Finding Oxygen: Surviving Grief Milestones

Grief is such a confusing process. For something that everyone experiences at some point in life, it is confounding to me that no two grief processes act the same. For me, my grief paralyzes me. I retreat into the comforts of my home, surrounding myself with sleep, my trusty teddy bear, Snugglers, and the soft cuddling of my purring kitty, Atticus. I love being around people at any other time of the year, but while I’m grieving, the simple act of picking up the phone and calling someone – even a dear friend – seems to be too much for me. I become a stranger to my friends and family.

February is a hard month for me. Dad passed on February 11, 2016. My dear, sweet grandmother passed on February 28, 2015. Our wonderful friend, Joel, passed on January 27, 2012. When February hits, I am inevitably hiding away, struggling to breathe, feeling an inexplicable heaviness weighing me down. I understand the significance of February as a difficult month for me to maneuver. I am, however, frustrated for the duration of the month because hiding out and avoiding people directly contradicts my innately social tendencies. Like the several most recent Februaries, I spent February 2018 in hiding.

Today’s blog reminds me of a passage on the internet that I found prior to my dad’s death. I stumbled upon this article and it resonated so much with me that my aunt read it at my dad’s funeral. It was basically a bit of advice about how to survive grief. A stranger wrote this passage in response to someone who had recently lost a friend and didn’t know what to do. Although this is not the original place I found the article, you can read it here.

Survive.

Survive. That is what I take from the article. Although no two grief experiences are the same, the solution for moving forward is the same for everyone: SURVIVE. You have to survive this – for you, for your family, for your friends, for your loved one who passed away. My dad would probably hate that I spend a whole month of the year closed away from the world, missing him and missing the other precious people I’ve lost in my life. One day, I hope to be able to enjoy February again. Until then, I will handle my month of grief the only way my body and mind will allow.

The good news is that it is now March. The azaleas in our yard are blooming. A thin layer of pollen coats all of the cars and trucks in town. Despite the itchy and sneezy beginnings of allergy season, I feel like each March represents the dawn of a new and very promising day. In March, I spend more time in the sunshine, enjoying the soft kiss of a cool breeze on my shoulders. I reconnect with those friends and family who haven’t heard from me in awhile. The things that seemed too difficult for me to manage in a day, just a week ago, now seem doable. I am, once again, finding oxygen and breathing life back into my days.

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