Today was just another ordinary day at counseling. I was sitting on the couch talking about my week when my counselor asked me, “How did your mom’s death change you?” There it was. The question that nobody had ever asked me about my grief. The question I had been unintentionally avoiding. She’d just asked the question that nobody else dared to and I sat there for a moment in silence processing the magnitude of what she had just asked.
Then I thought, “How did my mom’s death change me?” The tears came next.
It’s really hard to come up with a way to describe how someone’s death changes you. The only thing that I knew was that I was one way when my mom was alive and now I am different. I immediately thought of an article I read on here called “The Fear Of Not Making It When Someone Dies.” The author, Stephanie, said her sister told her that in the three years following her friend’s death, she had been different. I thought about how that applied to my life. Have I been noticeably different since my mom died?
I haven’t been spending any of my time focusing on who I am now; I have spent all my time focusing on how to make it through each day without her by my side.
So, I asked others. I asked a friend, Kenzy, who knew me before my mom died and who knows me still. I asked her if I was different since my mom died. It was one of those random texts that probably caught her really off guard in a “Where is this coming from?” kind of way. But she’s awesome so she just went with it and answered honestly. Kenzy said, “You’re different but not in a bad way. I think you’re more open with people now [in general]. But, you’re also more guarded with some emotions.” I found her response not so surprising. It’s like I couldn’t describe how I was different but she could. We were both thinking the same thing but she could form the words and I couldn’t. The most important thing though, was that she said: “…but not in a bad way.”
I started mulling over what she had said and what I talked to my counselor about. I came to the conclusion that when you lose someone extremely close to you, you have to adapt to a new life.
Adapting to things on the outside also means dealing with new emotions on the inside.
Those emotions can definitely change how you act. But, change after loss isn’t a bad thing. Being different as a result of something traumatic is normal. You have to find where you fit in that new reality.
I think I’m more open with people because I have learned that life is short and I am a person who finds comfort in other people’s words. I have learned that leaning on friends during a tough time is much more helpful than trying to process everything on my own. But, I have also learned that there are a lot of emotions that I’m not ready to talk about yet with just anyone. So, I will naturally guard my heart in that respect.
Loss, grief, death, it’s all weird. There is no set way to deal with it. You just have to deal. You have to feel. You have to allow yourself to feel. You have to give yourself room to grow as you grieve, and remember that with growth comes change. We’re all learning how to get through it one day at a time.