In the midst of any sort of grief, your ordinary life can feel like a bizarre twilight zone.
I was known for being ditzy as a teen – I was up in my head a lot of the time. Later, I was glad to find that I am smart and I can focus. Learning about common reactions to grief provided insight into why I was unable to focus when I was younger. The absent-mindedness I demonstrated was my reaction to loss. I unconsciously avoided the present moment as a way to be prepared for the other shoe to drop.
Maybe you are familiar with these scenarios: You are accident prone, and embarrassingly clumsy. After walking into the next room to grab something, you realize you forgot why you’re in there seconds later. You are asked a question and don’t hear it when your name is called several times. You realize your shirt is on backwards or you momentarily forget how to start your car. You feel like an alien in your own surroundings. Already despondent; this further frightens and frustrates you.
People may think you act like you’re on another planet and that is because you essentially are. You’re on the grief planet. Increased understanding and space for these spacy moments is crucially needed.
If this sounds familiar, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It will be tempting, but don’t diagnosis yourself. You are not getting early-onset dementia. You are not losing your hearing, your fine motor skills, or your ability to complete tasks. You are not permanently numbed, nor are you going to cry eternally. Your IQ is intact. You are in survival mode and you’re on a journey in an unknown, bewildering, lonely galaxy.
- Know that you will eventually land back on planet earth. If at all possible, be around people who get it that you need to float around for a little bit because of the emotional pain you’re experiencing. You have a broken heart.
- Eat a nutritious diet. You may not feel hungry. You may want to binge on nothing but fast-food. (Some people drop weight when stressed or grieving because anxiety makes them food averse. Some people eat because food comforts them. Everyone is different.) Either way, remember to eat food that is nourishing and sustaining. Ask a friend to make you a meal. Just as much as it helps you to receive, it helps somebody in your life to give.
- Get the right amount of sleep. That might mean that you sleep +11 hours at night, and need to take naps on top of it. Perhaps you go to bed early. Allow yourself to sleep in. This could add up to what feels like way too much sleep. Listen to your body and do what it asks of you. If this goes on for weeks or months and you can’t get out of bed, call a professional.
You’re going to be okay. There is not a “right way” to grieve. There is the way that works for you. If you are listening to your body’s requests for sleep, nutrition, kindness, supportive people, and space in the uncomfortable land of grief, you are doing it right.
Dearest human-person, poor concentration and the inability to focus are normal when your heart hurts. Be gentle with yourself.