The Sneaky Ways That Grief Affects Your Life
When someone you love dies, you will obviously be affected by it. You expect to feel sad, depressed, devastated, and many other emotions. But I have found that grief has sneaky ways of affecting so many areas of your life, ones that may not seem obvious to you at first. I was devastated when my dad and mom passed away within just a year and a half of each other. We were a close family and I was in shock at the suddenness of it. I went through all the typical grief reactions, but later realized that grief carries way beyond the first loss.
After my father passed away, I joined an online grief support group. It really helped me being able to talk to others going through the same thing. You sometimes feel that some of your reactions are a bit crazy when you are grieving. The support group let me know I wasn't alone in this and that we weren't going nuts, just grieving. The first time I worried about one of my "wacky reactions" (as I called them) was when we gave away some of my dad's golfing items. He was an avid golfer who had everything from books to pens, shaped like golf clubs, that he got as gifts. We eventually gave them to someone my brother worked with who was also golf crazy. It pleased me to pass them on to someone who would appreciate them. But several months later, out of nowhere, I felt terribly guilty about it. Would my dad have minded? Did he think we didn't care about him anymore? Why did we give these things away? All of these thoughts ran through my mind like a speed train.I knew my thoughts were irrational, but there they were. I finally got over it, but not easily.
After my mom passed away, the refrigerator bit the dust. I went to the store, picked one out and set up delivery. The day they came to take the old one away and install the new one, I totally humiliated myself by bursting into tears. I had to leave the kitchen and let my brother supervise. As I sat in my room, crying my eyes out, I wondered what was wrong with me. I was getting a new refrigerator and should have been pleased...no more messing with the problems the old one had. Instead, all I wanted to do was go to the kitchen, tell them to go away and leave the old one right where it was. How crazy was that? I finally admitted this to my support group and was amazed, and so relieved, to hear from many others that they went through similar incidents. We realized that it was another loss of something familiar.
Life being what it is, there were many other changes in my life. Both of my closest neighbors had to move, one to a new place and the other to a nursing home. I was fairly close to both of them, but not in a "I can't live without you" way. My dad was in the Air force and I was used to saying goodbye to friends. Suddenly I felt alone and abandoned, sitting in between two empty houses. Two more losses in my life, but ones that shouldn't have affected me to that degree. The mailman we had for years changed routes. The washing machine needed replacing... another new appliance! I had to get new pillows for the couch. I have to mention that I lived with my parents for years after my divorce, so everything in the house reminded me of them, and us as a family. This was extremely comforting, but maybe added to that sense of loss. On the other hand, people who didn't live with the loved one who died told me they experienced the same feelings. The changes became losses instead of just new things in our lives.
Grieving truly changed me, in so many ways. I found I was not as tolerant of others as I had been. It was hard for me to sympathize when a friend whined about breaking a nail. It made me change my priorities, which was good in a way. I no longer sweat the small stuff as much, and yet the small stuff can throw me for a loop. Think back to my reaction over the refrigerator. I also found I just didn't have the energy I used to have for going out. I wanted to stay home alone more. That way I didn't have to put on a pleasant front, which I found draining, because generally people don't want to see your sadness. No one wants a sad sack at their party and I understand that. So it was easier for everyone if I just didn't go.
It's been six years since I lost my father, and then my mother. While I have fewer "wacky reactions" now, they still hit me now and then. People sometimes don't realize that grief will last a lifetime. While you may get better at handling it, it is always lurking in the shadows. It took me awhile to figure out that some of my reactions were from the grief. That's why I consider grief to be sneaky...it can affect many things in your life that you don't even connect to that loss of your loved one. I think the main area, for me at least, was that sense of loss. Any change that came along became a crushing loss of yet one more constant or familiar thing in my life. Now that I understand it, it has become easier to deal with. I hope this helps anyone who is grieving and having "wacky reactions". You're not going nuts, you are grieving, and it will get better.