Adulting Experiments: 30 Days of Navigating Painful Loss and Grief
It’s been a while since my last 30 day adulting experiment but I’m back after a much-needed break, and since you last heard from me, I’ve had some pretty major life changes happen.
My grandmother, or as she put it, my “bestie”, passed away at the end of January; my mom moved to another state after always being within at least thirty minutes of me my whole life; I started to repair a major relationship in my life; and I had a mental health relapse.
And, yes, this all happened in a short thirty days.
Fortunately, I haven’t experienced much loss. My grandfather passed away when I was a teenager, but other than that, I’ve never experienced a great loss. But this past January my grandmother passed away expectedly, but unexpectedly. She was a fighter and had lived through so much and had been in and out of the hospital many times, but this time was quick and there was no saving her.
As an adult you always expect death and try to prepare, but no matter how prepared you are, it still hits you like a freight train moving at full speed with no intentions of slowing down. And while there’s no right way to handle a loss such as this, I can admit I didn’t handle it in a healthy way.
During this week, my family was waiting on her remains (it was her wish to be cremated), so I dug into work and didn’t stop working until that day came. That was my plan –– get through this week until you can get her remains and then figure out the next step. So, I worked from sun up until sun down trying to distract myself from the inevitable: my grandma was no longer with us.
And it worked, until it didn’t.
She passed away on Saturday and we had her remains by Friday, so we planned to hold a celebration of life at her and my grandfather’s house for friends and family that next day.
The day we held the celebration of life was a big turning point for me. It wasn’t only the official end to one relationship here on Earth, but it was the re-start of a different one. It was also an extremely difficult day as I can assume most celebrations of life and funerals are for most people.
The thought of my family sitting around telling stories and my grandmother not being there to join in was heart wrenching. It didn’t seem normal; it didn’t seem okay. There was a part of me that was angry at everyone else for being able to do this. I didn’t understand how everyone was telling stories about her as if she wasn’t supposed to be there.
Once we had the celebration of life and the weekend came to an end, my mom went to her new home and I returned to the apartment I had just been picking out furniture for with my grandma three short weeks ago. I was laying on the bed we had just picked out a month prior, the couch she gave me three weeks ago, the nightstands she just bought me, and I was alone.
By the end of week two, work was no longer a solid distraction. The quietness of my apartment, that I normally love, was driving me crazy, and the realization that I could stop waiting sunk in. There was nothing else to wait for. My grandmother wasn’t coming back; her remains had already been given to us; and the rest of the world was still moving.
So, with a history of running from my problems and using going out as a way to distract myself, I turned to what I knew. I started going out almost every night, drinking until I couldn’t remember my name, and waking up hating myself for not being the person I really was and for falling back on an unhealthy crutch.
In my head, I felt alone. My grandmother was gone. My mom was busy with her new job and in a new state. Talking to my grandpa made me terribly sad. I had just started working on my relationship with my dad again. And my friends had their own life to worry about.
Anyone who has experienced my downward spiral can tell you how quick it unravels and without support and with alcohol, it wouldn’t end well.
During the close of this week, I was on my fourth day of a four-day party bender and drank until the point that I couldn’t stand up. I had accomplished what I wanted in that moment. I wasn’t thinking about my grandma; I wasn’t thinking about how mad I was at myself for going out so much; I wasn’t thinking about anything.
Until, I was. It’s all fun and games until you drink so much you can’t have fun. Then, you’re just sitting there thinking about everything you were trying so hard to avoid thinking about.
When I became too much for my friend to handle, she called my parents. With my mom being a state away, my dad came to pick me up. When we reached his house, I sat down with him and my stepmom and explained the thoughts going through my head.
I was feeling those feelings I hadn’t felt in so long. I thought my depression was gone. I thought it had disappeared into a bliss. I had been fine for so long. I hadn’t thought about hurting myself once in years, but suddenly it was all I could feel. It was the only thing that would take away the pain and thoughts that were consuming my brain.
As I sat there crying, confessing my true feelings, I realized I wasn’t okay.
There is no right way to deal with grief. There is no way to prepare and act exactly as you say you would during a time of such heartbreak. But, as I write this and smile because I’m still here able to do so, I can say the absolute wrong way is to cause more heartbreak.
As the title of this series indicates, this is all just an experiment because I have no idea what I’m doing. So, as I go through these challenges and changes, I realize just how wrong I can be sometimes.
And, I was so wrong in almost every way during my grieving process.
There was nothing wrong with my family sitting around telling stories about my grandmother while she wasn’t there. She was there in our hearts and sharing stories is a step in the grieving process.
My mom didn’t leave me just because she moved to a different state. Moms are the world’s greatest gift and are there for you no matter what.
Depression doesn’t go away. It’s a lifelong battle that will knock you on your ass but with the support of your friends, family, and therapy, you can come out on the other side.
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