a position that not many people are able to avail themselves. I’ve taken a sabbatical from my work and have declined most obligations so I can focus all my energy on supporting Kent and my mother-in-law and healing my own grief. Most days I don’t have to interact with the outside world unless I desire to do so. This is how I’ve chosen to take care of myself during this time of grief.
I’m sure eventually my protective outer shell will regenerate so I can more easily deal with being sensitive in an insensitive world. In the meantime, I will nurture myself and Kent as we heal from this devastating loss.
Find Ways to Be Gentle With Yourself
Every person needs to figure out for themselves what is needed during the time of raw emotional grief following a death.
I know from my work as a medium and also my experience with so many previous losses that during the initial stages of grief it’s important to take extra good care of yourself.
- Choose foods that support your body and drink plenty of water.
- Focus on self-care such as massage and acupuncture to help flush out the toxins of any bad food choices, stress, and emotional upheaval.
- Do activities that bring you joy: sing, dance, read, walk in nature, watch a funny sitcom, go to a movie, etc. Focus on doing activities that bring you joy. Incorporate those activities in your life daily if possible, but at a minimum weekly. Keep in mind that while you’re grieving, activities that brought you joy before the death may make you sad or have no affect on your mood. That’s normal. Do those activities that currently or used to bring you joy, anyway. Eventually, you’ll feel joy again.
- Ask for help. Caveat: Choose “sure bets”. If you have people in your life who are “flaky” or don’t always follow through on their commitments, you may want to avoid asking those people for help right now. Keep in mind that most people are busy and sometimes they let you down. Unfortunately, during a period of raw emotional grief, you may be more sensitive than usual in regard to disappointment.
As I always say, if you’re going through your own grief, please be gentle with yourself. Take good care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to grieve in your own unique way.