Trigger Warning. I speak about grief and death of loved ones bluntly and at times with humor. No disrespect is intended, as such, this post may not be for everyone.
I’m socially Awkward and I can bring a conversation to a screeching halt if someone asks about my family. Meeting new people is hard to begin with for an introvert, but it’s even more daunting when your whole family passed away and you’ve had more than your share of grief. This post will talk about how I handle Grief, Death and Funerals throughout my 36 years.
The black cloud started when I was 23 and my brother died. Then my maternal grandfather, then my Mom, then my maternal grandfather, paternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, my best friend, Dad and Aunt.
I’ve been in mourning for 14 years, and unfortunately, I’ve gotten good at it. I’m a professional griever and I’d like to share some of my experience on how to deal with death and what to expect.
Am I grieving wrong?
There is no wrong way to mourn. I’ve been through it enough times that I recognize all the steps that I go through. Before we begin, if you are reading this because you lost someone, you have my condolences and hopefully this post will help you.
Also, receiving the news that someone you loved died it feels like a gut punch. Delivering the news that someone passed away feels even worse. You have to mutter the words then pause and listen for someone else’s sadness and try to be strong for them, when you are still processing the news. You aren’t wrong, it is incredibly hard and a little bit awkward.
You’ve heard that someone has passed and now it’s late at night and you need to figure out how to fall asleep. The first night is the hardest in the grief cycle. I usually cry like a newborn until I’m exhausted and drift into a restless sleep. Or I put on my favorite movies until my body shuts down and I fall asleep.
When the day breaks and you wake up, you’ll contemplate if it was all a dream, but you know it wasn’t. Your body goes into what I like to call Grief Autopilot; you become robotic when notifying people and prepping for the services, in between crying fits. I always feel like its an outer body experience. I suppose it’s how our bodies response to trauma.
Next, call everyone close to the deceased first, it’s painful, but it’s important, I highly recommend calling and not sending a text message to these handful of people.
Let me start by saying this next part isn’t the most personal, but it’s the best way to get support and spread the word, as not everyone reads newspaper obituaries anymore. For notifying a large group of friends and family I write a lovely post about the deceased on Facebook (don’t judge me) to notify every one of their passing. You’ll get a lot of comments and responses so I often include a line in the post that asks everyone to share with anyone I may have missed. Later I’ll also share a copy of the obituary from the newspaper to let everyone know about the services.
Some people will feel slighted that they didn’t get a personal call but they should understand how hard handling funerals are. Over 400 people came to my mother’s viewing and it would have been impossible to call them all. Remember you are doing the best that you can, please don’t feel guilt too.
People will call, email and text you to ask if there is anything they can do or to pay condolences. You may not be able to get back to everyone since you are scrambling to put a funeral together with in a few days. It is ok if you don’t get back to everyone right away. If you need help, let those who offered support help you.
By now you are working overtime to prep the funeral: getting pictures, the church, memorials, eulogies, services and repass menus, it is a lot. I don’t normally drink coffee but I personally consumed so many caffeinated drinks just to keep going when I’m planning a funeral. I DO NOT recommend this at all, but its part of my process.
Again, ask friends and family for help, you don’t have to do this alone.
My friends always try and find a reason to make me laugh, its how I got through 9 deaths in the last 14 years. If no one told you, it is ok to laugh. Some may find this disrespectful or controversial but I think it gives you a reason to start healing. My Dad passed in January and he was the funniest man I knew, and he hated when people cried. I put together his eulogy by making it a little bit sad but also full of his humor and dad jokes, because I knew he would appreciate that. Laughter helps you heal and balances out the pain.
Viewings are so peculiar to me, but also very therapeutic. I’m a socially awkward germaphobe who doesn’t like to hug strangers. So, 2 hours of random people hugging and crying on me is a lot of anxiety. However, you will be truly touched by some sweet stories that are shared and it makes the whole process worth it. I remember a few anecdotes from each funeral I’ve held and during my sadness moments I think about them.
Do the best that you can and remember people are just as nervous as you are, because they don’t know what to say either.
Most people will make awkward conversation with you because they don’t know what else to say. And don’t stress about remembering everyone’s name that you greet. I often forget people I haven’t seen in 20 years, but I recognize the face. Phrases like, its been a long time since I’ve seen you last, thank you for coming, will go a long way.
I promise you later at the bar, some of those encounters will be funny or at least make you feel better about your own vulnerability. For example, I had an ex boyfriend’s mom rub my belly and ask how many months pregnant I was….um zero, and dammit I had spanx on. She was mortified, but honestly it makes me laugh now because I wasn’t the most awkward person in the room that day.
Healing and Sadness
I really feel that the healing starts as soon as the funeral ends. Memorials are touching and worth all the work that go into them. When everyone leaves and you are left a lone for the first time, you feel a wave of sadness. You won’t know what to do with yourself, please rest. Your body and brain are exhausted; try to take some time for yourself before you jump back into life.
I drink wine and tell my husband stories that he’s heard 100 times before and then we watch the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It was my brother’s favorite movie as a child, I find it comforting, and its an exceptional movie. I know it’s odd, but its my thing. Find something that brings you comfort and do that, as long as its legal.
I give myself a week to be an absolute mess. Then I give myself as much time as I need to be sad while still functioning. There’s a difference, its important not to live in a deep depression too long. I see a therapist and have for 7 years, it’s the reason I have my shit together.
Years ago, I tended to bring up the saddest stories about my family when I was hanging out with my friends. It took a while to realize I was monopolizing conversations and making everyone else depressed because I wasn’t processing my grief. I made changes and if you are like me and have problems handling your grief try:
- Speaking with a Therapist
- Speaking with a pastor
- Attend your religious services
- Go to support Groups
- Go for walks
- Invite friends over for game night
- Call your friends ask about their lives
Find away to channel your grief into something positive.
The New Normal
Eventually, life will go back to your new normal. You will still think about your loved one, it just won’t consume your life. Don’t feel guilty for putting yourself back together. If you don’t try and heal the grief will completely consume you.
I still randomly cry when I hear my Mom’s favorite song, “Who Let the Dogs Out”, she was so awesomely weird. The anniversary of my loved one’s death is really hard for me, but I worked with my therapist on how I could spin that sadness into something more productive.
My Mom died of breast cancer, so every year I donate to the Susan G. Komen on the day she passed. I try to think of things that I loved about my family and not to focus on the fact that they aren’t here anymore.
People will walk on eggs shells around you for a long time until you tell them not to do that. If you are still grieving and feel you may be in a depression, please reach out to a therapist or a professional for guidance.