“Saying I’m sad would be an understatement. I feel devastated. I feel broken. I feel helpless. This world, this grief, it’s all too much. This is not normal. We were not able to hold all pain.”
I recently saw this quote online by the writer and teacher Alex Elle. Her words resonated with me given the complete horror that our country has witnessed over the last few weeks.
For me, it started with the intentional murder of Black individuals in Buffalo, and increased with the horrifying murders of children and teachers in Uvalde. My initial reaction was to compartmentalize it — stash it away to be analyzed later.
It was too much to carry.
So, I did just that. I stashed my feelings away to be dealt with later. I focused heavily on work and carrying out my daily duties. And because I was too scared to deal with the pain and sorrow, later kept getting pushed back further and further. It was not until I learned about the passing of one of my patients who I deeply cared for, did I realize that later was not sustainable.
The grief started with a heavy feeling in my chest that I tried to ignore. Then I started to have difficulty sleeping. I tried to “deal with it” by distracting myself. I cleaned my apartment. I played music and took a break from social media. I did busy work. I did not want to feel the grief. Loved ones saw a change in my demeanor, I was more irritable and not my usual self.
When a close friend told me to stop moving — literally — I let the grief rush in. I sobbed for so long, and when I thought I was done, the tears kept flowing. Admittedly, it was tough at first to allow myself to feel the sadness, but then the feeling of peace slowly came in. The heaviness in my chest started to slowly dissipate. The release was what I needed.
But, the grief has remained and it will never fully go away. The dread of the inevitable next terrible event still lingers. But I am trying to honor myself and the space I need to feel whatever emotions are necessary. It’s not a perfect process, but I am trying.
“I hope you remember that grief and healing come in waves. You don’t have to ‘fix’ what’s hurting all at once. Give yourself grace by going with the flow of your emotions without rushing yourself to ‘get over it already.’ Take things day by day, step by step.