Grief was for dead people.
That’s what I’d always thought anyway. I never put it together—that the pain and suffering I felt over the loss of my relationships was grief.
Holy f*ck. She was gone.
My hopes at working things out were crushed when I returned home to find I’d been evicted from the life I loved. I stood at the door and noticed the empty boxes tossed in a corner, and tumbleweeds of dust rolling over vacant spots where furniture used to be.
I’d been left behind with the bare wire hangers that hung in the closet and the unoccupied hooks on the wall. Empty spaces on dusty shelves were all that remained of my hopes and dreams.
It was never supposed to end this way—it was a punch to the gut and I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to flail and grab at the shattered image of my life, but there was nothing left to hold onto. I staggered to my couch, slid into victim mode, and sobbed.
I stayed wrecked, in the days and weeks that followed. I was depressed. I made a cozy blanket out of abandonment and low self-worth and pulled it over my head. I refused to accept what happened.
I’d always been the fixer and the rescuer, but now I was the one who needed fixing and rescuing—but I had never learned to be that for myself.
My past pattern was to move on quickly without facing my painful feelings of loss. I collected unprocessed grief like boulders slung over my shoulder and carried them on to the next chapter of my life. But not this time.
The weight of my suffering became too much, and I broke.
I spent weeks fighting against my feelings—it was exhausting. And the more I tried to push them away, the more stuck I became, afraid to face my own issues from the past or the uncertainty of my future. From one day to the next, I struggled without making much progress.
I didn’t realize I was stuck in grief.
I didn’t do grief—I’d never done any of the work necessary to process the heavy feelings of loss, fear, and abandonment that followed me since childhood. I sure as hell didn’t sit with them. They were too painful, too scary, and I didn’t have a f*cking clue how to do it anyway. And I knew in the dark, unconscious recesses of my mind that the risk of opening up my Pandora’s Box of grief was too great—that it would unleash a fury of lifelong issues I was not equipped to handle.
But grief is a persistent motherf*cker that eventually runs us down, and it caught me.
I became a ghost, enveloped in a thick, dark cloud of sadness and depression. I struggled to breathe in the heaviness of the air, the weight of it holding me down. I was trapped, and all I could do each day was to try to make it to the next one so I could do it all over again.
That’s what getting stuck in grief looks like for many of us.
The way out can be tough to find. We just can’t see beyond the edgeless walls of our black cloud. So we sit and go through the motions day after day, waiting for the darkness to clear.
But it doesn’t work that way. The only way out is always through, and no one can make that journey for us. We begin to figure out how to take care of ourselves—to meet our own needs. We finally learn that healing is our responsibility alone.
It begins with one single act of courage.
We do the bravest thing we can—we get the f*ck out of bed and face the day, no matter how much it hurts—even if it’s the very last thing we want to do.
Eat a healthy meal, pay the bills, put ourselves together, and survive the day. It might be the only thing we can manage for a while—and that’s okay. We don’t have to know what’s next. We don’t even have to have a plan.
We only need to sit with our pain until it moves through us. If we summon the courage to get up and do this each day we will start to heal. The reflection in the mirror won’t be quite as dark, our steps won’t be as heavy.
Too often we rush too quickly through grief without processing it or get stuck for too long inside our grieving without recovering. To heal, we need to find the balance between them. The only way to keep grief from sucking all the life out of us is to feel all of our feelings and keep our feet moving—one step at a time, one day at a time.
The best gift we can give ourselves is the space to move through our anguish and heartache gracefully, feeling what we feel without judgment or denial. Processing our grief is what frees us, allowing us to heal and let go.
With each passing day it gets a little easier. And one day we’ll look in that mirror and catch a glint in our eye, the spark of life returning.
We’ll know at that moment that we’re ready—that we deserve to be happy again.