Grief is hard. The early days of grief? Even harder. When you only wish to curl up in bed and cry all day or run off to the woods to be all alone, there are phone calls to answer and wonderful people dropping off food and life. Life keeps going on. Everything will stop only for a moment to recognize that your loved one died and then after the funeral everyone goes back to work, back to their lives, and life keeps moving forward. You want to scream.....stop...please stop. But you can't because you're just so exhausted.
Grief can make others think you're being a jerk, that you're being self-centered, that you're being mean, that you're being too distant, and maybe they will think or even tell you that you're being an asshole. This happened to me and I let it eat at me. I let it chip away at the tiny bit of self-love I had left after my husband died by suicide. I let it roll around in my head for way too long. And then? And then I read the book, "The Four Agreements" where I learned to never, ever take anything personally and to never make assumptions about what others were thinking of me.
My grief made me cancel my little boy's 2nd birthday party that was all planned out for 3 weeks after his Dad died. The invites had been sent before his death. The party favors bought. The cake picked out. Tons of friends and family invited. And you know what? I couldn't do it. How the hell was I going to put on a huge birthday party while grieving, while in shock, while depressed, and while my children were asking every 5 minutes, "When is Papa coming home? Let him come home!" I didn't have the energy emotionally or physically to even sometimes answer my door to talk to a friend. I talked with my daughter about it and we mutually decided it was best to do something else for his birthday. So we did something mellow out in nature, just the 3 of us and you know what? It was a beautiful day...maybe the best birthday because it was just mellow and all about my little guy being in the nature that he loves.
Has your grief made you cancel events, skip out on friends kids birthday parties, go out of town on holidays? I get it. I've been there. I've done that. I understand and you know what? It's ok. I felt all eyes on me for months and months after my husband died. My every move and my every word being judged. Were they? Maybe, maybe not but you know what? It doesn't matter. I finally had read enough about grief, healing, and boundaries that I decided to give my children and myself permission to do whatever it took that first year of grief to get us through. So, yes. We skipped out on birthday parties when I would ask them if they wanted to go and they would say, "Mama? Are they going to ask us about our Dad? We went to that one birthday party at our Aunt's house and the big kids corned us to ask about our Dad and his gun. Let's stay home, Mama. Please let's just stay home." And yes, we went away on holidays and did our own thing. And yes, there were times that I couldn't answer the phone because my head was pounding, I was crying, my kids were finally sleeping and I just couldn't even muster up the energy to have a conversation. Am I an asshole? Am I a jerk for skipping out on stuff and listening to my intuition, my heart, and my children's wishes? No. I'm not a jerk. I'm not a distant person. I'm not selfish. I did what I had to do to keep my will to live alive. I did what I had to do to keep my babies feeling safe and to keep their anxiety low.
The most important thing to do when you're grieving is to take care of yourself. Put up your boundaries if you need to and don't feel the need to explain them to every stranger on the street. Your life has been torn up by the roots and that isn't an easy thing to fight through and find your way to new and renewed hope. If you have to stay home and watch Netflix all day and not answer your phone? Go for it. If you have to run off into the woods to cry and be alone because that's what makes you feel the best out of all the shit you've been going through? Then I say put on your boots and run into the trees. Go. Do it. I give you permission. The people that really, truly love you will let you go. They will let you be while you heal. They might not understand but they will be there for you when you need them and leave you alone when you don't. They will accept and love you in your darkness and will know that nothing that you are doing is because you are a jerk. Grief is hard. It's really, really hard. Take care of you. You matter.
The week of the one-year anniversary of my husband's death his sister told me that some people, maybe a lot of people, were talking gossip about me and my husband. They were saying that I must have been cheating on him or he must have been cheating on me and that's why he put a bullet to his beautiful heart. She told me this and everything in me lit on fire. I wanted to melt into the dirt and never return. I was so angry. I felt like shit. No, I don't think my husband was cheating on me and No, I never cheated on him. I felt like around that one-year anniversary I was finally, finally feeling "better". I could finally laugh again and feel joy again and I even had a smidgen of hope in my heart that my life would be ok. And then her words hit my ear and it all shattered. I felt back to day one. Back to the day he died. I felt everyone was lying to me and hiding things from me. I felt mortified to think here I was walking around my small town pouring my heart out into my blog trying to help others in the world and people were talking shit about me. I got mad at people. I went back to hiding myself away. Others knew of this gossip and that hurt too. It hurt that everyone knew of this but no one told me for all these months. It took me a long, long time to recover from that. Was I being an asshole during this time? No. My grief was lit on fire. My husband left me alone with two children to raise, my self love was gone, and now I had to hear about awful gossip. Gossip that I know would enrage my best friend. I wanted to run away. Crawl under a rock. Fall in a dark hole and never climb out. How did I overcome that? I decided......you know what? It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of me or my best friend. None of what they think or say matters. I know who he was to me. I know who I was to him. I know our relationship because I lived in this house with him for years and years and years. I had to put up a shield over my heart to keep out their comments. I had to skip more birthday parties. I had to do more reading, more writing, more hiking, more meditating, and more just doing my own thing with my kids.
Grief might make you feel mean. Grief might makes others gossip about you. Grief might have others telling you that you're this or that or the other. It doesn't matter. Does it hurt? Yes. We're human. It's hurts. It hurts when no one understands and it hurts to feel all alone and it hurts when it feels like you can't get your life straight and everyone is judging you.
My husband died 690 days ago. I have been through a lot since then. I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot. I've read hundreds of books. People's words don't get into my heart so much anymore. My self love is back and fully intact. I know I am doing what is best for me and my kids at any given moment and I don't have to explain that to anyone. I know that grief is hard. Really hard. I know that I am a good person who is trying to reach out her hand and help others with her writing so nothing anyone says about me otherwise matters. I know who I am. I tell this to my kids too. "You know who you are. You know what you are all about. You know who your Dad was so don't you let those big kids asking you about how he died and about guns bother you. Just walk away. Run away if you have to. You are a beautiful person. You are kind. You are loving and you are loved. They are curious because humans are curious about stuff. Just walk away and tell Mama next time. Always tell Mama, ok?"
And you? I see you. I see you silently hurting. I hear you crying because your family or friends wish you would just get over it and start coming to their get togethers. I see you being like me and passing on the glass of wine for months and months because it's like...."What the hell is everyone celebrating? My husband is dead?" I know that sometimes, a lot of the time, you feel so alone and you just want someone to listen even if they don't understand. You just want someone to say, "Hey, you're not an asshole. Grief is hard. It's really hard. You take care of you for awhile. I will sit with you here in the dark until you're ready to walk back into your light."