How do I get through this grief? – Is a question contributor Danielle had to ask herself eight years ago when she lost the love of her life in a fatal car crash. This is her story.
Eight years ago
My best friend, my lover, the father of my child and fiancé was snatched from my life in a car accident.
There was no time for good-byes or to see his deep brown eyes. I arrived at the hospital to a white sheet already draped over his body.
Pronounced dead on arrival; severe internal injuries; no chance of survival.
The thought of him being trapped in pain made me nauseous but the doctor assured me that he would have died almost instantaneously. I breathed a sigh of relief.
A quick death, I rationalised, was better than a slow agonising one.
Tears stuck in my eyes and anger welled in my heart. Numbness washed over me. I remember talking to myself, asking God why; wondering what evil I’d done to deserve this fate.
I wondered what my son at six years old could have done to be given such a blow. I hated my husband, I was angry at him for dying.
If only he had stayed home that night.
I once told him that loving him was like letting sunshine in a darkened room and I’m so glad that I did, because not only was it true, it’s now one less thing to regret.
Our life together wasn’t perfect. We had our ups and downs but we stuck it out as a couple until the end, but this was one thing I didn’t see coming.
Unexpectedly plunged into the depths of despair, I just wanted to continue sinking.
But of course, I couldn’t, I didn’t, I had my son to think about.
Grief is a harrowing experience
Getting through grief is a process and everyone’s journey is different. There are no wrong or right ways to grieve and certainly no time frame to “get over it”.
It has taken me eight years to get to a point where I can honestly say I’m in a good place.
And for me a “good place” means I no longer break down and cry at the mere mention of his name. I no longer stay up reliving every memory and beating myself up over the things I should have done or said.
I no longer constantly linger on what if scenarios, like pondering a future I’ll never have. And I no longer intentionally search for and listen to sappy love tunes to keep my heart broken.
Today, the void within doesn’t hurt as much.
I can now share stories about him in casual conversation, my way of keeping the memories alive and when I think about him I genuinely smile.
I’ve done away with trying so hard to keep things as they were, from buying the things he liked at the grocery to keeping his belongings untouched.
It took me three years to finally sort, pack and give away most of his stuff. After finally realising that it was all just stuff and clutter and that he’s always with me. Wherever I go, he’s there, embedded in my heart, nothing can change or take that away, not ever. Not even death.
It may sound crazy, but looking back I now understand. The things that I did, the way that I thought, it was all part of my healing process, from arguing with his ashes to not wanting to even think about him. I had to go through this journey to get to the point I’m at now, thankfully with most of my sanity intact.
You don’t spend several years with someone and get over them overnight.
And you don’t remain the same either. I lost a big part of who I was that night. My goals and dreams just vanished. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was grieving, not only for him and us but for me too.
I’m by no means a “grief expert” nor am I a qualified psychologist. I can only share what I’ve learnt from my on-going journey. Yes, on-going because it’s something that doesn’t go away, it’s a shadow you learn to live with.
The pain isn’t as intense but it’s still there. Though I’m in a good place, enjoying my life, sometimes the loss feels so fresh that it stings.
And you know what? That’s all right.
Being and feeling good doesn’t mean I have to forget him, or push the sad feelings away.
He is missed, but now my missing him doesn’t cast dark clouds over my whole life.
On the path to healing
One of the first things I had to do was to accept that he was gone and that our lives had forever changed. But although in my head I understood the concept, there was a part of me floating in disbelief, just praying to wake up.
I needed an outlet. So instead of wandering the house like a zombie or staying in bed with the shades drawn and covers pulled tight over my head. I found solace in psalms, in writing poetry and spending enormous time with my son. I even took up gardening and was keen on making my apartment space look new and organised. These were tangible things I could control.
Eventually, I unintentionally developed a daily routine. That allowed me to take care of my son’s needs, do my regular house hold chores, still be a zombie in between and do the new hobbies I had taken on. This helped me not to feel so disconnected.
Shifting focus away from my own grief, I threw myself into making certain that everything around my son remained stable. A private soul by nature, I grieved in solitude.
My threshold for liquor got higher because my wound was so large it could not be filled.
I was a vessel with nothing inside.
Come on, I never said the journey was smooth or that you immediately got everything right. The path has many twists and turns and pits too.
I even got involved with someone mere months into my grieving process.
I had created the ultimate distraction by building a fantasy of what I’d lost. Needless to say, it didn’t last, but people come into your life for a reason and I needed that relationship to show me what I wanted and didn’t want. And I knew being ready for another committed relationship would take a long time indeed.
Hell. I’m still single. But I’m having fun rediscovering who I am.
As I said before it’s an ongoing journey. It starts off rough but it does get easier with time.
Grief is a personal experience so don’t let anyone dictate your pace.
It’s also okay to remember the person, even if it hurts. Embrace the pain in spite of wanting to run away. Also:
Cry, cry, cry… as much as you need.
Under the stars or hidden under a blanket, let it out.
Get back in some sort of groove.
Do the things you love or take up something new.
Lean on people.
If you have a support base, lean on them or that one person who has your back. But in the same breath, it’s okay to ward off some people. Especially, anyone that zaps your pockets of happiness, people can be brutal.
Start a journal.
It helps to put thoughts on paper. Sometimes the mind is so crowded you don’t understand what’s going on.
Know that you’re not alone.
There are blogs and YouTube channels out there with people sharing their own experiences. It helps when you can identify with someone, it offers a sense of comfort.
If you feel you aren’t getting better or that the walls are closing you in and it’s too much to bear, there’s no shame in seeking professional help.
Losing someone you love is a heavy blow but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, the biggest lesson yet it’s just how strong I am.