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  • Writer's pictureAlanna Grayce

Episode 38: Growth in Grief

So, a year ago this week my papaw passed away, and that took a huuuuuge toll on me mentally. His death is what really kicked off my downward mental health spiral, and only recently have I begun truly coping with it.

See, his death really rocked me to my core. I had a lot of things that I wasn’t dealing with that his death brought to light for me, and that was bad enough. But then, some other things happened in my personal life that I focused energy on dealing with- and that distracted me from grieving in the moment.

That was really hard for me- I had so much anger and bitterness in my heart along with the sadness.. I remember telling Allison months later that I felt like I hadn’t gotten to grieve, because I had spent so much energy dealing with the other things. I felt robbed of the process of coming to terms with it, and that made things so much worse for me.

I suffered from depression consistently during the first half of 2020 because of all of this, and still do now. If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll have listened to my mental health episode from back in the summer, where I talk some about my journey to seeking medication for my mental health. That was soooooooooooooo pivotal to me being able to actually start focusing on dealing with things, because it gave me an emotional baseline to work from. I have thought about seeking therapy one day, maybe, for an amalgam of things- I’m not ready for that yet, though, to be honest. But what I wanted to bring to y’all today is a little honesty and openness, first of all. I wanted to share with you some ways that I dealt very poorly with loss.

For example, I absolutely lashed out. Not immediately, but after a bit my anger at not being able to cope with this loss got too much and I was awful to be around. That was one of the reasons I went to get help with my depression and anxiety- I was pushing away my closest friends.

I found it hard to talk about, as well. And that’s fair, it can be at first. But my daddy, whose father this was- he doesn’t talk about these things either; I get that from him. We try to coop it up inside ourselves because we don’t want to burden someone else, or feel weak. That is the toxic part of it, because the more you do that the more difficult it gets to cope. By the way- I have found that as awkward as you may feel doing it, the people who love you WANT to listen to you talk.

Because I don’t like talking about those things, it was also really difficult for me to let people know that something was going on in my life and that maybe I needed a little space, or that I needed a little grace. I couldn’t even tell my boss to his face that something was wrong- I had to text him to let him know why I left work early and why I wouldn’t be in for a day or two. That’s how awkward I feel about this kind of thing, because I don’t like asking for help. You have to humble yourself a little when these things happen though, because you’re really putting yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t ask for a little help, or at the very least some space to heal in.

Now, I want to bring to y’all some strategies that I have found for successfully coping with grieving the loss of a loved on.

  • Care for yourself: Drink water, eat food. Your body needs strength, and you deserve a treat. The day my grandfather died, we knew it was coming, and Adam brought me Steak n Shake that night because I wouldn’t have fed myself otherwise. My friends made sure I ate, because I really didn’t have the energy to do that for myself. Don’t do what I did- make yourself a priority. But if you have the ability, definitely ask one of your loved ones who can, to hold you responsible or make sure that you eat and drink water.

  • Be in the moment: Take notice of all the little things, and focus on what you’re doing or where you are right now. In the days after my grandfather’s passing, I was in a fog. I went to the mall to purchase a dress for the funeral because I had nothing to wear, and all I remember is showing up, Allison was at work at the mall and she had to take a break to hold my hand and pull me around places because I couldn’t do anything, I tried on like the first black dress I found and that’s what I bought, like I couldn’t do it. I packed by throwing things in a bag and hoping it would be ok. I highly DO NOT recommend coping with it the way I did.

Some options for this can include meditation or prayer, which can be super helpful in managing both emotional and physical symptoms. Anger, anxiety, headaches, nausea, headaches- meditation or prayer can help you deal with that.

  • Talk about it: avoiding the topic disrupts the healing process, and leads to feelings of isolation. Sharing stories about your loved one with others can help, for example. I loved going through photos of my papaw to send to my mom, so she could make a slideshow to be played at his visitation service. She and my grandmother sat down and went through tons of photos for the same reason- and I think that was really special and helpful for my grandmother, because she was forced to talk about it instead of isolating herself from it. I talked about my feelings a lot with Adam- which was easy to do, since I regularly broke down at random and cried about missing my papaw. However you do it, talking about it is super important and keeps you from kind of emotionally cutting yourself off ya know?

  • Help others dealing with the loss: Spending time with fellow loved ones who have experienced the loss as well by sharing stories together, visiting special places together, or physically helping them with things they need around the house can help you overcome the loss as well.

  • Exercise: Now when I tell y’all I was crying in the gym, I’m not kidding. I’m like stretching and tears are streaming down my face but I’m there, I’m powering through. The exertion of that energy was super important to calming me down though and helping me move through it. Plus, as Elle Woods said- exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.

Ultimately, y’all, this is what I want to instill in you- that grief is a process. It is so incredibly difficult- I mean it’s a tumultuous ocean, so easy to get lost in, so easy to get sucked into. The secret is to spend time in your grief- give yourself the opportunity and the grace to put energy into it. Without that, you cannot experience the growth and healing that comes with successfully coping with any kind of loss.

I've linked the resources I used to compile this list and some of the resources I used in my journey.

Today's resources:

Some things I found useful:

Wake Up with Weslie podcast

The Daily Stoic (and stoicism in general)

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