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Reclaiming Joy: Finding Happiness Through Grief

Author: Moriah DeJacimo

grief, putting pieces back together


 

As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness this May, I wanted to highlight a part of mental health that is not always the easiest to put into words. A rollercoaster of mental health struggles that don’t just go away with the help of an antidepressant or the freshness of a new Spring season. This type of mental health issue is lifelong and has stop-and-go moments that feel unbearable. I am talking about grief.


Have you ever experienced grief? Grief is so unbelievably bone-shattering, teeth-clenching, and unexplainable that recovery doesn’t really feel like a possible word for it. You will always hear people say, “Oh, time heals all wounds” or “In time, life will get easier,” but none of that really applies to grief. Time does not fix the fact that you had a person you loved, walking, breathing, and living next to you, and now you do not. That feeling cannot be replicated or replaced by anyone or anything. It is just an emptiness you get more used to.


Grief is not poetic. Grief is not glamorous or quirky. There are people online who like to glorify anxiety and depression as if they are accessories. It is pain. It is dark, deep, unfulfilling, soul-sucking - it's a relentless storm that rages within, leaving behind a landscape forever changed. It's the ache of longing and the heaviness of absence, a weight that bears down on the soul with each passing day.


Yet, in the midst of this darkness, there is a glimmer of hope. For grief, as agonizing as it may be, is also a testament to the depth of our human connection. It's a reflection of the love that once thrived, a love that transcends the boundaries of time and space.


Navigating grief requires courage – the courage to confront the pain head-on, to allow ourselves to feel deeply, and to seek support when needed. It's a journey marked by highs and lows, moments of unbearable sorrow interspersed with fleeting glimpses of peace.


My Own Experience With Loss


I lost my mom when I was 19 years old to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. AML is deadly and gruesome. It is truly a traumatic experience to watch the person you love most wither away to cancer. I was the youngest child of four with an 11-year age gap between me and the next youngest sibling, so I spent many days alone with my mom attached to her hip, making her days a little more frustrating. I was obsessed with her as a kid. I cried at sleepovers to go home to the familiar smells of my house and the warm hugs that felt safe. I tried to stay home from school by faking a sore throat so I could sit on the couch and watch reruns of "What Not to Wear" with my mama. I grew up as a pastor's kid so every Saturday night there was a prayer meeting at my house, and my mom and I would sneak away to dinner and shopping or nestle in my dad's study for 2 hours of HGTV. Michele, my mom, was a part of my very soul.


I became a bratty teenager, of course, and there were years of slamming doors and screaming at her, telling her how she was ruining my life, but for the most part, she was my very best friend.

She lived for four months with cancer. Diagnosed in July, and heaven-bound by October. Those in-between months felt like a blip in time. She had to live in the hospital during those months because of the type of cancer she had, so I had to sit with my thoughts a lot, and most of the time I couldn’t process what was even happening.


When she died, the world kind of paused. I will never forget looking at my pale white skin, tired eyes, and black dress in the mirror of my bathroom and telling myself out loud that I would be attending my mother's funeral that day. The rest of the day felt so fake. I put smiles on for grieving people, hugged them, comforting them even though it was me and my family that was DYING ON THE INSIDE! Funerals are such a weird concept…right? But day after day, the realness settled in. The feeling of forever quickly swallowed me up. I was not ok.


There are still days when I am not ok, and it has been nearly 10 years since her passing. I used to grieve all the daily things – just missing her so much. But now, it is a different stage in my grieving process. I am missing all the things she never got to do and see and be a part of.


How do We Cope with Grief?


I think coping with grief looks different for everyone. There is no set plan or step-by-step guide that works universally for everyone. I had my faith, and my entire church family that stood behind us, and when things got really difficult, I did have to talk to a professional, which was helpful. But, the more I lived, I began to see my mom in the good things around me again. It never got easier, but more normal.


Grief is an incredibly challenging experience, and it's natural to feel overwhelmed by it. Coping with grief involves allowing yourself to feel the full range of emotions that come with loss—sadness, anger, confusion, and even moments of relief or numbness. It's important to remember that there's no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone's journey through it is unique.


One helpful approach is to find healthy ways to express your emotions. This might involve talking to someone you trust, whether it's a friend, family member, or therapist. Sharing memories of your loved one can also be comforting, as it keeps their presence alive in your heart.


Taking care of yourself physically is another crucial aspect of coping with grief. Try to maintain a routine, even if it's simple, and prioritize activities that nourish your body and mind—like getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, and engaging in gentle exercise.


Remember to be patient and gentle with yourself throughout this process. Healing from grief takes time, and it's okay to seek support when you need it. You're not alone, and there are people who care about you and want to help you through this difficult time.


If you are grieving, just know that loss is hard, you are doing what you can, and the people who left you never really leave you. You will see them in their favorite flowers, and the people around you, and if you look closely, you’ll recognize them in yourself. Contact Thrive Counseling today to talk with a professional.

 

About Thrive Counseling

We are offering counseling, home-based and group programs through telephone or online through ZOOM. Call us for your mental health & substance use needs! Call Warren, (330) 469-6777 or Youngstown, (330) 355-9998 TODAY!


Anyone can call for assistance or support. Assessments are based on the individuals' needs and what will work best for them. Thrive can provide immediate assistance for mental health crisis situations. Medicaid and most other insurances are accepted.

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