Early Grief

One day you wake up and, like any other day, you assume that all the things you believe to be true will remain that way

That is until you get the knock at the door. Maybe it’s a phone call. Maybe it’s a doctor saying that there is nothing more that they can do. Or, like me, you walk into a nightmare scene of flashing lights and uniforms only to be told ” I’m sorry, ma’am. He’s inside and he’s deceased.”

However you get the news, that is when it happens. Something I like to call “The Pause”.

Time stops. The world stops spinning. You stop breathing. You can’t think a single thought. You can’t really hear. You stop seeing what is happening around you. This is the last moment of your “other” life. This is the moment that the version of you from before you were told the news, dies.

Then, you fall. Reality rips wide open and you fall into the abyss. This isn’t like the books and movies like to make it seem. You don’t fall into some fiery hellscape of endless suffering. You don’t fall into complete darkness where there is no sense of direction. It is much more insidious than that. You see, the abyss looks EXACTLY like the world you knew. The only difference is that it FEELS like a fiery hellscape and endless, directionless darkness. The thing is, you’re the only one that notices the difference.

It is disorienting, the abyss. The food looks the same but it tastes like ashes in your mouth. People look the same but they make no sense anymore. Music that you once loved now feels like razors flaying you wide open. Movies and shows that you once enjoyed become annoying, at best. They become tortuous at worst. Sleep is impossible. Nothing seems real but it is all familiar. People go about their lives as if the whole world hadn’t just imploded.

You spend much of your time wanting to scream and some of it actually screaming. How is it that everything is the same but nothing is the same, at the same time? How can people just smile like that? How can they act like the ground didn’t just swallow up reality? Can’t they feel that agony you are feeling? It is obvious that they can’t. You wonder if you have lost your mind.

Maybe you sit in silence, unable to form coherent thought. Maybe you curl into a ball and scream until your throat bleeds. Maybe you cry so hard that you vomit. Maybe you scream like a banshee and break everything in sight. Maybe you do all of these. You are neither alive nor dead. You are in limbo. The limbo of early grief.

People don’t know how to talk to you so they don’t. The very air around you is heavy and suffocating for those who can’t feel the torture. They don’t understand why you are acting this way. It can’t really, be that bad. Can it? They dont want to entertain the idea that what is happening to you could ever happen to them so they look away.

Nothing is ever the same again. All grief changes you. Traumatic, out of order, unexpected and violent death does even more. Nothing ever feels the same as it did that moment just before you got the news. You will forever carry the scars and the knowledge that the worst can, and sometimes does, happen. You know pain that most cannot and will never have to understand. You learn how strong you are. You learn what really matters in this life.

Early grief is a tortuous hell. If you are there, just breathe. Hold on to something. Drink more water. Eat if you can. Sleep when you can. The hell you are in won’t always be so consuming. You will never really leave it completely behind but, in some strange way, you will start to make sense of it. There are lessons here. Expensive, painful lessons. Important lessons. Don’t give up. You will be able to breathe again someday. Someday, you will be alive again.

It will never be “better”. I am not the kind of person to give false hope. The pain stays. Sorry to be the bearer of more bad news. The pain stays but you get stronger. You learn to carry it differently. It won’t always feel so heavy. There will be days, years into this journey, where it will hit you like a tidal wave and it will knock you on your ass. You won’t be able to breathe. You will be taken straight back to the early days. You will wonder why the hell you are back there again. Don’t worry. You have done days like that before. You know how to get through them. They don’t last as long, over time.

I think, eventually, you leave the abyss. I also think that the abyss never really leaves you. You carry a piece of that hell with you for the rest of your life. You will never be what or who you were before so don’t waste your precious time and energy trying to be. Find who you are now. The person with the scars and the wounds and the lessons and the hell inside them . The person who is stronger than they ever imagined they could be or ever wanted to have to be. There are some gifts, even in hell. Try to hold on to them.