I have a choice when it comes to grief.
I can repress my grief—deny it, stuff it down and cover it over. Sometimes I try to choke back the sobs even when I’m alone; afraid I won’t be able stop the flood if I let the first teardrop fall. At times I feel the need to talk things out, but I don’t want to burden others with my sorrow—they wouldn’t understand; they have problems of their own; it’s too painful to talk about anyway. Besides, some have said that after seven months I should be over the worst now, and I should start planning my future. So I pretend that I’m okay in order not to look weak or needy. Besides, if I don’t think about it maybe the pain will dissipate into nothingness.
Isolating myself with my grief and pretending I’ve made it through the worst, though, doesn’t feel right. It feels chaotic, uneasy, and anxious. I think shoving it down could actually cause the grief to dig deeper and grow roots. It could spread like a cancer into dangerous levels of anxiety, depression, anger, and guilt. Unresolved grief squelches hope and murders the very spirit of life. And I don’t want to go there.
I can express my grief openly—raw and uninhibited. Sometimes I sob in the shower heaving tears mixed with water pouring from the faucet. At times I’ve even cried a stream of tears in a crowded grocery store when a background song triggered a memory. I didn’t care what others thought or whispered to one another as they watched my breakdown moment. This is my pain and my sorrow and I’m not letting anyone make me feel weird because of it.
Sometimes I’ve called a friend late at night when the anxiety clenching my chest made it hard to breathe, or when I felt myself entering a danger zone unable to go on another minute. There have been several times that I’ve gushed out the story of how my husband died to a complete stranger. I think that if I talk about it, write about it and allow myself to feel it then maybe the grief will bleed itself out in time and heal.
Letting the tears flow, feeling the pain, being open to it, exposing the unbearable darkness of grief is hard, but afterwards I feel somehow cleansed. It lets others know, “I’m not over it. I’m in the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and I need help.” I’ve found, rather than being a sign of weakness, it takes courage to reach out for someone to lean on as I try to hobble through my days or someone to provide a safety net while I stand on the edge of sanity. It's not always easy to ask someone to wade beside me in my sea of tears or for someone to pray with me and for me. But I'm trying to step up and admit that it is unselfish to ask for help. And I’ve learned it’s okay to hold back from or let go of, without judgment, those who don’t understand and to cherish those who are there for me.
Grief is messy. There’s no right way or wrong way to do it. Whether it be screaming into my pillow, crying in a store, talking about my husband over and over again, sleeping with his robe every night, writing out my feelings…however it may be, I choose to allow myself the need and the right to express my grief in whatever way it presents itself. In doing so, I hope to heal and grow stronger over time.