Our thanks to Linda Wasyliw for sharing her story with us. Linda’s grief journey takes us to Twitter, where she has found support from strangers. The quotes in italics below are comments she has received along the way.
“It’s like the common cold. We all go through it, we react differently, and there is no cure.”
The theme of my year has been one of death, loss, grief, and learning how to swim through those waters the best that I can. When you haven’t gone through the death of a loved one, you discover that it is truly an eye-opening, confusing and an absolutely heart-wrenching experience.
Yet, you soon realize that it is also a very individualistic journey. What you feel, how you react, how you get through the day, what triggers those raw moments of grief – is unique to each person who is treading through this journey. In my journey, I struggle with the isolation of grief.
In late autumn, my mother was diagnosed with what seemed to be an operable cancer. The people in my life rallied around me and comforted me with wishes and words; it will be okay, she’ll be fine, this is a routine surgery.
Unfortunately, the operation didn’t go as well as planned. She stayed in the hospital throughout December, throughout Christmas, and through her birthday. An infection ensued and the cancer became aggressive. Five days into the New Year, I received the call from family. If I wanted to see my mother one last time and say goodbye, I better book a flight home now. Five days later and by her side, I saw her take her last breath and my whole world changed in that very moment.
In January, I lost my mother. Two weeks after her, my best friend’s father passed away. A few more weeks later saw the end of meaningful relationship – the amazing, loving person who was there for me during my mother’s illness and her death had to return home. My heart was, and still is, broken and tangled up in grief from the loss of these beautiful people who left far too soon.
During this time, I was gratefully surrounded by friends. There were many visits and calls, endless hugs, and a lot encouraging words to stay strong. I was touched by their support and positive thoughts but it seemed like a bit of a dream. I felt overwhelmed and didn’t have the time or space to think clearly, to grief clearly. I felt that, despite everyone’s support, no really understood how it felt to lose the person who gave birth to you, the person who was there since day one, other than those who have been through that journey themselves.
“All that love they had for us goes missing – very difficult to learn to live without it.”
Months later when the impact of death and loss was finally felt, I was drowning in silence. The visits and calls from friends stopped. The hugs were a little more infrequent. Encouraging words were heard a little less often.
I wanted my grief to be acknowledged and not awkwardly dismissed by silence or changed subjects. I wanted this unfamiliar kind of loneliness to go away. I wanted to feel the same kind of support that my mother always gave me, no matter what.
I needed understanding instead of surprise – the surprise that people haven’t been there for me when I needed them the most and reached out for them, that they didn’t think to reach out to me to see if I was okay. If it is one thing that I have discovered this year is that grief, for me, is a very isolating sensation that lingers.
“People say it gets better with time. I disagree – you get more used to it.”
Never experiencing this kind of loss before, I didn’t know if my thoughts and feelings were “normal.” I knew the five stages of grief and that was about it. No one ever mentioned how a part of your soul feels disconnected or that grief is like an animal waiting in the corner, never knowing if it will gently come to you with good memories or pounce on you when you least expect it to leave you in a mess.
I felt like a changed person, overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time, and with every emotion magnified. Grief has no expiration date. I’ve also learned, and it seemed like those around me simply couldn’t relate to this journey of mine, which is far from over. That leads to a deeper pain of isolation and resentment.
“Strength in many forms is within us.”
Despite reaching out to friends and going through grief therapy, I longed for further connection and understanding. On Twitter, I came across Hello Grief. I became lost in many articles on the website, sharing them to help others understand what I am going through.
I cried over stories of those who have lost loved ones but, more importantly for me, I didn’t feel alone in all of these feelings that made no sense. I wasn’t the only one who felt like they needed their grief to be acknowledged. I wasn’t the only one who felt dismissed by their friends who weren’t there for them during this horrible time. I wasn’t the only one with a shattered heart and a changed world.
These stories helped me feel less disconnected from others, giving me strength but also telling me that it is okay to be weak.
“You’ll grieve in your own way and at your own pace.”
During those nights that seemed harder than usual, I found myself on Twitter questioning the grief process or openly wondering if people felt a certain way like I did. At best, I would Tweet a simple message to confess that I missed my mom.
The support I have received through certain folks on Twitter have surprised me for all the right reasons. They shared their experiences and gave me kind words. They sent me strength when I was scared to take that flight home to say good bye. They reassured me that we all grieve differently. Best of all, they gave value to my feelings by acknowledging both my grief and my love for those I have lost.
They didn’t have to reach out, but they did nonetheless. Through their words, I see the grief process in a clearer light and I feel like someone out there understands this journey.
I have discovered is that everything I am feeling, though unique to me, is absolutely normal. And to feel normal and a little less alone in the chaos of death and loss is such a comforting feeling of relief. I have learned so much more about myself in the process of grief, thanks to the articles on Hello Grief and through the words of acquaintances on Twitter.
I am tremendously grateful for the strength of those who are able to reach out to strangers to share their journey. It is through their words that I see the grief process with acceptance and feel like someone out there understands. I can only hope that I too can reach someone with my words and comfort them through their journey. There is a soothing light in the darkness of grief when we can make others feel a little less alone it in.
“I find the only silver lining is to be able to let people new to loss know they aren’t alone and support them.”