Grief Repressed and Grief Expressed

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. 




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About the Author
On Jan 1, 2012 my husband, Michael, and I left our mountain home and moved to the tiny Caribbean island we had enjoyed and dreamed of for so many years. We felt happy and healthy. We never imagined that three years later on Jan 3, 2015 we'd be on an emergency flight off the island to a hospital in Belize City. Michael struggled with pain and weight loss every day and night, but we didn't know what was really wrong. A month later we took an emergency flight back to Colorado where he was in and out of hospitals. The diagnosis turned out to be pancreatic cancer. He passed away in June 2015. Although he suffered terrible pain, Michael smiled, laughed, and lived life until the very end. His spirit was very much alive even though his body became too weary to continue. He fought a good fight, he finished his race, and he kept his faith. Michael was a talented artist who had only sold a few pieces to friends. His life-long dream came true above what he'd ever imagined when he opened his own gallery on a tropical island. His kind spirit and joyful smile inspired and encouraged family, friends, and even people from around the world who shopped in his gallery. He, through his example, left a legacy of lessons on life and "living" to those who knew him and loved him. This world of grief is new to me. I've experienced loss and dark nights of the soul throughout my life, but this is deep, cutting, crushing, disorienting, surreal...and other times it's a quiet calm. I miss him so much, but I know that his love embraces me. I cherish more than 19 years of happy memories. Michael remains my shining star, my guiding light, my joy, and the love of my life. I find myself wandering from place-to-place after closing his gallery trying to find my way in territory I never wanted or expected to explore. I know he'd want me to live life, so I am trying to find the blessings in each place I go and adventure in each new experience....just as we did together. Writing helps me get in touch with my soul, helps me release and heal a bit, and helps me regain my creative spirit. And even all the better if my thoughts and words inspire or encourage others. ~ Carmen Myrtis-Garcia
I'm Grieving, Now What?