I've been really thinking about my grief a lot lately. Today I had a heavy heart all day. I don't know if it's because Hailey's "Earthly" birthday is coming up on July 20th and her "Heavenly" birthday is coming up on August 11th or because in the last year I've had several close friends experience the tremendous loss of a loved one, but whatever it is my "Grief Journey" has been on my mind a lot.
It's weird because part of me wants to go back to the day Hailey died and remember all the little details, yet when I try my mind literally slams the door and I can't concentrate on it. I guess that's my emotions, mind, body, and spirit telling me I'm not ready for that. (Who knows, I may never be. I know nothing good can come of reliving that day in my memory, but in some strange way I also never want to forget it.)
Anyways, as the door slammed once again this afternoon while I had a quiet moment to think, I was instead guided to thinking about grief as a whole and what it really did and is still doing to me. (I feel pretty confident in saying that most people who have experienced the tremendous loss of a close loved one can probably relate very closely to the following.)
Grief literally wrecks you. It rips you down to the bare bones in all areas of life: Emotional, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual. It's almost as if you are stripped down to nothing and have to get up and start from scratch. Now, let me say, I'm nowhere near that point anymore. I think I'm definitely well on my way through my journey to healing in all those areas, but for those of you who haven't been through it or who are currently going through it, I thought I'd explain, (as best I can because there really are no adequate words to describe it), how grief has and still does affect me in those 4 main areas.
Emotionally I was a wreck. I couldn't stop crying. I became terrified. Will I be this sad forever? Will I never be able to stop crying? How am I going to survive the rest of my life without Hailey? What if someone else I love dies? Will I ever stop feeling so lonely? One minute I was so sad I couldn't stop crying and the next I was furious. The anger raged in me. Then I would laugh at something. How dare I laugh? Did this mean I didn't love Hailey as much as I thought? The guilt would start to set in. I felt guilty for everything: laughing, crying, feeling angry, neglecting my other children, not being a better mom to Hailey while she was here...the list went on and on and on. The guilt was overwhelming. Along with this tornado of emotions, I also felt so vulnerable, like anything could rip me apart again. I was terrified to go out in public. What if someone was rude to me? Would I break down and start to cry in front of them? I felt sick and wounded, as if the whole world would know my heart was broken and in some ways I wanted the whole world to know. I lashed out at those around me, primarily my family and friends. I think I took it out on them the most because I trusted that they wouldn't leave me, although to be totally honest, I didn't even care sometimes if they did because all I really wanted was to be alone in my grief. I wanted to wallow in my own misery. I wanted to yell and scream and punch and kick. Nothing really mattered to me. Then hope. I would feel a sliver of hope, like maybe I would survive this and one day be "happy" again. A smile would form only to be quickly slapped off my face by another round of guilt and then the whole emotional roller coaster would begin again.
Mentally I couldn't think. It felt like someone had wrapped my brain in a heavy wet towel and all my thoughts were being held in and smothered. I had trouble focusing on any subject, except my grief, for more than a minute or so. All I could think about was THAT day and my very depressing future. What could I have done differently and how was I seriously going to survive this? It was difficult for me to do even basic things such as pay bills, read a book, drive my car, cook dinner, do laundry, etc. My mind would get lost and I would come back unaware of where I began or what I was even doing. Anger would rise in my chest when someone would interrupt my thoughts of Hailey or ask me to think of anything but my grief. I had trouble engaging in a regular conversation or even thinking about the next 5 minutes. I couldn't plan anything, commit to anything, engage in anything, or really do anything. I felt so alone all the time, especially amongst a lot of people. I never once thought of ending my own life, but there were definitely times that I prayed and begged God to take me because I honestly didn't think I could bear one more moment of the torture I was feeling.
Physically I couldn't move. My eyes burned from crying. My arms literally ached. My heart throbbed and burned. It felt so heavy in my chest. Sometimes I wondered if I was having a heart attack. I often felt like I was gasping for air because I couldn't breathe. I was constantly nauseous and the thought of eating could cause me to dry heave. My stomach did constant somersaults. My whole body physically hurt. I felt heavy, as if someone had placed a backpack of bricks over my shoulder and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get it off. Even taking a shower would take every bit of energy I could possibly muster up. Sometimes it was hard to walk or even move, yet others I would just want to take off and run and never stop. I would want to scream my lungs out and physically punch and kick things. And the exhaustion...the sheer exhaustion from it all was indescribable. All I wanted to do was sleep, every minute of every day. It was all I could do to escape.
Spiritually I have to admit, I struggled the least. Although my faith has always stayed strong, and I think I was least affected in this area, I still had many questions and concerns. My mother is a woman of great faith and I learned a lot watching her as I grew up, so I was pretty strong in this area. I would always say that it's easy for anyone to say they have faith until it's truly tested...now it was my turn. My belief in the after life and God's plan for each of us kept me on a straight path. I knew that we would be together again one day for eternity, but I also didn't want to wait for that day...that alone seemed like an eternity. I also knew that Hailey was His daughter first before she was mine. I felt honored that He trusted ME, of all people, to be Hailey's mom. However, I also felt angry that He would send her to me to love so much and then turn around and take her back only 3 years later. I felt like that was so unfair. I think the major area I struggled in spiritually was my trust in God. I knew that He would always be there for me, but I was (and honestly, still am) terrified of what other trials He may have in store for me. I spent many hours praying, asking God questions, yelling at Him, crying to Him, and even begging Him to send her back. I would feel frustrated when people would assume I'd be okay because I had such strong faith and knew about God's plan for each of us. That didn't make it okay that my baby was gone. It would anger me when people would tell me she was in a better place. I know that she is, but that doesn't mean that as a mother I wouldn't selfishly rather her here with me. Overall though, I have to say that it was my faith and my religious beliefs that kept spirit lifted and well.
Well, I'll admit, that was some heavy deep stuff! Now again, let me assure you that I am far beyond most of those feelings now. I am well on my way to healing, but I would say all those things listed above lasted for at least the first year, some a little beyond, and some are still present in me today. Each time someone I know experiences death I revisit all the above for them. In many ways I carry their pain with me because I know the long road ahead for them. It is overwhelming for me to think about starting the road over again and I pray that I NEVER will again.
Emotionally, I'm much, much stronger now, although I still have my days here and there and I'm ALWAYS missing her. I still have days that I'm sad and I cry for her. But, I have to say I'm the most stable and happiest I've been since she died. I now know I can pretty much get through anything and I've learned how to make good out of the bad. I have my sense of humor back and still LOVE to laugh and have a good time.
Mentally, I still hate to have my thoughts interrupted, but with 3 other kids to take care of, that's normal. I do still fear everyday that another person I love is going to die, so I'm still working on that. But, I'm not constantly dwelling on the day Hailey died and all the details that surround it. (However, as mentioned above, I do still have times that I revisit it all) I'm able to focus on things and rationalize with myself when I'm starting to feel the slippery slope of grief creeping up on me. I've learned healthy ways to deal with what could be such a negative and anger filled trial in my life.
Physically, I'm feeling better than ever. Yes, I still love my naps, but they don't happen nearly as often and I don't NEED them anymore. I have much more energy and feel stronger and healthier than I've felt in 4 1/2 years. (No, I'm not going to start working out yet!) I definitely can feel the times when I'm actively grieving and need to sleep more than normal, but once I get through it I'm good again. And I no longer feel the weight of the world on my shoulders! I've learned how to relax much better.
Spiritually, I'm the strongest I've ever been. I love my Heavenly Father and have grown so much closer to Him. I've learned how to truly offer deep, heartfelt prayers. I've learned how to see His hand in everything and I know that no matter what comes my way He will be there by my side to carry me through it and bless me in ways I couldn't have imagined before, but I've also learned that I have to allow Him to do so. I've learned what it means to have Jesus Christ as my best friend and I've personally felt how He and only He knows exactly how I feel and what I'm going through. I have a testimony of the Plan of Salvation and why we're here and where we're going. I know Hailey still lives, not physically but spiritually and I have often felt her so closely I could almost reach out and touch her. I am grateful for eternal families and the fact that I am part of one. I know that I will be with Hailey one day forever.
So, there's my update! I still miss my little girl more than words can describe. I still cry for her. I still ache for her. I always wonder what she would be like if she were still here. And I'll never stop wishing she'd come back. But through all that, I'm okay and I'll continue to be okay...and one day even better than okay!
(If you ever have any questions about my beliefs and/or church please never hesitate to ask me or visit http://mormon.org/. (We're not as weird as some people think!! Ha Ha!)