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Staying Afloat When Grief Steals Your Identity

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One of the hardest parts of grief, as well as the obvious loss of your loved one, can be the physical and internal changes within ourselves. Our beings. The body’s response is sudden and arduous; truly, our minds may not be conscious of what is happening to us, only what has happened to our loved ones. Yet, it may be months or years when we notice it. After the shock has worn off, we may have had a chance to glance at our reflections in a distant mirror and not recognize who we see in the reflection.

In that single horrible moment I heard you were gone, a huge part of me went with you. A great big part of me, anyway. So much of me disappeared the day you left, and so much of me has changed that I am learning I really don’t know who I am right now. I question everything. Those of us who have lost someone so close to us so often say, “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

What happens to us? Our hearts are shattered, and within our bodies the explosion of all that emotion and mental shock have caused so much damage, we can get short-circuited. It’s almost as if we are burned out. We can feel like empty shells of who we used to be, left to figure out how to regain some form of who we are supposed to be now.

I questioned how any one thing could possibly hurt so much and not kill me. The grief is not comparable to anything I could ever explain. I still cannot comprehend how I lived through the first six months after I lost you. How any of us did. The gut-wrenching, screaming-without-a-sound pain you and only you alone can go through. I believe I know now that Konnor was watching us and trying to comfort us. His gentle hand on our shoulders, his tears raining down with ours. Perhaps he had a hand in helping us get through it.

The change in cognitive function. I was merely able to stare blankly at the television, cry and sleep (with the help of meds). I cannot bring to my recollection how I spent my time the first year after the loss of Konnor. I explained in previous blogs I had gone through a few jobs, I had been unable to concentrate, to cope with any stress at this point. My mind was shutting everything out. I, in turn, let my body go with it. I figured I would rejoin life when I was ready. Even today, I find myself forgetful, at times staring off into space, a disconnection of sorts, yet my mind is racing when I try to sleep. My thoughts will take me to horrible places at night, whether it is reality-based or not. Why my psyche feels motivated at this specific time to attack with deep thoughts of situational probabilities and emotional conversation is beyond my comprehension.

Social skills. Now I have become so socially uncomfortable from not being around people for so long that I just gave up. The friends I do have who really know me — by that I mean the ones I have had for 20-plus years — I do see from time to time. They make the effort to call and pull me out of my head and my home because we have the longevity and love that is needed to keep the friendship alive. I don’t think I would have made it out of the dark without them.

Irritability. I don’t know what is happening to me here. There is no distinguishing what can set me off. One thing may set me off, and another issue you may think would anger me will not bother me whatsoever. I do know it does not take much to put me into frustration mode. I used to think I was a pretty strong person. Death has stolen my ability to be strong. It has crushed me. A minor traffic jam can put me into tears. A small, non-complicated issue will have me searching for alternative ways around it. Avoidance is my new best friend. I used to be the “go-to” person. In self-preservation mode, I can barely help myself. I can only hope that those I love and who love me will respect and understand my journey and not give me additional things to worry about.

Along with irritability, mood swings are its constant companions. There is no rhyme or reason for the ups and downs of my moodiness. Although I have figured out that the closer I get to the 22nd of the month, the more sensitive I get. Everything makes me cry around this time. I wish this number held a different meaning than the day Konnor passed away. The number two used to be my favorite number. I am very aware of my mood swings. If I’m not crying, I’m angry. In an instant, I can be spewing obscenities out of frustration because something didn’t go the way I felt it should. They frighten me in that they have no obvious warning. With relief, I only have my son to apologize to if I get out of hand. Otherwise, I just hide and ride it out.

Twenty-three months have passed since Konnor left this earth. Twenty-three. I have never asked myself when I think I will be over it. There is no over it. I realize this is a process, an adjustment that may last the rest of my lifetime. Every single thing that has changed within me, every mood, every tear, every small step I have taken to figure out who I am now, is because of Konnor. It’s still because my love for him is that strong. I can’t let that go. Maybe that’s the part of loss we have been trying to fight against. The letting go. Accepting the fact that we have lost them forever. We don’t know who we are without them in our lives. And they were the part of us that is forever gone. But…maybe they aren’t.

If we use what we have learned and remind ourselves that our loved ones are here with us, I know… It’s difficult to comprehend, some don’t believe, but they are still with us in spirit. It’s up to me to put the pieces together and move forward with this as my guide. As hard as that is to do, I know Konnor would want me to.

Every day is a struggle to move forward in this grief journey. Although I am finding a new me in this process, there is no question who I will always be: Konnor’s Grandma.

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Thinkstock image by DenisVesely

Originally published: October 18, 2017
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