When Grief Goes Toxic
We will all grieve at some point in our lives over losses great and small. Whether it be a death of someone close, a divorce, or a lost job, grief will come and help us process our feelings. There are stages of grief we go through and sometimes repeat. One of them is anger. Anger can be used to ignite a passion. To wage a war. To evoke change. Unfortunately when someone gets stuck in a stage of grief They become toxic. They don't use their anger for good. They don't move forward with life. They aren't driven any longer.
My first personal experience with grief was the death of my 12 year old lab. I was 15 and handled his death in dramatic fashion. Screaming and crying and grieving for what I'm sure seemed too long.
Fast forward to age 18 and I lost my Grandpa suddenly. This was painful! I remember being so absorbed in grief but yet somehow still realizing that the death of my dog had prepared me for losing my Grandfather. I knew life would go on and eventually I would stop hurting.
The next 10 years of my life saw more death, old and young, tragic and untimely, as well as sick and merciful. I had plenty more chances to learn about grief and observe how other people grieve. It also gave me a much thicker skin for death. I now truly understood death was inescapable and certain and a necessary part of life that we have to accept.
What happens when we don't? When we don't accept death we get stuck in our grief. When we get stuck in our grief it becomes toxic.
When someone loses a child there are no words to say, no foods to fix, no medications to numb that will take away their grief. Grieving is personal. We all process grief and loss in our own time and in our own way. I truly believe to survive a tragic loss you have to believe life goes on for that lost loved one. It's not here on earth with you where you want it to be. It's peaceful and perfect and better for them. Unfortunately, However much this belief has helped me this very thought process can become a personal attack to a grieving parent. How dare you say their child is in a better place. That would imply they weren't a good parent and didn't provide a good life.
This would be an example of toxic grief. When someone's coping beliefs are seen as a personal attack on you then your grief has become toxic. Grief is a selfish state of being. We mourn what we don't have anymore. We mourn what we could have had in the future. We mourn what was never really ours in the first place. Everyone grieves differently. Everyone believes differently. We can only do what's best for us.
What we can do to help when someone is in a toxic stage of grief is live. Live our lives, love our family without constant reminders of what we've lost but of how we've survived. Life does go on and we can't stop living and cause more tragedy to come from the loss of one.
We have to become selfless to stop grieving. When we grieve for too long it becomes toxic. We poison relationships. We push people away out of fear of being happy. Guilt of being whole without the one person we swore we could never live without. When grief becomes toxic it slowly kills any part of who we once were. I had some great friends help me through my grief. They ignored my constant gloom. They loved me despite my outburst of tears and consumption of grief. They talked me through my feelings of inadequacy to help in a helpless situation. Most of all, they made me laugh and enjoy the life I still had left to live. There is no shame in surviving. There is no shame in being happy. There is no shame in deciding to breathe again, live again, hope again. Life is for the living. Embrace life!
I'd like to thank my Aunt Penny for showing me that faith heals all wounds. Even a Mother who has lost her amazingly smart, handsome, and truly gifted son in a tragic accident. You are strength personified!
To Lil Bill, my heart is full of love, not grief for you.