Friday, August 22, 2014

Grief is like an addiction

I never thought the question "How are you doing?" could ever make me feel so perplexed. It is the hardest question to answer these days. However, a lot of people do often wonder and ask, "How are you doing?"

I was toying with the complexity of this question early on after Max passed away and the difficulty I have answering it because I generally feel emotions of two different people. I feel emotions of sadness, anger, grief while still feeling happy, talkative, and celebrating my silver linings. My outward display of grief can be somewhat turned on and off but it is still always there. I honestly feel comparable to person who is struggling with addiction sometimes. (Let me explain).

Shortly after Max's death I came across a blog post from another mom of loss while dealing with this tough question. There she described herself as a "high-functioning bereaved mother". 

That was it! I finally had a handle on how to describe myself and begin to answer the question of,  "How are you doing?" She explained how she can make dinner, go grocery shopping, take her children to soccer practice just like anyone else yet always had this nagging grief along for the ride, ready to ignite and bring her right back to the toughest moments of her life. There isn't always a physical display of grief while going through the motions of life after loss. There also isn't a big sticker across your forehead the says "I lost my baby" but someday's it sure feels like it.

Living as a bereaved mother is like living as a high-functioning __________ (<--insert unattractive issue here: alcoholic, drug addict, etc. ---in my case a bereaved mother). I am living as a high-functioning bereaved mother. 

I strive everyday to look and feel like a normal person, when I know I'm not. Loss like an addiction can be something that I feel I need to hide yet very exposed with regardless. When I am out in public, spending time with my boy's, or working out I often ignore my grief. I push it way down into the depths of my being to at least try and "enjoy" something again. I don't want my grief to take over my life like an addiction can. I want to be a normal person (<---whatever the hell that even means) for just a little while. I am still a mom to two boys here on Earth and have a wonderfully supportive husband; I do need to more forward. Regardless of my struggles, this world keeps turning.

Yet, at the end of the day or at least at some point everyday, my grief bubbles up and takes over for a bit. I can't "escape" and when it hits me again like a sucker punch to the face, a very welcome sucker punch....oddly just like alcohol might to an alcoholic, I'm soothed and relieved swimming in grief for a little while. I try to resist as much as I can to go back to a very painful place but "giving-in" for a bit does make me feel comfortable. I can be me when I cry or look at pictures of my little boy. The relief comes when I don't have to hold it in and don't have to hide my loss. 

Addiction like grief functions in a very similar way. Just as some people are addicted to alcohol as their relief from pain, I welcome my grief as a relief from my pain. Also, addiction like grief can be ignored, you can pretend it isn't there and even lie about it when someone asks about it. But at the end of the day, you give in to your addiction (for me, I give into my grief) and for a while there is that temporary sense of relief. 

Now, I hope that this comparison does not make you worried that I am headed down the wrong path to healing every-time my grief bubbles up. I am not. I really am healing. Slowly, but surely. I do enjoy taking care of my boys, cooking dinner, and having a glass of wine with my husband. This part is definitely not a facade. And my grief does not always feel as raw or painful. Do I still cry and long for my sweet Max? Yes! But a lot of days I can sigh and smile at the adorable face in the photograph. I can be thankful for meeting him and my days of feeling completely broken are getting father apart. The pull between functioning and living is finding a more happy medium in my life. Some days I feel like I am functioning while other days I feel like I am living again.

Grief and addiction can morph into a more positive being. But just like any recovered addict would still call themselves an "addict for life", I will always be grieving for life.

It's a tug of war process with grief and like an addiction it is extremely personal and hard to understand for others around me. I never have been an addict of anything but dealing with my grief has given me a better perspective and understanding of hardships and struggles that others deal with too. Having this parallel comparison has allowed me to forgive myself more for not always feeling comfortable to "move on" and forgiving others for their struggles as well.

My grief has definitely made me a more kind and gentler person and made my work with families dealing with hardship much personal and understandable. One of my goals with this blog and with my grief in general is to always be open to talk about infant loss and the struggles of loosing a child. I have never had a problem openly admitting that some days still aren't good for me and that when you ask me "how are you doing?" I can be honest that the answer may not always be "good".

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