Immediately following my losses, I was violently reduced to unrecognizable pieces of myself. In a state of shock, I was forced into, what I call, SURVIVAL MODE; doing whatever it takes to survive. My life was totally transformed in an instant. There was no preparation for what was happening to me as a result of my loved ones’ departure. Part of me felt as if I had it all together. I had to be strong for those around me; I had to be strong for myself. There was a part of me that felt like I knew myself well enough, and it was only a matter of time before I would begin to feel like my “old self” again. Part of me was scared and nervous. Part of me was excited for what good would come; I was thoroughly convinced that someone could not experience something so traumatic and have nothing positive come from it.
I had just lost a dear man that influenced my life tremendously throughout my upbringing. He was my, figurative, right leg; one of the people I was dependent on for guidance, free of judgement. He was a source of an intense amount of love that isn’t easily found. The words he had were simple; they were real, honest, and spoken out of his devotion to teach and uplift. He empowered the women in his life and rendered us with solid values. He discouraged complacency and taught us to be people that never settled.
Only ten days later, the man I was intending on spending the rest of my life with… the man that, in my mind, was supposed to anchor me and keep me grounded; my, figurative, left leg. Gone! Just like that. NEVER coming back. NEVER. That word took me the longest to process. NEVER. How? He was just here this morning! NEVER? He kissed me goodbye when he left for work, as he always did. NEVER. He told me he loved me and that he would be home in the evening. NEVER! Really?! Now, my left leg has been severed too! I can’t stand without legs. I can’t finish this journey without being able to walk the path! PANIC set in. But wait! You can’t go yet! I’m not done with you! We had our entire future ahead of us. The world was ours! We had a plan! I NEED YOU! I NEED YOU for strength! I NEED YOU for happiness. This can’t be happening. Shattered. Shocked. Striped of nearly everything I knew my life to be. Now what? Some of my greatest fears had come to fruition. What do I do? Who am I without these people?
The blur of time between experiencing these traumas and it actually registering that life was NEVER going to be the same is still somewhat fuzzy as I try to recollect. Maybe that part of the blur is our brain’s way of assisting survival. I know that I began to identify as a shell of a person; the love I once had had been hollowed out and sent off to wherever they went. I sat and watched as cars drove by. I watched people smile and laugh. I watched as they carried on with their lives. I wondered how their world could keep going when I felt like mine had come to a complete halt. The future plans and dreams I had were completely destroyed.
My SURVIVAL MODE inspired life could not accurately portray who I really was, or am now for that matter. While I have grown tremendously from some of the experiences I had following loss, others severely humbled me. These humbling experiences made my grieving journey more difficult, and generated more internal sadness and shame as well as intensified the blur in my life. I continued to grow with these experiences, but was angry at what I was allowing myself to become. I could have avoided these self-inflicted blows; I was careless. The heaviness of guilt that attached itself like a leech, I carried with me for quite a while. When I “came to”, I looked back and saw a hazy shadow of a past… my past. A past I had to take responsibility for. I felt as if I was wearing the dread and sadness on my face. I felt that there was a label on my forehead that said “I’m LOST.”, and that I was transparently stumbling through my own life.
I, eventually, realized the strong dependency I had on others for MANY things, specifically strength and happiness. Once I realized my co-dependency, I began taking steps to find strength and happiness in myself. One of the most important steps I took was making sure that I was surrounded by people who loved me, genuinely loved me. I call this PEOPLE INVENTORY; this is keeping only those people that are positive influences and removing the rest (*SIDE-NOTE: You don’t have to loose someone to do PEOPLE INVENTORY; it is healthy to remove people that are not positive in your life no matter what your life experiences are). I wanted people that could help to cultivate strength and happiness in me. I cannot imagine where I would be today if I did not have the friends and family I have. I can say, I don’t think I would still be here and I certainly would not be writing this.
It is important that we take care of ourselves when we feel we are at our weakest. Part of taking care of ourselves is evaluating our current relationships (a.k.a. PEOPLE INVENTORY). Try not to get swept up in the blur. We have a tendency to get caught up in the daily comings and goings; the drama and sadness; the hurt and pain that we forget to take care of ourselves and what it means to live. What it means to be ALIVE. We might numb our feelings to create or continue fueling the blur to avoid feeling what we need to… trust me, I know plenty about doing this. It does not help, and it only prolongs the painful part of the process. If you find yourself in a blur, or doing things to numb your feelings and postpone sadness (because, let’s face it, that is all you are doing), seek professional help if it is available to you, or a person you know can help. Don’t forget that your life is still in motion, and time is passing at a rapid rate. While it may feel like life is not worth living at times, you are here for a reason. Your life is yours and you matter to others more than you will ever know. Another part of taking care of ourselves is cultivating the relationships we currently have.
Take a breath. Did you appreciate that breath? Look around you. Do you appreciate those around you? Having strong, meaningful relationships is a huge part of taking care of ourselves. It is important not to be afraid to love for fear of losing again. I struggled (and, admittedly, still struggle) with this. The pain we feel when we loose someone is only a testament to their life and what they meant to us. We helped give their life meaning. We helped give them a purpose; just as they did, and may continue to do, for us. What better gift can we give to a deserving person, other than our love? Don’t wait for someone to be gone to say nice things about them. Tell them every chance you get how much you love and appreciate them. They should hear it while they are here. Show them you love them with your actions. If someone does something to upset you, take a moment and ask yourself: “Is this really that big of a deal?” If you can’t answer with a solid “YES”, let it go. Hug them instead. Hold on to the positive, and let go of the negative. NEVER is a long time to not see someone again.