The Dark Side of My Grief
Trigger warning: PTSD, car accident, death
Grief is More Than Feeling Sad and Lonely
What do you think about when you hear the word grief? When you hear someone say, “I am grieving” what comes to mind? Often our first thought is that the person grieving is feeling sad or lonely. But grief is so much more than feeling sad or lonely.
Grief is different for everyone. Each person experiences grief in their own way and on their own timeline. But for many, grief brings feelings, behaviors, and triggers that often the bereaved either don’t know how to talk about, don’t want to admit to, or don’t understand their own feelings.
Beyond the sadness and loneliness there can be anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, loss of faith, overcompensation, or rejection of others. Grief is, I think, one of the more complicated emotions.
What makes it more complicated are the feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and triggers, that we may not understand or know how to deal with. I wonder sometimes about the things I think about and how others would react if they knew. I wonder if what I am feeling, or thinking is a normal part of grief. I suspect that it is and yet, until now, I have kept these thoughts and feelings mostly to myself. Partly because it was too hard to put into words and partly because I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy for feeling the way I do.
My son died in a car accident almost two years ago. It was the single most horrific day in my life. The worst part, for me, is that I relive that day over and over. I have talked bout this, the reliving, before, in prior blogs, with some family and friends, and even with my doctor who has diagnosed this as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Reliving those last moments with my son, seeing him being given CPR, giving him a kiss on his blood-stained forehead, whispering in his ear that I was there and that I loved him, the smell of the pavement, the sight of what remained of his car, the blue and red flashing lights, the noise of the helicopter as it waited for it's patient, those moments are forever burned in my memory.
It took a long time for me to drive down the road where it happened. Now, when I do go that way, it still makes me anxious. As I drive past the scene, I can recall every detail of that day as if it was happening now, in this moment.
Grief's Dark Side
This accident affected me in more ways than simply being a grieving mother. My mind doesn’t seem to work the way it once did, often causing me to feel indecisive, particularly when driving myself somewhere. I have the most difficulty making left hand turns across traffic, which is what Erik did when he was struck. My indecisiveness and sometimes inability to cross traffic feels sometimes paralyzing, even when there is plenty of room and time before oncoming cars cross my intended path, I cannot move. Is this normal?
But the most troubling thing that I experience is when I am alone, usually in the car, and in my mind, I not only relive the accident scene, but I also imagine how the accident happened. Sometimes I imagine that I am the one driving instead of Erik. I suppose this is my brain’s way of understanding and processing what happened. But my mind goes too far sometimes and it scares me. I think about what he must have felt, how much pain was he in, what part of the car was hit. I imagine those details as my brain puts me in the driver’s seat of his accident trying to imagine his thoughts and actions in those last moments. Maybe it is a parental thing, and as his mother I am trying to take his pain away. I don’t know. But that is the dark side of my grief. That is the thing that until today, I have not spoken about to anyone.
It frightens me when this happens. I can only imagine that for those last brief moments he was frightened too. I have not yet figured out how to avoid this thinking. How do I make it stop? Honestly, I thought as the days grew between the day he died and now that I would start to feel better, or at least more able to manage my grief. In some ways, I suppose it has, but in this dark side of my grief it has not gotten any easier. It can feel overwhelming which is partly why I decided it was time for me to talk about it. Maybe if I am feeling this way someone else is too and maybe that person needs to hear that they are not alone.
Grief is more than feeling sad, sometimes it is downright scary. I don't want to be afraid of these feelings. It's hard to experience them by myself. It's also hard to admit to having these thoughts run loose in my mind. I finally have enough courage to share this and start talking about this dark side.
Before you ask, I am not suicidal. I am not having thoughts of hurting or killing myself. I have not tried to drive myself into a car accident. But for any of you who are experience the dark side of grief and who have any suicidal thoughts, I am including information for the National Suicide Hotline.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We're committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you are feeling your own dark side of grief. I think the best way to heal is to talk about how we are feeling, even when it is difficult or scary.
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