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Frustrating Symptoms While Navigating Grief

How grief becomes part of who we are


We don’t walk through grief and then lock it up in a box and throw away the key. Unfortunately, it becomes a life-long journey. It becomes part of who we are. There are many feelings that accompany grief. There are symptoms we can get frustrated being stuck in. Some of that frustration comes from society putting a timeline on our grief. We often hear the phrase, “The first year is the hardest.”  Makes sense. You are navigating all of the firsts without the person you loved so dearly. But the second year isn’t that much better.

 

There are many frustrating symptoms when navigating grief and loss. And all these feelings are completely normal. We don’t need to feel guilty for being overcome with sadness. We don’t need to feel guilty for having trouble concentrating, because our loss is all we can think about. Loss also has a way of making us feel disconnected. We’re living inside of this sad, grief bubble while it looks like the rest of the world is just moving on. My husband and I experienced all of these symptoms in those early months of walking through grief. And even now, 2 years later, we still have our moments.


Overwhelming Sadness


It’s hard for me to even remember what I did during the immediate days and weeks following the loss of my daughter. The days all blurred together, probably because there was little sleep. I was so focused on being there for my husband and taking care of my kids that I neglected taking care of myself. This added to the overwhelming feelings of sadness I was experiencing.


Loss is devastating. It has a ripple effect that touches everyone who knew the person who is now gone. It’s easy and even natural to let the feelings of sadness take us over. And for awhile, that’s okay. We need the time and space to mourn what we have just lost. But there does come a day where we are able to think about the memories of our loved one and smile. We are able to laugh. We are able to feel grateful for the time we were given, no matter how short. The sadness still comes, but it doesn’t come alone. It brings with it moments of joy.



Difficulty Concentrating


Grief affects our brain in many ways. One of those ways is known as “grievers fog,” or brain fog caused by feelings of grief and/or traumatic events. This often leads us to feelings of confusion, difficulty remembering things, trouble concentrating, and losing our train of thought in the middle of a sentence. These are all normal facets of grief.

 

I was constantly forgetting where I put things during those first few months. I couldn’t sit still and concentrate. I couldn’t sleep. It was hard to even hold a conversation because I found myself forgetting certain words or being unable to string words together to form proper sentences. I thought something serious might have been wrong. But as I have continued walking through my grief, most of those symptoms have gone away. I still have some sleepless nights, but it’s nothing like it was before.


Sometimes, we just have to give grief the time and space it needs. It is a marathon, not a sprint. We can’t expect to be back to our new normal immediately. Suppressing our feelings can often make these symptoms worse. We have to understand grief and need people walking with us who know more about it than we do. Maybe that’s a therapist. Maybe that’s a friend who is a few years ahead in their own grief journey. Maybe that’s reading educational books about what goes on in our bodies and our brains when we suffer loss. Understanding what’s happening, and giving it time, helps us navigate the difficulties grief brings with it.


Sometimes, we just have to give grief the time and space it needs.

Feeling Disconnected from Others


I didn’t know many people who were navigating grief when I lost my daughter. I didn’t know anyone personally who was navigating child loss. It made it really hard to feel connected to other people. I remember joining a small group at the church we had been attending. They were reading the book, “Are You Really Okay,” By Debrah Fileta. The description of the group made it sound like this group would be filled with people who were navigating really hard things. On my first day at the group, we went around and introduced ourselves and what brought us to the group. I listened to people share that they were having car troubles and really needed prayer to get it fixed. Someone else, who was older, was trying to navigate becoming an empty nester. Another person had just moved here and didn’t have any friends.

 

These people had every right to feel like their situation was hindering their life. But when I shared about losing my daughter, it made me feel alienated. My loss was on another level than what anyone else in my group was dealing with. I gave the group the benefit of the doubt and continued going for a couple of weeks before I dropped out entirely.

 

Sometimes loss makes it difficult to connect with others. We have just suffered one of life’s biggest tragedies. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words, “I couldn’t imagine.” I still hear it to this day. And now I don’t mind. But immediately following my loss, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear from someone who had walked this road. Someone who could give me tangible advice. Someone who could tell me it would get better, and actually mean it.

 

There is no expiration date when it comes to grief. The feelings of sadness won’t expire until we do. Sometimes we find ourselves grieving a different way than we thought we would. And that’s perfectly okay. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The more we understand about grief and healing, the more permission we give ourselves to trust the process. And trust that we will make it through.



Need more practical tips for navigating grief? Check out my free e-book, "Tips for Healthy Grieving"

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