A Peer’s Perspective: Journey Through Grief
by Jill Davis, CPFS
“Some days are harder than others.” That’s quite a common phrase when it comes to managing grief. I can attest to this in my own life in regard to the loss of my precious first-born daughter almost two years ago: some days, are in fact, harder than others. Grief is such a fluid and non-linear process that no two people sojourn in the same way.
There are 5 main stages of grief, 7 according to some models. These are shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. I have found out in the months that have passed that these are in no way the order that they wash over you. In the weeks before my daughter passed from her heroic battle with cancer, I felt like I was grieving already…and it is highly likely that I was. A rare cancer was the hand she was dealt. Of course shock denial and anger came crashing down on my head like a furious tsunami. This was just NOT in the plan and I refused to even let this possibility into my understanding. This person that was entrusted to me to love and protect was courageously battling something that I couldn’t protect her from.
For me, the helplessness and guilt were caustic and the depression that ensued was all-enveloping. Bargaining was a stage that produced many ‘if only’ moments. My mind raced to find a piece of the puzzle that would make this all make sense. That piece is still yet to be discovered. Testing and acceptance are the bookends that support the current chapter of my journey through grief. Testing ways that I can manage with the facts and walk through this life with the outcome has had some success. These stages for me are interchangeable and mix on a regular basis. I’ve found ways to include thoughts of wishing I could text her when I have something funny I think she’d like, as well as allowing the tears when I look at photos. Through these stages, I have learned that it’s ok, and necessary, to feel the sadness when it needs to be felt and to let myself smile and heal as well. Knowing that while everyone of us is different, this is universally the same.
So, on those days when managing grief is harder than others, here are some things that I have found helpful: write a letter to them, saying what you would like to say that you didn’t get the chance to say; talk with someone about what you remember about them; create a legacy scrapbook; self-care (including having a good cry); breathe. Grief has no time frame and is as individual as you are. For those who have experienced loss, my heart is with you, and my hope for you is that your journey leads you to more days that are better than others.
Jill Davis is Peer Services Coordinator for Mind Springs Health and uses her experience with a mental health diagnosis to help others. She is based out of Grand Junction, CO and can be reached at JDavis@MindSpringsHealth.org or 970.639.3702