3 Ways to Survive Grief

I am a griever.

I am a survivor.

You are probably the same as me--wondering how this enormous giant (grief) ever got ahold of us so immensely?

Here are three ways to survive. I believe in your option to survive well and to win against grief.

  1. Recent loss

Perhaps a loved one has recently passed away or perhaps someone you absolutely love to the very depths of your being has simply left. If you are overcome with tears--you are lucky--believe it or not.

Tears are love. Grief is love. Eternity connects to the here-and-now through the cleansing purity of tears and in my culture, each tear is a prayer. A prayer of suffering but certainly a prayer of love.

Survive your first days of grief by crying. Give in to the inevitable gut-wrenching, body-shaking sobs. Have extra towels to handle the oceans of tears. Know that your throat may hurt from tears. Your eyes will be crimson roadmaps. Try to drink more water than usual. I only know because it happened to me. 

When I first learned that my husband, Robert, had died, I felt like the lights were turned off in my world. It suddenly went black. My vision narrowed with only a teeny central part of normal color but most of the rest was just black. Just. Darkness. Now, whenever I see a dark vignette choice within a photo-tweaking app, it reminds me of that evening. Those dark-edged vignettes are exactly what my reality looked like that first night.

For me, the crying started immediately and continued for a very, very long time afterwards. I dispute the theory of “stages of grief” since I am a survivor of grief and for me, there were no stages. Eventually I did experience differing days of grief but they were not linear as in “Well, today is better than yesterday.” There was none of that. I cried myself awake; I cried myself asleep. I cried in the car on the way to the grocery store; I cried inside the grocery store when I chanced upon his favorite cereal. I cried each time I heard one of “our” songs on the radio. I cried when I drove to the land-titles office because I needed to change the name (to just mine) on our home.

I cried. I cried often and I cried a lot. I really didn’t give a damn how much I cried and I would have been really angry had anyone dared to question the length or breadth of my sorrow. Luckily, no one dared.

But what about grief without tears?

When each of my parents died of cancer, they had lived a good life. They were such a cute, elderly couple. Mom always said she wanted to go first because she couldn’t bear to live without Dad. It was three years after her death that my father also succumbed. He fought for life right up to his last minute but ultimately he, too, stepped into eternity to rejoin his lifelong sweetheart. I miss them so much. I believe in an afterlife of joy and I feel joyful when I think of them, together, as heavenly spirits.

I did not cry when they died.

Somehow, their deaths were a release from this life but just a hop, skip, and a jump into an equally beautiful eternity. I felt at peace. I felt assured that their earthly sufferings were done and that a healthy, delightful 'life' now awaited them on the other side.

In my family, my mom and my sister were considered “the weepers” but my dad and I were the strong, silent ones; therefore, I wasn’t surprised that there were no tears from me at their funerals. I had read someplace (someplace stupid, as it turns out) that when you cry and miss someone who has died, it means that you are being selfish. You don’t really miss them, you don’t really want the best for them, you just want the best for you. It’s much easier to have them with you than without you.

I definitely do NOT think that way anymore. Grief is not the same for any two persons. The time you take to grieve someone’s death will be different than the time it takes anyone else. The ways you grieve will be different, too. Crying is not selfish. It is a very good way of handling overwhelming grief. There is no timeline for grief.

My experiences with surviving the death of my husband changed from one month to the next. For me, the best and emotive method of dealing with my loss was crying. Don’t let anyone suggest that you should stop your tears! Similarly, don’t let anyone tell you to “move on”.

People will offer suggestions. I am not good at suffering fools so I basically gave them the Evil Eye if they said something really dumb like, “He’s in a better place” or “He’s with God, now”. I am a believer and I do think that the afterlife is heavenly and joyful. I just don’t believe in platitudes.

My doctor was the one, a year after Rob had passed away, to suggest that perhaps it was time for me to think of ways to “move on”. I gave him the Evil Eye as well! He stopped saying that. I will probably never “move on” but moving through grief is what I do with every breath I take. You, too?

2. After a few months…

I needed a paragraph header here so I chose “After a few months” but if you are trying to survive the ravages of grief, you’ll understand that I could just as easily have written “After a few years”. Everyone takes his or her own time. It’s so important to understand that no one can dictate how long or in what way you must grieve.

One day passed and it became early evening when I realized that I hadn’t cried at all that day. That thought brought tears to my eyes. As if I hadn’t been thinking of my beloved all throughout my ordinary (but living) day!

This is who I am: a person who talks to stars. A girl who talks to a photograph--in fact, I kiss his photo every night before I go to sleep and greet it every morning when I awake. I write poetry about our life together in the Before and now, in the After. I produce memes for my fb community (facebook.com/lovebeyondstars2015). I write a blog called Linda Knappett’s Beyond Earth Blog (lovebeyondstars.weebly.com/blog). Writing helps me survive grief.

When my loss was new, when I would read poems that I had written, I would cry. Now when I read those same poems, I notice how my writing has developed. I notice that those poems reflect how I was feeling then, not now. Now I can read them without breaking down in tears. At least most days I can.

The second tip for surviving grief is to find something that you consider a really fun thing to do. For me it is writing. It has always been writing. I just love to write. I’m more of an indoors lady than a sporty girl, but I decided to honor my late husband by getting my motorcycle license. It was difficult and challenging and I felt ecstatic when I passed the test. Now I ride a few times per week, even in the winter (we don’t normally get snow here, only rain). I love it! I consider my angels--my guardian angels, my archangels and my husband-angel--each time I get on the motorcycle. It’s a way of connecting with him--beyond time and space--that supports and nurtures our mutual love. It's a fun thing to do.

So the second way of surviving grief is to find something fun to do, and do it. Just start. Don’t wait. Just do it now.

3. Surviving grief for the rest of your life: don’t try to “get over it”

You’ll never “get over it”. Why would you? Why, ever, would you want to? Let’s say you think that teeny, fluffy kittens are absolutely adorable. Would you get over that feeling? Let’s say that you think laughing babies are completely sweet. Would you try to get over that?

Great love equals great grief. As for me, I’ll never get over my love for my husband. I’ll never get over his death. His love for me remains strong in my heart and soul. Our love for each other fuels the energy that drives me into living each day the best way I can. 

I realized, at about the one year angelversary date, that I will never again be that same person who lived and loved before he passed. I’m a new person now. A different me. But I’m kind of a phoenix and a colorful new me is still an exciting, vibrant prospect. Each day is a pretty interesting voyage of discovery as I find out who I am in the concept of widowhood. I’m comfortable in the skin of new me. Right here. Right now.

I don’t mind the term ‘widow’. It’s just a word. I don’t define myself by any one particular term, that’s for sure!

The third tip for surviving grief is to find the new you. And then, accept yourself because you’ve become a phoenix, too. Rising from the ashes of grief, you are still alive. Grieving and living with grief, widow, widower, or surviving parent, you are also colorful and vibrant but only if you embrace the journey. Embrace the discovery that lies before you now and always.

So, you are thinking, “Oh, but I can’t go on living without my (husband, wife, child, best friend). I just feel like my life is over now.” Relax. Yes, you’re right. You can’t go on living without your lost loved one. But that is the old you. The old you can’t go on living. But the new you is just waiting for all those discoveries and yes, some of those discoveries will involve painful grief. Grief, stupid grief. Grief is a wild beast. Tame that thing and make it lie right down!

Only one grief expert can tell you how and for long to grieve. You know who it is. It’s new you.

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About the Author
I lost my husband in January 2015. He was my stars. He was my everything. I write memories to help me deal with grief--a grief I was not prepared to face. I never would have been ready to say "Goodbye" but I also never would have gauged the depth of grief to be so deep. I hope my poems can help others realize they are not alone in the loss of a beloved family member.
I'm Grieving, Now What?