My life has been a wild storm of emotion lately. Some days you can find me dancing in the kitchen and performing Mary J’s “Just Fine” with the swifter as my stage mic , and other times you can find me under my favorite blanket balled up in a fetal position on my office couch with tears silently, trickling down my face, numb — feeling everything and nothing all at the same time.
Yesterday, a close friend and I had a conversation. Since we both recently experienced the loss of a loved one, we found comfort in knowing that we were not sitting in sadness alone. As strong as we are as Black women, we were brave enough and vulnerable enough to say, “I’m not doing so good, sis. I’m sad and so very hurt. ”
Here’s the thing we realized: grief refuses to be ignored. It can be delayed, but it will not be denied. Avoid it as much as you want to, and it will still be waiting for you when you get back from your trip to Costa Rica or staring you straight in the face when you get to the bottom of your fifteenth margarita. Grief is messy like that.
As uncomfortable as it is, I’ve committed to feeling what I feel and going through each stage of grief with God’s grace.
I was curious about the process, so I decided to look it up. With original research, there were five stages of grief, but updated research presents seven. And so it goes….
- Shock/ Denial – Disbelief that our loved one is gone, or remaining in a state of denial by refusing to accept reality
2. Pain/Guilt – Dealing with the hurt of it all and questioning if I could do more
3. Anger/ Bargaining – Mad that this is happening, or trying to soften the blow with cliche sayings
4. Depression/Loneliness – A constant state of sadness, desiring to withdraw from the world
And there you have it. I am in stage four. I’m sad, and I can’t seem to shake it. I walk around like everything is okay, and I really do try to shake it, but it’s holding me tight like underwear two sizes too small. My smiles are not as wide, and my belly laughter is as shallow as a kiddie pool.
Life won’t stop or slow down so I can catch my breath, and time continues to go on.
So, I put on my suit and go to work because these bills don’t care if I am sad, and while those who need me to show up, do care, that care tends to stop when it begins to impact them and they have to pick up my slack. So, I show up. Half there with half care. I’m over it.
Usually, at some point throughout the work day, grief sneaks up on me. It’s found in the most unusual places, like in a casual conversation or in someone’s name. Most recently, it was found in a formal presentation about Home Languages. Random? I know, right! The next thing you know, my mascara is ruined and the rest of my day is fragile.
I am not so naive as not to recognize the danger in this sadness. Just a few years ago, I tried to convince myself that I could handle sadness on my own, and that turned out with me gaining 80 pounds and becoming completely withdrawn from the world. Climbing and crawling myself out of that pit of darkness was hard work. So this time, I’ve told those close to me that I am sad, so that they are aware of where I am. I’ve pulled back out my counselor’s number to see if she, as a professional, can help me navigate the gates of grief, and I have alerted my spiritual friends to keep me on their prayer list. People aware of my state. Professional Help. Prayer Partners. And, if I need it, I’m okay with a prescription too. I’m covered on all sides. And, as a deeply devout Christian, I will say this. Depression needs more than just Jesus. That’s not to say that Jesus is not a healer. That is not to say He is not an ever-present help, but we have to be careful not to over spiritualize mental health and blindly choose to ignore the help that Jesus has given us on earth.
By-in-large, we have to make sure that we are honest with ourselves in this state. We must recognize it for what it is and deal with it accordingly.
What gives me hope is that when I exit this stage, things seem to take a turn back for the better.
5. Upward Turn– Engaging with friends again, desiring human connection
6. Reconstruction– Accepting what I can’t change and understanding the new normal
7. Acceptance and Hope – Being eternally grateful for what what was
I wish you all love, peace, prosperity, and, of course, the courage to be vulnerable enough with someone else to say when you are not okay.