|Yep, that’s me. And, yep, I feel the way that I look!
“Little things we used to do without thinking, like mailing a letter, can easily become an all day task. Getting a gallon of milk can seem monumental. The thought of getting dressed, driving a car, getting money, paying a cashier, carrying the gallon,
driving home-just these thoughts alone, can leave a griever hungry for sleep.” (http://www.funeralplan.com/griefsupport/griefsteps.html)
It was September, not quite a month after the crash, when I decided to return to my work in a full-time capacity. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I am blessed with a very flexible schedule (if needed) and as a bonus I work with one of my best friends– I really had no good excuse not to attempt a return to some semblance of normalcy in my life.
The three weeks prior had been the most incredibly difficult weeks of our family’s existence. I think I can speak for most everyone when I say that we were exhausted–physically, spiritually, and emotionally– by the catastrophic loss we had suffered. I knew at the time that we had an extremely long and difficult road ahead of us.
Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting but I do know that I definitely wasn’t prepared for exactly how difficult things would be. Grief is completely and utterly EXHAUSTING! And even though I knew that the emotional healing would be strenuous, what has surprised me the most on this healing journey is the sheer physical toll that grief takes on a person. In short, grief often makes you feel like you are literally going C-R-A-Z-Y.
CRAZY! CRAZY! CRAZY! CRAZY!
I distinctly remember two mornings when I was first returning to work. Both days started out relatively normal but when the time came for me to get dressed, all (excuse my language) hell broke loose. Both mornings I stood in my closet and S-O-B-B-E-D because I could not, I repeat, COULD NOT, figure out what to wear. In fact, one morning, I screamed “F*** it”as loud as I could, to myself, and went back to bed– for the rest of the morning.
Then there was the morning not all that long ago when I burnt three separate sets of toast. Yes, three times I burnt my toast. (My co-workers, thankfully, finally stepped in and made sure I got breakfast.) Or there was the time, just a few days ago, that I blew by one exit while driving down the road and a few minutes later took a wrong one– on roads and exits that I have driven on too many times to count. Unfortunately, I have several other stories I could share. . . but I think you get the gist.
Besides my current lack of mental prowess, I can count on one hand the actual restful nights of sleep that I have had in the last few months, the circles under my eyes are now permanent and not-so-beautiful shades of grey and black, my patience is shorter than normal, I’ve been clenching my teeth, noise irritates me, and some days my compassion and tolerance levels run pretty low. Did I mention that grief is EXHAUSTING?
At times, I get easily frustrated with my decreased mental capacity, other times all I can do is laugh. Along the way, I have learned how to adapt. For instance, to make getting dressed possible, I got rid of a mountain of clothes in my closet and I wear the same jewelry every day. The simplicity has helped tremendously. I have recently started making lists to help me get through the day and I know now that if I want breakfast, I need to give the toaster my full attention. I also have learned that exercise is the only thing that gets rid of my newly acquired anxiety. I know that this altered mental state is not permanent but, nonetheless, it’s difficult some days.
After the closet incidents, I began to really research the effects of grief and mourning . I needed to confirm that what I was experiencing was normal and that I wasn’t slowly going insane. I also wanted to have some inkling of what to expect next. I then started talking with others that had recently suffered loss and discovered that they too were experiencing similar difficulties. These talks and my research helped confirm that the craziness was normal, that I wasn’t totally losing it, and that I wasn’t alone.
If you are in the midst of grieving and are feeling kind of crazy, I highly recommend that you seek help now. There are several great pamphlets, books, and websites out there to get you started. If reading isn’t your cup of tea or you don’t think self-help will cut it, find someone to talk to. There are clergy, grief counselors, and others who have experienced loss right in your community, no matter where you live.
Please don’t ever be afraid to reach out–no matter where you are on your healing journey– to someone, somewhere.The healing journey is a difficult one. Even though we all need to find our own way, there is no reason we can’t help to ease each other’s pain now and then. Never underestimate the power of finding out that you are not alone.
I know that sometime in the future, these physical symptoms will pass and things will slowly get better. Until then, if you see me and I seem a little off, it’s because I am. And, it’s okay. I’m not going crazy, it’s grief!
P.S. Here’s a list of common grief symptoms..
(Please note that this list is by no means comprehensive. Also, it is important to note that these symptoms can be indicative of other health-related problems not related to your grief, so listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. It is always better to check with your doctor then to dismiss a potentially serious health problem off as a symptom of grief.)