This Can’t Be Real – The Shock of Grief

Guest post By Gary Roe

Jeff was a good friend. He sat in front of me in seventh grade English. He was quiet, respectful, and smart. He was easy to be with.

The day after Christmas break, Jeff was absent. He wasn’t there the next day either. The third day, the principle came in, looking somber.

“I’m sorry to tell you this,” she said. “Jeff got very sick with spinal meningitis during Christmas. He didn’t make it.”

I stared at her in shock. I dropped my eyes and gazed at the empty desk in front of me. “He didn’t make it,” echoed over and over in my mind.
The rest of the day was a blur. I kept thinking, “This can’t be real.”
It was real, all right. It just wasn’t real for me yet.

Loss hits us that way. We can’t digest it. It feels surreal, as if life suddenly stopped and abruptly changed direction. It’s like a dream, or a nightmare. We wonder when we’re going to wake up.
For several weeks, I dreaded going to English class. I would ease into my seat, hyper-aware of the empty desk in front of me. I had trouble concentrating. I didn’t know it, but I was still in shock.

Shock is a part of healthy grief, and it can last a while. It can come and go over a period of months, triggered by certain memories or situations.
We feel for our loved one next to us in the bed. We expect to hear them in the kitchen. We find ourselves looking for them, wondering where they are. Their fragrance lingers here and there. Our houses, and our lives, seem unnaturally quiet.
We long to hear their voice. We miss their touch. We hunger to look into their eyes. We miss everything.
Our lives have been altered forever. How could we not be in shock?

What can we do? How do we get out of this daze?

1. Don’t be in a hurry. Your grief, and the shock of it, honors the one you’ve lost. It proclaims how important they are to you. You’re never going to get over them (you’re not supposed to), but you will get through this time.

2. Be nice to yourself and patient with yourself. This time is unlike any other. Things aren’t normal and routine, so don’t expect yourself to be either.

3. Do what’s best for you, and let the world keep spinning. When my father died (I was fifteen), I got very angry that the world dared to go about its business as if nothing had happened. Right now, it’s almost as if someone pushed the pause button on your life. That’s okay. Do what’s best for you, and try not to worry about the circus around you.

So when your loss is triggered by that fragrance, song, or special place, take a deep breath. The shock you feel is real, and normal. Let it come, and let it pass on through. Then ask yourself, “What do I need most right now?”

Gary Sykes pics 076Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley in central Texas. He has written threes books, two in the grief and loss realm. You can reach Gary at:
Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One (co-authored with Cecil Murphey)

Surviving the Holidays without You: Navigating Grief During Special Seasons


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2 Responses to This Can’t Be Real – The Shock of Grief

  • My boyfriend of 15+ years passed away unexpectedly about a month ago and I don’t know what I’m going to do without him. He was my lover, my best friend, my soul mate (and I never even knew I believed in soul mates). He lived with me for the past almost year and then went back to Chicago to help his mom and dad as his dad was having some health issues and didn’t know if he’d be around much longer. Ironically, he was worried about his dad and he ended up passing. So I wasn’t even with him for the past few months and wasn’t there when he died. He was alone. I feel guilty that I wasn’t with him; that I even let him leave. I keep saying to myself that maybe if I had begged him to stay, he would’ve been with me that morning he had the fatal seizure and I could’ve done something. I feel guilty that I didn’t tell him I loved him enough. I should’ve said it more. I’m angry at him, not necessarily for dying or leaving me or hurting me cuz I know he wouldn’t have wanted to die or leave me or hurt me, but for being arrogant enough to think that he could skip his medication (he was on seizure meds after suffering a TBI when he was hit by a car at age 12) or continue his excessive drinking and nothing would happen to him. I’m angry at God for taking away my love, my best friend and leaving me alone. I keep thinking this isn’t real; that any minute he’s going to walk through my door saying it was a mistake, or a dream, or he had to fake his death, something, anything for it to not be true. I’m utterly depressed and lonely without him. I have no other friends. He was my only friend, my best friend. He was the one person I wanted to see and hear and talk to all the time. I talk to him all the time now but it’s killing me that I can’t hear him talking back or making me laugh or hearing his laughter when we watch our favorite show together. I don’t know what to do without him. The pain is unbearable.

  • My husband hung himself on Mother’s Day in 2002. I found him in the garage. I will never get over that. I blame myself. We had talked about it just two weeks before in the very spot it happened. I told him that the children would never get over that so even think about it.That very night he wanted to talk to me – When ever he wanted to talk I would for some reason I said not now and that we will see each other tomorrow. I’m tired right now,so I left. Why didn’t I talk to him? Any other time I would have. He left a note but, I didn’t find it until three years later. It was to his children not me. I miss him terribly. Please help me understand where I went wrong. I could have saved him. How do I let him know I’m sorry
    Thank you.

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