It’s no secret that this summer has been a rough one for me. I lost my dad, Chris, at the beginning of the three-month trek of record-high temperatures and heartbreaking pain. Then, almost like a perfect bookend to this hellscape of a season, I lost the other most important man in my life, my beloved grandfather, on August 26. Pop Pop walked me down the aisle at my wedding, taught me to drive, saw me through the end of my marriage, and provided endless support. So, when I say this summer gave me a proper whooping, I am not kidding. Grief has not been an easy or graceful journey for me, and I have spent a lot of time thinking I would never come out of it.
How I Cope
Coping with grief does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. Treating stress and anxiety is a mixed bag, too. To deal with both, I’ve had to figure out how to make it through the gut punches this year has delivered. Here are the three strategies I’ve found most effective:
- Self-Care and Time Alone – My family is exceptionally close. My dad used to say we invented holidays just so we could get together. A death in the family has been no exception, but when emotions are fragile, tensions run high. On several occasions, I had to excuse myself from the fracas of family togetherness to return to my sanctuary: my bedroom. There, I read books, watched documentaries, or turned on Jurassic Park, all while cuddling with my dog. I needed that time to myself to decompress, because there has been too much loss this year and my nerves are raw.
- Embracing Familiarity – Finding comfort during this trying time has been an exercise in frustration; I do not know what will work from one moment to the next. I have discovered that sticking close to home, talking to my sister on the phone, watching time-honored movies, and eating some good, old-fashioned comfort food has helped ease some of the pain. I find familiar things comforting when everything is changing; they help soothe my anxious spirit.
- Getting Out of My Comfort Zone – While embracing the familiar has done me a world of good on certain occasions, it can also be detrimental. Sometimes it breeds depression and stagnancy. When I feel that happening, I do something outside my usual realm of comfort. For instance, I have attended two concerts recently. I am not a big live music person, and (surprise) I am not a big fan of crowds either. But the music was good, the concerts were entertaining, and I was forced to dig myself out of my hole of despair. Soon, I will again venture beyond my realm of comfort as I go out to dinner with a group of people from work. Wish me luck!
I am not sure if I will ever get over or get past the hurtful losses of my dad and grandfather completely; I know I will find healing, but surely there will be scars. For now, I am going to keep doing what I am doing to get through the hard days. I will smile and remember the two great men, take to my bedroom like a colonial woman when I want time alone, and jolt myself out of complacency when needed.
How do you handle the hard times? I’m always open to suggestions.