So I call myself the Grief Freak. What do I mean by that exactly? I have resurrected part of Part I of this from 2015, please keep reading…
Well, for me ‘freak’ is an endearing term, and it means that I am passionate about grief.
On August 27, 2012, my partner fell off his mountain bike and broke his neck which severed his spinal cord; our life went upside down as we entered this weird world of quadriplegia. Thus, I read everything I could get my eyeballs on about grief and how to navigate it. I wanted outside feedback to help me understand what was happening to me on the inside.
The freak as a term of endearment comes from one of my all time favs of a musician-Michael Franti who wrote a song called Stay Human (All the Freaky People) where the chorus goes, “All the freaky people make the beauty of the world.”
I strive to make beauty from a downright ugly and awful process.
Grief definitely ain’t pretty and yet, it is such an utterly normal response to losing that which we loved.
The root of the word grief is from Latin gravare which means to ‘make heavy or cause mental pain or sorrow.’ (By the way, the root of the word freak is in typical freak style, there is no known origin and I just love that).
So, I ask-what does it mean to grieve?
It is simple really – you grieve because you loved. Grief is the flip side of love/joy.
Have you seen the movie “Inside Out”? It is a great story of how sadness and joy work together. And this is especially true when you are grieving.
So I call myself a Grief Freak because I live with my relationship to grief every day. I deal with the loss of life as I knew it. And because I have had to live with grief I have also come to know it intimately.
And since I am a therapist and enjoy helping others, well, I became a grief expert or in my endearing term-a “grief freak.” I am passionate about normalizing grief.
But I ask, am I really a freak?
Actually if you take the meaning to be the odd one or weirdo version of that word, I am not really a freak…but the culture I live in makes me one. I live in a culture that is freaky about grief.
Here are a few examples:
- 3 day family leave after the death of a loved one. Seriously!?
- People expecting you to have gotten over it after a few days, weeks, months, or at least a year.
- Keep a stiff upper lip.
- Keep calm and carry on (although that was a mantra that served me well simply for getting through each day in the early part of our story-living inside a few hospitals and navigating our life upside down).
- Denial of mortality and the focus on youth.
- The idea that you ‘resolve’ grief or get over it.
- Getting back to ‘normal’. Normal? No. New normal? Yes.
- Grief goes through sequential stages (see blog #1 The Mess of Grief for my opinion on that idea).
I even had a dear friend of mine caution me against using the word grief in my marketing simply because she was repelled by the actual word grief. It even sounds horrible to say-say it outloud to yourself now.
See what I mean? It is harsh, hard, and finite. And it sounds like it has a sharp point attached to it…it hurts.
So when friend stated that, I thought-wtf? Really, repelled by the word grief? Yet the synonyms aren’t much better…listen to these:
Okay, take a long deep breath. Especially after heartbreak.
Grief = heart broken.
Take another one…I will wait for you.
Because once you know grief intimately-all those words will make sense to you mentally, emotionally and viscerally.
And remember in my first post-I suggested taking long deep breaths a lot of the time when you are grieving? Make it good practice and do it as often as you can.
Write “Just Breathe” on post it notes and put it all over your house and one in your car.
Really. Because it is that easy to forget to breathe with grief.
As the Grief Freak I want to help you feel less freaky because we live in a culture that is freaky about grief.
Remember grieving is the natural and utterly NORMAL response to loving and losing someone or some part of your life that you truly and deeply loved.
I leave you now with the task to see your grief as your love for the person or thing or part of you that you no longer have.
Tell others about it as much as you can.
Cry about it.
Write about it.
Make art about it.
Smile and cry about it at the same time.
If I could I would give you a badge that says “Grief Freak”. Like a girl scout badge and you could wear it with honor because to grieve is not an easy thing to do in this grief phobic culture.
You are certainly not a freak but you may feel like one because of the culture we live in.
I feel proud to be the Grief Freak in a way and yet I didn’t want to become this. I didn’t want my life partner to be paralyzed for the rest of his life. And I am imagining that you didn’t want your grief either. But here we are.
So, yes, I am proud to be the Grief Freak-striving to help you navigate this weird upside down world. And I hope that I am able to make you crack a smile, breathe mindfully, and give you ideas to help move your grief along. What I hope to do most of all is help you befriend your grief and that takes time.
Reach out if you need some ideas. I am here for you and remember you are NOT a freak, you live in a culture that is FREAKY about grief.
Be well, and keep moving both inside and out…