It’s been 11 months since I lost my beloved husband to melanoma and through it all, there’s been times thought about how different the grieving process was to what I’d been told either by friends and family, or from books I’d read or movies I’d seen. News flash: grief is not like the movies at all. You don’t just wake up one morning and everything’s OK again and then you fall in love again.
There’ll be days when you curl up in a ball and cry for what seems like hours. There’ll be days where you can’t even get dressed because you don’t know what the point is. There’ll be days where you wake up and think they’re there and then get so sad you don’t think it’ll ever end.
But what these various sources neglected to tell me most of all were the real truths of grieving… so I thought I’d share what I’ve experienced, though obviously these things will vary, and may not apply to you.
1. People will stop caring after the funeral – it sounds heartless, and it really is. It can be hard for the people closest to the loved one who has passed away to reconcile that their friends and other family members are effectively over it, but you aren’t even close.
2. You’ll still celebrate the birthdays and anniversaries – And they’ll be bittersweet.
3. You will stop crying and it’s OK – one day you’ll realise you didn’t cry that day, or the next day. It’s OK and doesn’t mean that you have forgotten the person.
4. Some nights you’ll think they’re still there – I once woke up in a fluster and reached over the other side of the bed, only to remember he was gone.
5. You’ll hear “I know how you feel” constantly from people who really don’t – some people become very weird and awkward after someone dies. They don’t know what else to say, but this is the least helpful thing. Don’t be afraid to tell people that either!
6. You do things you didn’t think you could – you’ll take on the roles your partner used to. You’ll make do and mend.
7. People come out of the woodworks – now this is one thing I have heard about but didn’t think would happen to me…. my family members started bickering about money and what they were owed. Great aunts, distant cousins… everyone wanted something for nothing. It was hard to navigate, and brought up upsetting things from the past. Be prepared.
8. You realise everyone deals with death differently
9. This is your time – you will have a lot of alone time as people will think you need space whether you want it or not. Do something you enjoy, travel, read – simply just be.
10. Cherish their memories – one day you will look back with joy and not sadness for your loss. You will be able to reflect on the good times, I promise.
11. No matter how prepared you think you are for a death, you can never be fully prepared for the loss and the grief – we knew John was suffering from metastatic cutaneous melanoma, and the prognosis was not good. We had to prepare for those last few weeks of his life, but nothing made me fully ready for the day he died.
12. Death brings out the best and the worst in families – I lost contact with my son for a number of months as he came to reconcile the death of his best friend and father. He didn’t want to talk to anyone but finally let me in. It changed us as a family.
13. There is no such thing as closure – you will kick yourself for not having the checks earlier, or insisting they put sun screen on. You’ll blame yourself. You’ll wonder if you did something differently if it would have changed it… but you just have to let it go.
14. There is no timeline for grieving.
15. There will always be regrets. No matter how much time you had, you’ll always want more time, more hugs, more kisses, more laughter, more moments.
16. However badly you think it is going to hurt, it is going to be a million times worse.
17. People love to judge your grief – if you aren’t grieving “normally”, there’ll be someone who pops out and makes you feel terrible. Watch out for those people who just aren’t happy within themselves.
18. Just because you feel pretty great one day it doesn’t mean you are cured of your grief – I made this mistake so many times. I thought I’d stopped grieving and was over it and ready to move on, then another wave of sadness would come.
19. You will never go back to being your “old self”. Grief changes you and you are never the same, but that’s not always a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel bad about that.