For many years, September has been a bitter sweet month for me. I dare to say, more bitter than sweet, but as life goes on, you try to add more sweetener so the bitter is a little more palatable.
On the positive side, I have wonderful people in my life born in this month, as miserable and pig headed as they can be, but I love them just the same.
On the not so positive side, September has been the month that has tested every single ounce of my emotional fiber since 2001. I lost my husband September 23, 2001, my Dad September 20, 2016, my job September 28, 2018 and a few close friends in between those years.
When my husband died in 2001 I developed a different kind of coping mechanism, one of springing into action for everything so as to dilute the emotions associated with having to think about it. I sprang into action and was busy planning the funeral, comforting his family and friends, visiting the 'nine-nights' (never staying as all I wanted to do was just be) and refocusing my energy on all that surrounded me. I hardly cried throughout the process and I usually cry for everything (I am an emotional being with no filters or apologies). I can't tell you much about the processes or what took place between his death and burial, most of it is a blur, I just know I went on as usual, actually more like a zombie who had been programmed to act a part.
And then the melt-downs came. The outpouring of hollering, the likes of which I don't believe I've experienced since, not even when my Dad passed. I remember ever single one of those. The pain. The anguish. The paralysis. My heart literally hurt. It's a feeling I can't describe and I'm sure some of you know exactly what I mean. It's a feeling of one's heart being ripped out, thrown down, stomped on and then some. It H-U-R-T! LIKE HELL! Full stop! Even writing this now is bringing back emotions once thought buried. Truth is, that feeling doesn't leave, it only gets better to manage as the years go by, but sometimes, just one act, just one little thing, can trigger all those emotions to resurface.
I remember his Mom and I went away for a few weeks after and one morning while downstairs I heard her calling to me. For some reason I just couldn't answer her (paralysis). And when she called out to ask if I was ok, the flood gates opened. I mean burst open like the river Nile. I cried for hours on end. Thankfully she had the strength of a woman, a mother, a friend; that despite her own hurt, was able to comfort me back to some level of sanity. That folks was the 1st of many to come, unbeknownst to me, the girl who always thinks she has her shit together and handled, like Olivia Pope. HECK NO! The 1st two years were the worst. I had melt-downs after melt-downs. Some for the simplest things such as, someone asking how are you, or finding a piece of his belongings unexpectedly, or I'd hear a song - to this day I cannot listen to Boyz II Men's - Water Runs Dry.
Then I developed a level of fear like no other when September rolled around. I'd start to get sick for no apparent reason, or rather none the Doctor could find, and I'd go into what I now know was depression and utter sadness. I always took the day off from work, or a week, depending. And I figured I was dealing with it. But I wasn't. Then I started talking about it more and over time it got easier to accept and deal with. However I still got sick every single time September came around, without fail.
Dealing with it...
I remember someone saying to me, 'you need to figure out what triggers this every single time.' But I already knew what it was. However, I couldn't figure out how to stop it. I thought talking about it was enough. That opening myself up to accepting it was enough. That looking back at pictures and reminiscing about good times was enough. But it wasn't.
What I learned was that you have to FIRST ACCEPT IT. Then you need to surrender yourself to it. Surrender yourself to feel every ounce of pain and hurt and sadness. You have to surrender yourself all the way, to feel everything - EXPERIENCE THE FEELING. Then DEAL WITH IT, find what works for you; your coping mechanism. And lastly, just LET IT GO. And it wasn't until I did all of this, especially the last one that I became 'free.'
For those of you who have gone through similar situations, I don't know what your surrendering and letting go entails, but I remember mine quite vividly. I got up on Sunday, September 23, 2012, exactly 11 years after and ironically the same day of the week as 11 years before, and I did what some would say was a 'cow bawling' and purging of the soul. I cried like there was no tomorrow. I felt every fibre of my being explode. I felt my heart burst and I overflowed with emotions. I was alone and invited no one into my space or talked to anyone about this day's ordeal. I purposefully needed to just be. And then I had a long conversation with my God, I told Him, 'I'm done, this is it, I'm moving on, I'm not carrying this anymore.' YUP. Just like that.
What I experienced next was not exactly how I expected it to play out. But I felt a sense of calm that I've never felt before. I sense of quiet relief. I F-E-L-T LIGHT...and I'm a big girl, so you know that's an extraordinary feeling. Just saying.
I have never feared September since. I have not been sick in September since (except for the minor nuisances of daily life of course). And you know what. The Lord knows why He ordained that day the way He did. Cause He knows more shit was coming and I needed to be able to handle it. And come it did.
On Tuesday September 20, 2016 I loss my Dad. I felt it coming. I remember the last day I saw him, the Sunday, he never spoke to me, he never even opened his eyes to look at me...that has bothered me over the years. But I knew he heard everything I said to him. And I made sure to kiss him and tell him I loved him - not something that was openly shared with my Dad and I, but one we both knew and shared in our own special little ways.
I remember when I got back home I said to myself, 'brace yourself...it's coming.' I got home from work earlier than normal that evening and I started cooking. Now I don't normally cook when I get home from work, however when I'm down or can't understand why I feel the way I do, I normally cook or clean. This evening I chose to cook and I did one big pot of chicken and pasta something. Tasted good...or so I was told. I had no idea what I was cooking. I was just cooking. When my brother called and asked if I'm home and what I was doing I felt my belly bottom tremble. And then when he said I'm coming for you, we are going home; I knew before he finished talking. I think my entire neighborhood heard my howling at that point. I let it all out. And when I was done I went into action mode. Packing a bag, packing up the food to take home cause someone is gonna be hungry, thinking about who I needed to call etc. The same way I did when my husband had died. But this time was different. I didn't feel as burdened, I didn't feel as if I was hiding from myself. I didn't feel the sense of anguish and fear. So I know I was gonna be good this time. And I was and have been since.
The losses kept coming...
And then there came my redundancy day. Friday, September 28, 2018. I was actually happy for this one. Really and truly happy. Yes, one can actually be happy on such occasions. However, it was tainted with sadness, as I was walking away from what I've known for over 13 years; from some people I had come to love and accept as my extended family; from a work life and culture I was ingrained in for so long.
You wanna know something interesting?
On the same evening, as I drove home with my mind as blank as a piece of paper, I got a call from a potential job telling me that they're so sorry but they have had to put a freeze on hiring as such they could not offer me the job at this time again. When I hung up the phone, I actually laughed until I started crying...while driving...I was like, Lord you got to be 'f...ing' kidding me. Yes I said that and then remember who I was talking to and apologized. But yeah. I drove the rest of the way home, blank-er than the piece of paper. I heard absolutely nothing around me. Frankly I'm not sure how I even drove home. But I did. I made one stop and then headed home. Took off my clothes, crawled into my bed and that's all I remember.
I got up the Saturday morning, stretched and said, ok Lord...what's next, cause now you've just done thrown a curve ball my way and I am clueless, blank and without a Plan B. I guess He told me to go garden because that's what I did. For most of the day. And many days after that. My garden looks lovely by the way. Then I went on a cruise/vacation.
TIPS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH LOSSES
Compartmentalize. I compartmentalize, a lot, especially when it comes on to things that hurt the most. Over the years I have learned how to become better at it. It works for me. Jennifer Stern in her article, 'To Compartmentalize,' says that compartmentalizing helps one to break things into smaller categories, to make them more manageable, after all dealing with any loss is a lot.
Move Forward. I chose relocation and going back to school to do an MBA after my husband died. At the time it seemed easier. In retrospect it wasn't. But it was a great decision. I made new friends, started charting a different path for my life and started refocusing on how to turn the negative emotions into positive ones. Find what works for you and just do it. Frankly, it might not even work out, do it anyway, because you will definitely learn something from having done it.
Find a Hobby. I did. Not at first (unless you call going back to school a hobby), but in 2014 I started gardening and in 2019 I added website building, content creation and blogging to my list. They give me immense pleasure and I've learned so much on this journey, sometimes I even surprise myself. What's next for me? I don't know, but I know it will be something great and enjoyable.
Stop Pretending - YOU ARE NOT OK. “Grief experienced will dissolve, while grief unexpressed will last indefinitely,” says Carlstrom. Don't let anybody tell you how you should feel or not feel. If you feel like crying your eyes out, do just that. Even if you are in middle of the bloody road. You have every right to own your feelings. Don't however start drowning yourself in self pity and do things that hurt you and or others. If you feel you're going down that road, seek professional help.
Seek Help. Whether through a professional, a close friend, a group or close relative, doesn't matter which, as long as you are getting the help you need and it is actually making you feel better. Talking through your losses helps you to put things in perspective, it helps to ease the burden, to relieve the pain. You learn how to be more open and accepting and most of all, you find out that you are not alone and you don't have to do it all on your own.
Make Time For Yourself/Embrace Quiet Time. It is important for your healing. Allow yourself to accept what has happened, to feel the layers of emotions, to deal with the situation and to let it go. You can't do all of this if you are too busy fixing everybody and everything else.
There is no right way and no one way to deal with losses. But as Michelle Roya Rad says in her post, 7 steps for dealing with loss and grief...'At the end, do things that positively impact others, engage in meaningful and creative activities, make time for your self-reflection, pay attention to your senses and enjoy simple things with full attention, and learn to discover new things in life and never lose hope since many people in your situation have been able to pass through it and there is no reason for you not to be able to do the same.'
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