Does Grief Have An Expiration Date?

Grief is a big bowl to hold. It takes so many formations, so many textures and colors. You never know how or when it will rear its head and take a hold of you. Sometimes you cry unfathomably, some days you feel guilty because you haven’t cried, and in other moments you are so angry or filled with anxiety you just don’t know what to do.

Grief is one of those emotions that has a life of its own. It carried every feeling within it and sometimes there’s no way to discern it.

Today was a hard day.

Usually I am able to hide my feelings well. Usually I can paste a smile on my face, exude positivity, and not allow anyone to know that I am being eaten away inside.

Today was not usual.

Today I had more meltdowns than I can ever remembering facing on any given day in the past. Today I found myself becoming angry and hostile about the littlest of things. Today I awoke from a daydream to find tears leaking down my cheeks. Today I curled myself into the fetal position and sobbed.

Today I grieved. Or at least my grief finally came out…

It has been a month since my friend Denise’s death and I still don’t think I’ve truly taken the time to grieve her loss. Sure, I’ve cried in the late hours of the night, but I hide that sadness during the day so the world won’t see my weakness. I have not wanted the world to know that I am hurting. And I feel more guilt as time keeps ticking away that I’m not better yet… that I am not as strong as I pretend to be.

I feel like I should be nearing the end of my grieving period… and that is the issue!

Certain things need an expiration date. Milk, eggs, meat, yogurt, the salad that gets pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten… An expiration date means there is a time we need to be done with these things, a time for them to either be a gone or thrown away. I get this. I’m in perfect understanding of this. But why do I also feel like grief has an expiration date as well? There seems to be this under-laying concept in our society that allows grief to have a shelf life and then it needs to be permanently removed from the house and home.

I think this way of thinking comes from those who have never experienced a great loss. Good for you! You are so blessed! But unfortunately, there are a number of people in the world who cannot say the same. The majority have suffered devastating losses and therefore know the truth — grief does not have an expiration date.

Everyone fears facing such a loss. Alongside that fear, they are also hopeful that their grief will only last a certain amount of time, that it will only take “so long” to recover. So until they are faced with the reality of a loss, it is a lot easier to think, “This won’t happen to me, and if it does it will only be awful for a short amount of time and then SNAP! Back to my happy-go-lucky self and all the sadness will be magically erased.”

Friends, this way of thinking sets us all up for very disappointing expectations!

The reality is, everyone deals with grief in their own way. If someone spent years loving another person, that pain will not simply be removed due to society’s belief that it should be over at a given time.

The same can be said for people who made a lasting impact in another’s life, just like Denise did for me. Her loss is something I still not comprehend, and I’m finding it difficult to “get over it” in a timely manner simply because I doubt how well I am coping — or if I am coping at all.

Over the past month, I’ve learned a few more things about grief. Grief will take on different forms in different people. Not everyone cries while others cry all the time. Some people exercise a lot, others talk about the situation often. Many seek counseling or look for support groups.

I’ve come to enjoy the company of good and understanding listeners. This is a big step for me — when I start to feel sad, I actively look for someone to listen to my feelings and give me support.

I called Wilbur today for that support. I felt awful doing so, and I actually retracted my invitation for help only a few minutes later, but he came over and lent me a helping hand to get through the evening. He reminded me that I am allowed to feel the pain of Denise’s loss and that it is healthy to do so.

From past experience, I know that the frequency and intensity of grief’s pain will lessen over time. However, the reality is that those memories will resurface and the pain will itch its way back into Life every now and then. Everyone grieves at their own pace and in their own way. There is no set right or wrong way to grieve, and that is something we as a society need to start incorporating into everyday life.

Grieving in a healthy manner and taking steps forward does not mean you won’t have tough days or moments. Grief is a way of life, but you can continue to lead a happy life by choosing to do so and putting in the necessary work.

There is no expiration date on grief. When you’ve faced a tragic loss, grief never fully goes away. This doesn’t mean you will be sad forever though, and that you can’t choose to be happy in the future. Take however much time you need to grieve your losses, because, luckily, there is no expiration date on the love you shared with your lost loved ones either.

A Letter to the Girl with a Broken Heart

Two years ago, I lost what, I thought, was the basic existence of my life. To read my thoughts and feelings over the time that has passed, I am both humbled and shocked. Humbled that I was granted the blessing of maturing through this time and given wisdom over the past two years. Shocked because I can still remember the emotions felt during what was one of the hardest decisions so far. There is so much I wish I could have known back then…

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No Rhyme or Reason

I’ve never been depressed. Sure, I’ve had bad times and I’ve had my own share of craziness. I’ve laid in bed at night and started crying for no rhyme or reason at all. But overall, even when things are as dark as can be, I am lucky enough to have the ability to say “I’m feeling depressed,” as opposed to “I have depression.”

I’ve never been depressed, but I’m slowly learning that there’s a big difference between those statements, and the key word is feeling.

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5 Ways to Stay Positive in Negative Situations

Everyone knows what it is like to have a hangnail: no matter how hard you try to ignore it, all you want to do is get rid of it. So you pick or pull or find nail clippers to get the job done. It might hurt, but once it is gone, you feel a tremendous sense of relief. Only once it is no longer dangling, catching on your clothes, and being a nuisance can you get on with the more important aspects of your day.

Negativity is just like that hangnail. It pierces your consciousness, inflames your mind, and consumes your thoughts. How many times have you caught yourself laying in bed after being hurt or angered and continuously processing it in your mind? I have one-sided arguments with myself frequently. This week, for example, I had an argument about once every hour as I went through what I can honestly say was the worst week I’ve had the misfortune of enjoying.

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Staging Lies

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The stages of grief: a method to gauge and measure grief. It is the belief of observation and theory that when a person is grieving (specifically the loss of a person in their life) then he or she is expected to move through this series of clearly defined stages and eventually come to a completion of acceptance. It is the belief of professionals that there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve. The right way is to process grief in an orderly pattern, the wrong way is to never actually heal.

If I were a professional psychologist, I would definitely say I am failing at grief. Being a writer, however, I feel fully comfortable saying I am winning at grief. That is because I have come up with my own stages of grief, and let me tell you, I like mine a whole lot more than the majority of psychological science’s stages of grief lies.

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Letter to the Army

Nine months ago I met someone who changed my entire outlook on life and love. He was sweet and endearing and funny and, above all else, he looked past my exterior and fell for me, all of me, Ashley. We began seeing one another on a weekly basis, going out, enjoying one another’s company. And somewhere in between the joking and the laughing and the conversations, I fell in love with him.

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Reminiscing on Love Lost

You guys know this story well enough from me: breaking up sucks. I never much thought about how much it would hurt while I was in my relationship with X, but now I know. It is even worse when you’re still in love with the person and you realize you need to break up. It’s not always because you’re not in love anymore, you know?

A dear friend of mine is on the verge of sparking her relationship again with her ex (for the ninetieth time), and though many can see how perfectly wrong he is for her, I also understand where her mind is right now. I’ve been there. I considered getting back with X, remember back to some of my May posts? For some reason though I saw the errors of my thinking before I acted, thought better of why we broke up to begin with, and decided to look towards my future as a strong individual rather than depend on someone else for my happiness. I moved on. Now I am the most independent I have ever been, I love my life entirely, and I am surrounded by fantastic people who tell me my worth daily. It  amazes me to look back and reminisce on the love I’ve lost and the loves I’ve gained…

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