When we’ve been launched into space unexpectedly with no tools or direction to navigate, we have no way of knowing what is up, or down or anywhere in between. This is grief. In the midst of figuring out what direction we have to go, we’re also tasked with rebuilding our life line our space ship. It is our only way to travel back through space and get home to what we know. But how do you build a space ship without direction from ground control? How do you build a space ship with no tools? How do you build a space ship all on your own with no supports? How do you build a space ship that’s different from the one you’ve always known and are familiar with? Even if we have communication with ground control the connections may be strained or we may not have the right words to get the direction we need from them. Even if we have tools we may not know how to use or apply them to make a space ship that feels comfortable and safe like the one we had before. Even if we know we have support, it may not feel like it because we are standing in the middle of a deep vast space that is misunderstood by so many. Even if we figure out how to communicate, find the tools and build the space ship the idea of traveling back to a place that isn’t what we once knew and doesn’t feel like home anymore can just feel too overwhelming and scary. So we stay in space, we stay in the darkness until we can figure it out.
Do you want to go see someone? A lot of people asked me this after my brother passed. My honest answer was no, I didn’t want to see anyone. I had just lost a HUGE piece of myself, my identity , my self- worth. This was the third significant loss in a matter of six years that I was experiencing. So really, my world was so turned around I had no idea what I wanted or needed. However, at the time I was in my fourth year of undergrad to become a therapist and I kind of felt like a hypocrite saying no.
So I went, I went to see a therapist that worked on campus at my school. As I had anticipated, it was pretty useless. I sat there; I tried to talk, but instead I cried. I cried for about thirty minutes straight, maybe getting a coherent sentence or two in through my ugly cry. I used the other thirty minutes to avoid, something I became VERY good at over time. I talked about my annoying co-workers and the guy I was seeing at the time who was a complete dud and who I mostly used as a distraction from my pain and suffering. So the therapy session wasn’t useless because of the therapist or the services she was offering. It was useless because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t in a place to discuss what had happened, to my brother, to me or to my family. The therapist didn’t pressure or push me, she allowed me to cry and allowed me to avoid. But it didn’t matter because after that session I knew that it wasn’t right for me in that moment. Would I have been a lot better off had I continued and tried to push through the vulnerability and pain, possibly? I have no way of knowing that for sure. But I knew then, and I still know now, I wasn’t ready.
I’m a pretty private person for the most part. The idea of people knowing how I feel even when they probably should freaks me out. So for me, the communication to ground control (my friends, my family, my supports) was too much. It felt too scary and too vulnerable, most days it still does. The idea of confronting this void that had appeared in my life was too overwhelming. I hadn’t had a thought in my mind about how my brothers death would impact so many different aspects of my life and compound the grief of the losses I had already suffered. So rebuilding my space ship was the last thing on my to-do list. I needed another way of easing my way into this process. A family friend had sent me a book about sibling grief, it took me a long time to open it but when I finally did it was a game changer for me.
I ended up returning to therapy years later and found it very helpful. It’s important to do things at our own pace in grief. If you don’t feel ready to jump into therapy right after your loss that’s ok, just know that people will likely recommend it because they want to help. It’s important to find other resources that may be more comfortable for you. Whether that’s finding just one person in ground control that feels safe and trustworthy to hold space for you or finding safe space in the grief community. The internet and social media has completely changed the grieving game because we can grieve in private while still making connections with a community. There are Facebook groups and Instagram accounts, group chats and articles galore that can help normalize and provide support for our grief. We all have to find a healthy balance of making connections that work for us and saying no to things we aren’t quite ready for. Finding support in our specially picked ground control and rebuilding our space ship one small step at a time.