Grief impacts everyone in different ways, especially when experienced continually across time. In episode 298, I received a question from an individual who has been struggling to cope with continual grief after multiple losses, while also finding themselves feeling guilty for wanting to return to some normality. In this post, I offer my thoughts on coping with grief and talk about why it’s only natural to want to return to ‘normal’ and why this doesn’t make you a bad person.
I have found comfort in your podcast and appreciate you shedding light on a wide variety of topics. I was hoping maybe you could cover this on your next podcast episode. I am a 25-year-old woman and I struggle with coping with grief. Everyone in my family has passed by the time I was 24 and I recently just had to say goodbye to my other half, my dog, February of 2022. I have lost someone every year since 2015. And I have a hard time focusing on getting through to better days and often find myself just rushing through the days. Almost rushing to when it is my time and hope to see them again one day. I do not have thoughts of self harm, but I can’t help but miss them and wishing I could turn back time. Also, I feel guilty for wanting to return back to “normal”. Thank you again for all that you do.
Wow. Oh man. I’m so sorry to hear about this. That is just way too much. I’m glad that you are still here. You said that you don’t have thoughts of harming yourself, which is great. I wouldn’t blame you for them even if you did. That’s just too much for someone to have to deal with. Wish I could give you a huge hug. At this point, it is probably hard to feel safe. A lot of people would feel hyperalert and on-guard because it always feels like the other shoe is about to drop. As if this is your lot in life. It would be totally reasonable for you to be having some pretty significant depressive symptoms in addition to just the grief of it all.
Something to think about…
For one reason or another, I find that a lot of people don’t consider medication in a situation like this. Antidepressant medication can absolutely be used to help you get through a difficult period of time, even if you as a person may not struggle with recurrent major depressive disorder or something like that. Medication can help to give you that chemical boost you need to be able to find enjoyment in everyday activities and perhaps some of the motivation that you need to remain engaged while it feels like your world is bleak. You don’t necessarily have to remain on it forever. Just something to think about if you aren’t already taking something – it’s one option for coping among (and potentially in addition to) others.
When you say that you are rushing through your days toward the time that you might see them again, that makes me wonder how much of your thoughts and feelings about these losses you might be avoiding. Even though there is nothing that you can do to bring them back, there may be some significant feelings that are still worth processing. Each loss has its own set of unique feelings. You might feel guilty for surviving in some cases. You might be angry in some cases. There are any number of emotions that you might hold in response to these losses. They are all okay. You don’t get to control how you feel. But I would advise your to approach them rather than avoid them.
Clarity in life
It sounds like right now the pattern of loss you have experienced is making you feel disconnected from life. Like you are just letting time march on and it’s a little pointless. There is another way of looking at this. You know better than anyone how fragile life is. How precious and fleeting it is. It can be gone in an instant. That is scary, but it’s also something that can be very clarifying. With time and work, you may be able to find a new appreciation for life. If you haven’t listened to it, I interviewed Kate Manser who wrote You Might Die Tomorrow on episode 141 of the podcast. She experienced a string of losses as well and came to realize that remembering your own mortality and the mortality of others can lead to a zeal for life and can help you overcome decision paralysis. Perhaps some of the emptiness or weariness you are feeling has to do with the fact that it is hard to care as much about small things when you are so frequently confronted with how unimportant these things are in the grand scheme when life is so fleeting. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But maybe it is a prompt for you to take a look at your life and see if there is anything that requires change or adjusting. Are you living in line with your values? If not, what could be done to pursue them?
Seeking normality doesn’t make you a bad person
You mentioned that you want to return to “normal” but you feel bad about that. I think this is a totally normal struggle to have. To have some guilt about wanting to return to a familiar life. But the thing is, you are allowed to want normality again. You aren’t the one that is gone, but you have gone through a lot in these past few years. Everything has taken more effort to get through due to this severe disruption in your life. You’ve been struggling too and you’d just like things to be easier again. There’s nothing wrong with that.
You made reference to seeing those that you have lost again. That makes me feel like you maybe believe in some form of afterlife. If that is the case, think about meeting them again on the other side. I assume that these people would want to know what your life has been like while they have been gone. What story do you want to tell them? I believe they would want to know that you allowed yourself to enjoy life and that you found meaning in the experience of being alive. In some ways, living a good life and allowing yourself to explore the beautiful aspects of life is a way of honoring them. They don’t have the opportunity to anymore, but you are still here.
Thank you for the vulnerable question and again, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to experience all of this. It’s too much and the fact that you are still forging onward tells me that you are an exceptionally strong person. You are doing a good job.
You can listen to this on Episode 298 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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