Making Peace With Grief

I first met the monster called Grief, in 1987. He came to me with the usual dramatics, as my mother’s screams echoed through my head over the death of her son. He ended my life as I once knew it.

Grief masked himself in my denial. ‘These things don’t happen to us. It can’t be true. This is just something that needs to be fixed tomorrow. We will be back to being the same.’

Grief is sly. He waits silently in the wings of our lives until we are convinced he can never touch us and then he strikes when we least anticipate him.

Grief overcame me in the upcoming days and my mind defended me against him with its vagueness. Minutes turned into hours and hours into days and days into weeks and they all seemed to run together, at times quickly and then agonisingly slowly. Bits and pieces of lucidness remain with me; those are the times Grief treasures.

The horror of grief is indescribable in words. I was angry and sad and giddy and dazed at the same time that I was emotionless. Concern overcame those around me, regarding my ‘lack of communication’. How could I communicate Grief? How could I describe the demon that haunted my dreams, and worse, my reality? What if I talked about him and he gained the upper hand? What if I could no longer control the monster? It was much easier to deny him for the time being – or so I thought. With a false sense of accomplishment, I believed Grief was under control.

After some months (perhaps a year), I coasted, thinking Grief was long gone and I could live without him.

Grief, however, is relentless and doesn’t stop feeding until he has fully satisfied his appetite for our lives and minds. Panic attacks began eighteen months after Brad died. I began losing weight, then gaining weight, working through the night, then skipping the next week. I couldn’t sleep, then I couldn’t sleep for sixteen hours at a time. My heart pounded so powerfully that I thought it would come through my chest. I was convinced there was a physical condition. Something had to make me feel so out of control. It couldn’t be the old friend, Grief! I had gotten rid of him a long time ago.

Grief is clever; he convinced me he was gone and then, slyly and quietly, manipulated me right back into his grasp. Like an intruder in the dark night, he softly walked up behind me and grabbed me, once again, with all his might. When I recognised him, he changed. My panic and depression turned into anger. How clever he is, ever-changing his form and shape so I could never identify or anticipate his attack.

I became angry and confrontational with absolutely everyone. Grief is greedy; he takes no prisoners and wants to affect as many innocent bystanders as he can.

Grief owned me, for a time. He made me jealous of anyone he hadn’t touched. He made decisions for me – the decision to leave a job I loved, the decision to be careless with my safety and the decision to hurt the most important people in my life.

Happily, Grief has an enemy – Time. Time weakens Grief and makes me stronger. Time separates the horrifying episodes associated with Grief and allows me some peace in-between. Time helped me to smile again, and sometimes, even to forget that Grief is patiently waiting for his next attack.

Grief has taught me to be stronger, to understand the importance of loving, to appreciate each day as a gift, to know the true significance of everyday happenings. Most of all, Grief taught me to remember what we had and what we lost and what we will have again someday. He taught me the importance of sibling love and family unity. He taught me not to take any gift for granted, whether the love of my parents or a kiss from my husband.

Grief is devoted; he refuses to leave me. Today, however, we walk together. We don’t fight as we did when we first met, but we treat each other with mutual understanding and respect. I know he’s there, and I’m able to recognise him more easily now. I’ve accepted him as part of my new life and he’s loosened his grip and allowed me the upper hand.

Carussa Miller-Avino, sister of Brad, TCF USA (Chapter: TCF Bergen-Passaic)