I am no expert on grief, and I’ve actually only ever lost one person that has been close to me (at the time of their death). I’ve lost old friends, even some family members, but our relationship had ended years before their leaving this Earth. And so, it honestly didn’t affect me very much.
A little over two weeks ago though, I lost the first person that has truly shook my world. My stepfather died in a small plane crash while on a work trip in Las Vegas, NV. We were stunned, we still are stunned.
My stepdad was a good, fun-loving man who loved his Budweiser, and would do anything for the people around him. He was always the person to support me through anything, and tell me how smart I was, proud of me he was, or just how beautiful I am. He’d talk me up every chance he could get, while also calling me a little crazy. But that was just him.
We fought growing up, as I resisted having a man around that wasn’t my biological father. But over these past four years, my stepdad became my dad. Years of struggling to pick out a Father’s Day card that didn’t say the word dad turned into shopping for any card I could find that explained how I felt about him, the word “dad” and all. He became the father figure I always hoped for, and I can’t explain what it feels like to lose someone so special when it feels like you just began to “have” them in the first place.
It’s only been ten days, and I am still figuring things out as time goes, but here are some things that have helped me through this difficult time. My outlet is writing, and so, as much as I’d love to curl up in bed and do nothing, I won’t. I will use my writing to heal myself, and hope that in the process, I will help others
Allow yourself to cry, and feel the pain around what happened.
The first few days I thought my eyes would become permanently bulged out of my head. I cried every second I was alone, after holding it together for those around me. I cried a loud, deep, ugly cry that I am sure neighbors could hear. But I didn’t care.
I know from the healing work I have done on myself how important it is to let out these emotions. Every emotion we do not allow ourselves to feel becomes trapped in our bodies, in our muscles, and in our cells. The heaviness that brings with it does nothing good for our lives, and especially our minds.
Surround yourself with family for as long as you can.
I stayed with my mom for the first week after my stepfather’s death, and although I am now grateful to be back at home living my everyday life, it felt good to be there. My mom and I bonded over the pain of it all, and we had some really great conversations. I helped her through her grief, and being there for someone else helped me to channel my own pain in beneficial ways.
Allow yourself time to be alone, and feel.
For that first week, I was honestly afraid to be alone. Not because I would ever hurt myself, but because I knew that once I was alone with my thoughts, they’d all come to the forefront and I would again have to release the pain of what I was feeling.
Eventually, it happened. But when it did, I was relieved. I spent hours crying on and off, but now, the sadness only comes up every once in a while. I am back to loving being alone, and maintaining my spiritual practice through mindfulness training. In life, I continue to find that what we resist, is often what we need the most for our growth, and even our freedom.
Kick guilt to the curb.
I felt guilty for the first few days after my stepdad’s death, and from what I saw, so did almost everyone around me. Everyone had wished they did more with him, and was available “that time my stepdad wanted to go golfing”. We all hoped for more time with him, and blamed ourselves for not taking advantage of the time we did have. But I know now that this is just life. We are all busy, we all sometimes don’t want to do what someone else wants to do, and we all sometimes need time away from our family.
This is natural, and normal, and thinking about the could-haves and should-haves only allows ourselves to become trapped in a negative cycle of thinking. When I think about my stepdad now, I think about these last couple of months we had together, and even the last week. We went camping, we went out to dinner, my son visited him at work, and he even came to watch my son practice karate. I know that these are the things he remembers as well, not that we had talked about going fishing or to Sea World, but didn’t get the chance. We should all just focus on what we did do, and how much that meant at the time.
Utilize your coping mechanisms.
Grief comes in waves, from what I have seen. I’ve experienced grief from those that are still living, and I’ve noticed that it does feel similar. Our mind can only handle so much, until it must shut off from the emotion and go into coping mode.
Allow yourself to take breaks from feeling, and to become numb, or even to dissociate from what happened. You will find your way back and feel all that you need to, as long as you are open to it. Allow yourself to eat the junk food until you can’t eat anymore, and not feel guilty about it. Take time off from work, or the gym, or going to events you were supposed to attend. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself, and remember that it will not be like this forever. This is only while you are in the thick of it.
Life is unpredictable, and death shows you this more than anything else, especially when it is unexpected. Grief is a part of life, and so is losing the ones we love. But our goal is to evolve, and grow, and the knowledge that there is life after death is extremely comforting in these times.
I can still feel my stepdad. I have visions of him when I need it most, and have already heard from him on the other side. He has joined my group of guides, and this knowledge has helped me through this extremely difficult time. Not everyone may have tangible evidence of this same knowledge, but if we can all just trust that our loved ones are still with us in some way, it can help us as we try to navigate life as we know it without them.
[Featured Image taken by Tayler Ashley Photography]