Failing at Grief
I first wrote this at the end of December, only 3 and 1/2 weeks after it happened. In the few short weeks since writing, I've learned, felt, and
asked even more. Here, is how the concept of failing at grief started for me.
Overall, as human beings, we are plagued by self doubt, second guessing and the fear of failing. It’s innate. It’s programmed. We can fail at jobs, sports, friendships and marriages but I can’t help but wonder, can we fail at grief? (I hope you read that in your Carrie Bradshaw voice)
I truly don’t know. If it were someone else asking me this, I’d say, “of course not!” I would tell them they need to do whatever it is to survive and get through the day. Yet when it comes to myself, that self doubt and unease sets in. I feel like I’m failing at grief.
Most days, I can sit in front of someone and speak so matter of factly about Joe and the events that happened that day. I walked through the caskets, picked the memorial cards, picked out plots and a headstone, planned an entire mass of Christian burial all without shedding a single tear. Was I on autopilot? Probably. In denial? Definitely. I look back and wonder how the F I could complete these tasks seemingly so devoid of emotion. You start to question it. Is this normal? What does it say about me? I loved Joe with my whole heart, I’m heartbroken. Where are my endless tears?!
I assure you, at night and in the quiet moments those tears flow fiercely and it’s hard to breathe. The panic sets in and I question how I will survive to the next minute. Yet I seem to have just as many moments of feeling completely and totally numb. That is a side of grief I never saw coming and it’s a part I am really struggling with. I. Hate. The. Numb. It makes me feel confused, frustrated and doubting my love for Joe. How could I go through much of my day without tears and panic attacks? How could I sit in front of family and friends who are crying and keep my cheeks dry? It doesn’t make sense. I feel like I’m failing. Now, the rational side of me knows there is no doubt I love Joe with every fiber of my being but that built in self deprecating chip we humans seem to be born with makes me question it anyway. I feel like I’m failing at grief.
I get up, I shower, I go to work. It doesn’t mean the ache in my chest has gone away or the pitt in my stomach subsided. It doesn’t mean I don’t hear a song or drive passed a building and the memories and overwhelming emotions don’t come flooding through. But I do these things and a part of me wonders if it’s “normal.” I think movies, books and often society as a whole wraps up grief in a bitter but tidy little box of constant tears and immobility. And that absolutely occurs in many moments of my day. But grief is not one size fits all, there is no neat box to fit it in. I try to remember. Remember that how I grieve, how my feelings and emotions manifest, is perfectly OK. It’s been two months and it continues to be a constant battle of questioning myself, my emotions, the feeling of “I’m doing it wrong.”
I feel like I’m failing at grief.