Reassurance That Life Can Go On Following Loss
As we move further into 2013 I still cannot help but think back on 2012. Certain years probably spark different emotions in people. For me, 2012 revolved around overcoming the grief that 2011 brought. I’ve heard people describe dealing with grief as a “journey” and the last two years have felt just like that.
In January 2011, my grandfather passed away. He was my closest friend and even though I had experienced loss before, this one was the most difficult. He was my best friend as well as a grandparent. His personality rubbed off onto me and I began to see myself as almost an extension of him. I valued his company so much when I was away at college I would call him just about every other day. After his passing, the rest of 2011 was spent dealing with the first holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries that were spent without him. I had a hollow feeling in my stomach for most of that year and I recall Christmas and New Year’s to be particularly tough.
2012 brought some changes and I slowly began to gain some more strength. I became more involved in my graduate school program and began to build toward a career. In February, some inspiration hit and I started writing. I was able to get an article published in a local paper and I continue to try my hand at it. I also joined a support that meets once a week. Working on these goals and activities helped to ease some of the hurt feelings. In that time, I went from experiencing despair to a much less dejected mood. However, there was still a slight sinking feeling in my gut that I carried around with me. Not that I wanted to – it was just there.
Fortunately, something I did at the end of 2012 broke me from that feeling. This past November, I decided to take a solo out of town trip for the first time since my grandfather’s death. I was going to visit my friend in Boston the weekend before Thanksgiving. That was the kind of thing my grandfather would like to talk about when I returned. There would be no such opportunity this time, which had me wondering. How will I feel? Will I be able to enjoy myself? Will there be an empty feeling when I come back? I needed some good luck, so I decided to pack my grandfather’s hat in my travel bag right before I left. I had rarely worn his hat and this was really a last minute idea.
My trip was three days long as planned. Honestly, it was a liberating experience. As I ate in the Cheers restaurant, visited a rock quarry, went to a local move theater and explored the city, I felt my grief dissolving. I had reached the last stop. Maybe it was because of bringing the hat. Or maybe it was the realization that there are other things out there in life. Christmas and New Year’s were far less painful in the aftermath of the trip. I still struggle to explain why the trip was so therapeutic. I guess it really is something that mainly had to be felt. Certainly, I recognized the sinking feeling was going away. What had been weighing me down was disappearing and being replaced with a peaceful feeling. This sentiment has continued into 2013.
This journey through grief has been a long one and at times it seemed it would never slow down. However, I have learned that relief can come from being willing to take a big step as I did when I decided I was ready to take the trip. I encourage people to work themselves up to a point where they feel ready to do something that seems more difficult with the loss of a loved one. Then, when ready, go for it. My grief journey took me to Boston, where I found the reassurance that my life could go on. The trip did wonders for me. Though I’m sure the hat had a little something to do with it too.