The Honest Truth About Grieving

Hello Again Guys! To all who are reading this, please know that this is my opinion and experience with grief. Also, If you are dealing with pain and suffering please reach out to someone. It can be anyone that you feel comfortable talking to even if you are one thousand percent scared that they won’t understand. Just know, you are never alone in this. For some reason when we have pain or when we deal with trauma we tend to leave all of it unspoken. Topics like these aren’t the happiest. It is hard to read, think, and talk about. Since being through a nightmare of my own, I have grown to see how keeping things in, can end up hurting you more.

So here I go…. I am sharing my personal story with all the not- so- great details. I will start with this. Loss Sucks, Period. Like, Completely. I feel it’s not talked about enough. My intention isn’t to make you feel sorry for me, But to give you something to relate to because knowing how someone else can learn and get through emotional pain is healing. We all have different paths but sometimes very alike struggles. Why not try to help make someone else’s journey less bumpy, by the insight you have gained.

Diving right in… Did you ever wonder what your life would look like if you lost someone close to you? Do you ever think to yourself for a moment, how would my life be without my loved ones here? What if they were taken away suddenly? Try and Imagine it. The deep pain you would feel. The sadness that is so overwhelming. You can try to picture it but you would not exactly know what it would really be like. If you can not relate to this, I’m happy you have never had to think this way, and so glad you have not experienced it.

As a child, I would hear stories of people losing loved ones early on in life. People whom I had never met or extended family members I did not know too closely. I would try to remind myself how grateful I was for everyone in my life at those times. The truth is… I didn’t know how to even do that.

I tried, but back then I could not understand the impact it had. I never realized how their lives were affected. How one minute they had a “normal” family and the next they had that “thing” about them. Well that is what I call it. I do not know how else to describe it. That event that forever changed them. The thing that everyone will remember, the “after.”

In my “before” family days I would sometimes wish that my family had something different about us. I know that no family is perfect or normal, and you only see parts from the outside. The truth is we all go way deeper than that, especially when there is tragedy you have delt with. Well I wondered what it meant to have others knowing who I was and about my “thing.” I can see this outline of how people knew us and that seemed just so average. I had thought anything different was a good kind of attention. Well I hate that I ever thought this, knowing now that the pain of this kind is nothing to ever wonder about or even unknowingly wish for.

I think the reason I imagined this so much was because I wanted to understand how it felt to go through something tough. I have always cared for others feelings above my own, almost always. Which can be a good and bad thing. It makes sense that I needed some way to connect their pain to something I could actually feel to really empathize. Even though no two people can truly have the same exact pain, I know now how to relate to people with similar experiences to mine.

Jumping ahead… As I got a little older, I stopped questioning this thought. I am ashamed I ever let that fear into my head. I learned too much about loss and grief in the years following this. My childhood thoughts are now questions that I have answers to.

I’ve been hearing about death so much lately. Which has now caused me to think about it a lot more than I like to. It seems like with every person passing we get the devastating story and we all speak our peace about their lives. How they lived long or too short and that we are praying for their families. And, of course, Saying how much they will be missed. This isn’t bad or wrong, I just feel it’s become way to familiar. The desperate prayers, and confusion of why they were taken away from us.

It’s like one minute there is exciting news and a bright and happy future for us, and out of nowhere comes this dark cloud that brings a terrible storm into our lives. When death comes it takes over almost every part of you, it is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. If you have experienced a close death you might have some similar feelings to mine.

When my “after” hit, one thing I could not understand for many months was the uncertainty of what I would be feeling, every moment of everyday. My life as a whole didn’t make sense all I could feel was each passing second.

This storm comes and goes as it wishes. With every minute that goes on you wonder to yourself when will it hit next? How long do you have until the feeling in your body goes numb again? That my friend, is grief.

I tried to not believe in it at first. I thought I could get through on my own. That I would be strong enough to cover up every feeling and get passed it quickly and unchanged. I wanted to be my normal self, and could not accept the truth, that this girl would never be the same.

I did not expect how real it was.

It sneaked up with an brutal coldness and slamming weight toppling down on me. There is a hole that is left inside you, and it aches. It actually physically feels so real. It takes so much out of you. When you try and fill it up to make it stop, it pulls you down. It changes you completely, making you feel the empty space that won’t go away.

There were good days and great weeks. Then one day you find yourself angry, sad, hurt and alone. All at once it hits you. It is so hard to keep ahead of, unable to anticipate, or be stopped.

I had to learn one day, one break down at a time what MY grief was like. What it made me feel and how the heck I could fight it.

My story includes not just me but many friends and family around me who were affected in my brothers passing. In some ways it made us all weak, but somehow we were strong because we were together. When I think back, individually everyone had unique ways of dealing with their grief. Each person has a pace of healing, different from the next. Unfortunately, we cannot fix the pain for anyone but ourselves. For when you don’t know what to say to each other, saying I love you and just being there is a enormous help.

We slowly caught onto the routine of life at some point in the 1st year. It was a zombie year. I was a junior in high school and I really can’t explain to you much other than that. I got up and did the things I needed to. School and work kept me occupied, it forced me to pick myself up and keep going.

I went to group meetings with others dealing with loss. It gave me a reason to talk about it and actually realize that this event changed me and my life. After a few months I was busy with day to day things and it just didn’t fit in the schedule anymore.

I continued on in a school group the next year. It wasn’t very often but I would try to make it there because after just 5 minutes of being in that room I felt understood. A place where others didn’t stare at me and look sorry for me. Where I didn’t have to wonder what they were thinking. They were the same as me and could talk about it openly. It was somewhere that I felt I could actually speak about it and it wasn’t embarrassing to explain. They all had something to relate to and that was the best and only feeling I could grasp in those days.

The best thing for me was being surrounded by such a loving family and meaningful friendships. I might not have realized it at the time but without others around me being themselves, I can see it being way harder to have a somewhat healthy lifestyle as I worked through my sentence. Yea, I mean like a prison sentence.

It felt like some sort of joke. Was everyone else really having as much fun as it seemed or was I really that sad all the time. I mean did high school get worse all of a sudden? No…. I think the change was me. Every joy or happy thing that was a big deal to everyone in high school at the time, I just could not feel it. I felt trapped in my head. Not allowing myself to feel the good, although I faked it well and sometimes I even believed myself.

I’m grateful I got to live out a normal-ish teenage experience. At least that’s what anyone who didn’t know me would think. The most exciting years were ahead and at 16 it was all too much. It was a difficult time. I wouldn’t expect anything else in my circumstances. Back then I was hard on myself and mostly my grief came out as anger. I was angry at my brother, my living family, teachers, the world, and worst myself.

I hated the fact that I had to grow up and all I could think about was how I lost my brother before he became 18. This shattered me. Every single birthday I was reminded how I was alive and he wasn’t living too. For all who don’t know, we had the same birth day two years apart. Every year we celebrated together. We still do… but it is much harder to picture him now that he’s in heaven. I felt at times guilty, and wouldn’t let myself celebrate my accomplishments. Anything I did it didn’t feel like it had enough purpose. I knew I needed to change this way I was thinking, and dealing with my grief.

The sad times we have bring out all the messy, depressing realities of the situation. How to break out of those moods is very difficult.

This is where I started.

I tried to read books, look through pictures, listen to music, go out for walks, sit outside and look at the stars. Something that would help me feel anything. For anyone it would be easy to become addicted to those types of things that help numb you. Substances, toxic friendships, self doubt, or habits that will slowly break you down and make your hurting worse. Putting off the pain doesn’t actually make you stronger. Fear, it makes you uncomfortable, but it is there for you to face.

We need to fight those emotions and let ourselves feel the bad and the hurt so we can pick up and continue into all the good that surrounds us. When you stop feeling the worst you forget what any emotion is. I did this for quite awhile, I think I stopped noticing what mattered to me and lost things I really cared about.

I thought I was doing okay. Until I realized I was in too much pain, it was taking too long for me to let go. I spent nights just trying to ignore my situation. Don’t get me wrong you need to live your life and think of other things. But when you hide that completely from your mind it’s not going to help you.When you blame yourself for things you can’t control you can’t move forward. You have to forgive.

There is so much going on it can be hard to see. When you’re stuck in your head the only thing you need is to let those emotions out. This is what I would tell myself to do. Just start talking, praying, writing, or singing along to something. Do it until the words start pouring out. Push yourself through that pain and get into that new routine, of dealing with it. This will save you time, energy, and confusion. Find the activities that help you distract your mind while not harming yourself emotionally or physically. I finally found out the things I could handle when I was feeling down. Many times I’d do the wrong thing like sitting in the dark and letting my thoughts take over. Eventually I got a pattern and could predict my triggers. I’d find the things that made me feel better and knew when it was time to let the words out, not only to myself but a friend or family member.

For over five years I struggled until I learned how to use my voice. To actually say my feelings out loud. To make sense of them. It made a huge difference. That might sound so easy but it wasn’t. Trying to find words to relate to your thinking is so difficult. You have days when you are doing okay and one small thing can bring you right back down. You will eventually find out why, it might take more than one attempt but at some point you realize what your grief shows up like. If your thoughts don’t make sense and you get moody, then keep an eye out for those times. Once you do you will find out what is truly bothering your heart. You will hopefully work through that, maybe not alone but it’s a place to begin.

The next thing that saved my world, was the fact I believed the day would come where I could breathe again. All I needed was hope. Keeping the faith that you will get there. Believing in yourself as much as everyone else is believing in you.

Never forget that your family and friends love you. Remember that it is okay and normal to feel the hurt. Your hurting because you cared. You loved so deeply and then they were gone. Death is a subject no one has answers to. Let me tell you I have questions too. They keep coming and never stop. They are gone and left you behind on an island with no escape.
Where are they, are they okay? Voices in your head cloud your mind. You can’t find the answers and you do not have a place to search. It’s hard to find a way to close the door and lock it. To not keep entering in with all the endless questions that won’t leave you alone.

Its crazy to say this but after about year 6 I gained my freedom. I’m not saying my grieving is over. But my healing was now in the making. True healing. My heart was accepting all the past and able to keep up with the present. The fear that drove me insane day after day faded. It’s truly a blessing to feel like this now. There were days, months, years, when I just prayed that no one had to feel that same way I did. I hoped for a way out from that storm I was living in. I was still alive, I had many good times, I loved and laughed but I had much pain in my heart and felt like I was imprisoned by myself. I couldn’t find the way to let myself out.

I still don’t know exactly what made me ready to set those days behind me. I think it starts with time. It’s going to take that, however long you let it. You are only a prisoner to grief as long as you let yourself be. You can not rush it but with each step you take forward you can push yourself through to the end. Until then, you will need loving support along the way.

For a very long time I was sad, lonely, insecure, anxious, and confused. It’s been a great few years and I’m so thankful for everyone who helped me along the way. You might not know it but I appreciate every person for what you have done to make me smile during a difficult season of my life.

These days I have a clear mind that I never thought was possible. There is peace in my heart, and I feel full again. I did not think I could have that feeling back. All of the things I learned were guided through God. His words were always there and the more you find him in your mind the easier your struggle will be. I’m so appreciative to feel this confident, calm, happy, and strong.

I’m putting this huge battle I faced here, because I’ve never felt more motivated to share anything about myself ever. The past shouldn’t be hidden and I believe it is there for us to learn from. I can guarantee I don’t have all the answers but if you have any questions or are going through a hard time where you can’t understand your grieving, I’m always here to lend an ear. You have my prayers, Always.

I hope that everyone can find their inner peace one day. I’m am truly blessed to be here smiling today and know that my loved ones are close to my heart.

Survivor of Loss and Warrior to Grief,

– Catherine Pillette

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