In the earliest stages of grief, I was afraid that I was not “doing grief well” and that I would mess it up. I got moreanxious when others told me how I seemed to be doing well. I was not aware of doing anything to give them that impression. In my own mind, I was not managing well. I still worried about not grieving the way I “should.” If I messed up grieving, I could possibly lose even more of my life and my security.
Ruled by Fear
I shared my fears with others, which confused them. How could “losing it” result in all the the scenarios I feared? I imagined that losing it would mean I would wake up one morning and stay in bed for days on end. Explaining this to them caused surprise. They thought this would be a normal reaction to my loss. They each had an idea of what “losing it” meant and how it would impact life. One friend interpreted “losing it” to mean becoming angry, shouting at everyone and possibly attacking them. Others described losing it to mean going on drinking or drug binges or sexually acting out.
Compared to these worse case scenarios, my fear of losing it did not have a risk of repercussions like those. And, yet, the fear persisted…until a year into my grief. At this point, I was employed with benefits including paid sick days. One morning, I awoke and did not feel like I had the emotional energy to face the day. I could not motivate myself enough to push through and get up like I usually did. It was one of those days where I asked myself but could not answer, “What’s the point”?
The Great Experiment
I decided to give into my fear while simultaneously facing it. I called into work, said I was sick and went back to sleep. My plan was to stay in bed the entire day and sleep, wake up and cry. Then, I would go back to sleep and start again. By one in the afternoon, after sleeping on and off, I was no longer able to go back to sleep and boredom crept in. So, I went to the living room and started watching TV. I still felt emotional and sad and had no desire to leave the house or get dressed. When I was hungry, I ate, and then returned to the couch to watch a movie or show. By evening, I was bored with only the television for company.
This experiment taught me that this overwhelming fear was not realistic. Perhaps earlier on in grief, it may have been possible to go to my bed for days. Now? No, losing it would not result in me staying in bed for days and weeks on end. I would not lose my job, my house and all I owned. I had faced my fear and had been victorious. Was my grief nowgone? No. But, I had lost the weight of this fear, which is not something that happened much in those days.