Grief is hard work. And grief is a marathon, not a sprint. People who haven’t been through the loss of someone who is an intimate part of your life make the mistake of thinking grief is something you power through, you finish it and you set it aside and “go on with your life”. Uh… no. I will never finish grieving Shayna. I will never “go on” with my life. My life is forever changed. Grief goes through different phases, we deal with it in different ways, but it’s something we always carry. Carrying is a great metaphor because it’s like a weight making everything just a little harder to do.
We don’t carry it alone though. Our friends and family want to help shoulder it and they do. After Shayna passed people came out of the woodwork. Everyone said a variation of the same thing “If there is anything I can do to help, just let me know.” Somehow I knew, I don’t know how I knew, but I knew that people would be there for us at the beginning and not so much in a few months or weeks. I would say to them “We’re good for now, but don’t forget to check in with us in six months or a year when others have forgotten and moved on.” Maybe I’ve been through this in a past life (why the hell would I choose to do it again though?). Maybe I know how I am when someone loses someone. Maybe I just know human nature. But, I was right. The friends who checked in daily now check in weekly or less. The ones who checked in weekly, now it’s more like monthly. There are a couple of exceptions. And I don’t say this to make anyone feel guilty. It’s life. It goes on. We are all busy and most of us are tired. As I said, this grief thing is a heavy burden to carry, even if it’s not our own. People advise us to “take a break”. How does one take a break from grief? You go on vacation. It’s right there with you. Do we stop the reading, the Podcasts, the grief groups, the exercise? The grief is still there. We’re just not dealing with it. It’s still strapped to our backs. There is no break. For our friends and family, they can (and they should) take a break.
What I do to try to cope with the exhaustion of grief is to take breaks in other areas of my life. I’m not pushing myself as hard to get up early. I take longer lunch breaks. I stop work a bit earlier and spend time on the deck in meditation, just listening to music and watching nature. I can cut back on the other work of life, but the grief doesn’t take a break. It never lets up and that can be exhausting at times.