This past year has been the hardest of my life and I’ve been quite open about that with you. With the pandemic creeping up on us in 2020 and fast-forwarding through now, I think we’ve all felt grief in our own way even if you didn’t have multiple loved ones pass away. There are all different kinds of loss that can bring on a sense of grief, so I want to get into some little things that have really lifted me through it all. Maybe something here can help you.
Little things that helped me in my grief
First, let me start by thanking you for your support. Whether you’ve reached out via the comments or sent me an email or quietly shown your support by clicking my links and sharing with friends, it all matters so much to me and is appreciated now more than ever. I don’t take any of it for granted.
So…. where to begin….
A year ago if you had asked me that age-old question — “Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?” — I would have said yes. But after several devastating losses back to back, I’m not so sure of the answer any more.
As for where I’m at now, I can’t say I’m “better” although I play “normal” just fine. I have bad days of course, but the sting of raw, recent grief has worn off. Now it’s all about the learning process of figuring out how to carry the grief and keep going knowing it’ll always be there.
At this point, the pain and grief seem to be foundational to my being. Time hasn’t lessened the pain. It gives you distance from it but it’s still there. I take things hard. I always have. I feel pain deeply and it clings to me, or maybe I cling to it like a glue you just can’t wash away. I don’t let go easily.
Despite that, I still have no problem getting up, showering, buying groceries, working and being a functional adult. Even in the immediate aftermath, I was able to do those things.
I don’t cry every day but I could. I’m not someone dealing with a complicated grief diagnosis. We all handle loss differently and I’m just putting one foot in front of the other.
If we met in person, I’d seem perfectly normal. Cheery even. I laugh and enjoy myself and look happy enough. I’m not debilitated. Grief doesn’t always steal 100% of you. Not all the time anyway.
And let me be clear. None of that happiness is fake. It’s just that there’s another side that co-exists, a private side that follows me around in the quiet moments and reminds me that life will never be the same. That’s what no one sees. But it’s every bit as real.
It makes me kind of laugh when people say, “Glad to see you’re doing better” or some type of similar sentiment when they see me smiling or seemingly “normal.” I know it’s coming from a good place but there is no “better.” My loved ones aren’t ever coming back and we can’t turn back time. My life will never look like what it once did.
All we have is a new path as we forge ahead, doing the best we can and remembering those who we’ve lost. I just try to make the best of things. It’s been an ongoing journey of acknowledgement… and I’m careful not to say acceptance. Loss like this is not acceptable but I have to acknowledge my life now for what it is.
Expressing myself publicly and painting a picture of the raw grief was something I didn’t want to shy away from and I will continue to write about it here (UPDATE: It’s been 1 year since my mom passed away).
I received several comments and messages from faceless keyboard warriors who dismissively and rudely told me to get some counseling, like my grief was off-putting to them. They made it clear that expressing my emotions openly was uncomfortable for them. Their dismissive “Get yourself some help” was so strange to read.
It’s like they thought if I had been seeing a therapist that somehow the hurt wouldn’t be so messy or I would have neatly tucked it away. What they didn’t take time to consider is that I do have a therapist and find it quite strange that people assume you AREN’T talking to a therapist if you outwardly express that things are hard.
Newsflash: Therapy doesn’t fix everything in a week and tie it up with a neat little bow where our emotions are instantly more palatable for those we let in. There’s no Band-Aid for grief.
Anyway, on a more positive note, I recently celebrated my 10-year blogiversary and it coincided with the most successful month on my blog ever. It was such a time of celebration and happiness and learning how to reconcile that with such a deep, aching sadness has been tricky. It’s bittersweet.
I am working on finding moments of joy despite having a foundational sadness that underscores everything and probably will for the rest of my life. Luckily joy is not hard to find.
I wish I could go back to a state of ignorance where I didn’t know grief as intimately as I do now. I wish I wasn’t in on the joke. But the world doesn’t work like that and all I can do now is move forward, one day at a time and take the waves of grief as they come. And then let the tide out and carry on until the water suffocates me again.
I miss Dagny. I miss my mom. I miss the others I haven’t been so vocal about here.
Next up, before getting into my list, I’d be crazy not to give some of the “big things” airtime here because they are the most important and I didn’t want to gloss over them. The big things that helped me work through the grief are my routine in terms of timing and what I do all day (same bed time and wakeup time, same breakfast, etc.), having a support system of my family and friends, talking to a therapist, making a diamond from my mom’s ashes, listening to my body and focusing on self-care, my workouts, and a few other things.
I may do a post on the “big things” but I wanted to start small (ish) here for now.
The “little things” list comprises the things that helped me as I went through anticipatory grief knowing the losses were coming soon and things that helped me in the aftermath and continue to help me today. Many of them fall into the distraction category. Hey, whatever works.
Let’s get into it.
Podcasts. I love listening to podcasts in general as background noise or when I’m going to bed. Over the past year, they’ve become a great source of much needed distraction. On bad days or just moments when I was thinking too much, it’s been so nice to just hit play and turn off my thoughts.
Yes, I love true crime…. and yes I know, I know…. true crime isn’t what I should be gravitating toward now given the fact that most shows involve dead people, but I do find the genre interesting. I like listening to mysteries, scams and spy stories, and interview podcasts as well to balance it out.
P.S. I start thinking about stuff before I go to bed, so in addition to podcasts, one of the shows I just started that features my celebrity crush Jamie Dornan is “The Tourist” on Canal+. I’m three episodes in.
Random blog post with life advice. Tim Ferriss shared the link in his “5 Bullet Friday” newsletter from May and I loved it. The author is Kevin Kelly and on his 70th birthday, he shared 103 bits of life advice he wishes he had known sooner. Good stuff. It distracted me and got me thinking.
Bo Burnham’s “Inside” Netflix masterpiece. I don’t even know to describe Bo or “Inside” but he’s a comedic/musical genius. “Inside” isn’t exactly comedy but instead a collection of clever observations that confront hard-hitting realities of our modern world. Basically, I found it captivating and was blown away. The entire thing was created and filmed by Bo and only Bo in a one-room space during the pandemic.
Megan Devine’s book “It’s OK that you’re not OK.” I’ve mentioned this book a bunch of times and it was really helpful in the very early days after losing my mom. So much to relate to and very validating.
Moving slowly and not being busy. Giving myself the space and time I need to “just be” has been integral as I move forward. I’ve never done well with being busy and hate feeling overwhelmed. Rushing is not in my vocabulary. I’ve made even more of a point to make sure I’m not overextending myself at all.
Naps. The physical exhaustion of dealing with heavy emotions was something I majorly underestimated so naps have become more important to me now more than ever (and I have always been a napper).
The Origami dress by designer Diane Kroe. Looking good can help you feel good so on our recent cruise (more on that soon), I had so much fun in this colorful convertible Origami dress from Canadian designer Diane Kroe. I loved wearing it. The colors gave me such a boost! It’s perfect resort wear and her entire line is gorgeous! And ethically made in Toronto. A nice dress really has a way of lifting your spirits.
Get free shipping in the US/Canada with code WELCOME at checkout. (Full disclosure: I got a discount on my dress but I have no affiliation with the company and was not compensated to write about it).
YouTube. This includes both continuing to create on my own channel and watching amazing content from others. It serves as an escape and window into other people’s worlds. This goes back to my distraction point above. I have to keep busy. And I hit 75k subscribers a few weeks ago! ;-)))
A creative outlet. I just mentioned YouTube above but having my blog and other creative outlets to work on during this time has been so important. Not just for healing (like writing this post and other grief-centered ones) but to keep my mind busy and keep me moving forward and not stuck. Your creative outlet may look different than mine, and if you don’t have one, maybe pick up a new hobby if you have the time or energy. You won’t regret it.
Having little things to look forward to. And I’m talking litttttle here. Simple things like knowing I’m having a special meal for dinner, going to a movie, grabbing ice cream, going for a walk and things like that. Cumulatively speaking, having a little thing to look forward to each day is HUGE despite them being little things.
In the early days, the things I’d look forward to were really small. Like at night I’d get excited for my coffee the next morning. Just the tiniest thing to keep me going. And guess what, it worked. I’m still here. And haven’t completely lost my mind. So that’s a win.
Changing scenery. Some time away is restorative and was much needed after Dagny passed away. Being in my house was/is unbearable because I see the ghost of her everywhere. We can grieve no matter where we are, but I think it can be easier when we aren’t in the space we shared with our loved one. Visiting a friend or family member or even going on a solo trip away can help so much.
Even in early grief, just the distraction can help create space between the blow of the loss and the current moment. Tom, my in-laws, and I (wow, I almost put Dagny too), visited St-Jean-de-Luz in May. It was our first time there and we picked it specifically because it was a place we hadn’t gone with Dagny so we wouldn’t have the pain of retracing old memories.
Let me leave you with a beautiful quote that spoke to me from Tiny Buddha (unknown author).
You fall, you rise, you make mistakes, you live, you learn. You’re human, not perfect. You’ve been hurt, but you’re alive. Think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, and to chase the things you love. Sometimes there is sadness in our journey, but there is also lots of beauty. We must keep putting one foot in front of the other even when we hurt, for we will never know what is waiting for us just around the bend. -Unknown
Take care of yourself.