Nothing More Than Feelings?

I used to cocktail my way through feelings – now I walk through them.

It’s hard for me to be witty when they laid my friend Scotty to rest today. Instead I’m thinking about the subject of loss and grief. All of us have at one time or another have lost something close to us. It can be anything – from objects of monetary value to the death of good friend. Grief takes on many forms and creates a variety of different responses. I’ll be honest. For many years, I drank and drugged my way through it. Who wants to feel sad when you can feel drunk? At least the headache in the morning will make me forget about what got me drunk the night before. Nowadays I don’t drink or use drugs so I can’t pull that grief rabbit out of my hat. I have to sit with my feelings as they say in therapy. I have to walk through my emotions and face them head on.

This would be a whole lot easier if I had a grief-slaying sword and was a pirate-ninja-warrior. They can HIYA! their way through anything: doors, walls even death. Of course if I was a pirate-ninja-warrior I’d be a Halloween costume. Creating a fantasy to escape reality is good; chemically altering my reality is even better. Both put off the inevitable creep-up of a tear or two. This works well for a time – but all good times eventually end. Running from feelings always makes them hit you harder. It’s like driving a car with bags of groceries in the back seat. If you slam on your breaks, all the groceries fly to the front sometimes pelting you in the process. Then you have spend time putting ALL the groceries back in their appropriate bags.

Not to say that grief isn’t an emotion to run from. It is. That’s because it lasts forever and is never consistent. It comes and goes; rises and falls; meets you at the doorstep and punches you in the stomach. You wake up to it. Go to sleep with it on your pillow. It finds you in the middle of a good time; and brings you down even farther on a bad day. I’ve dealt with grief since the age of 13 when my brother died. I’ve seen what that kind of death can do. There’s something to be said about the word condolence. It takes on a different meaning when you’re in it. Condolence means, without meaning it, that you’ll be feeling what you’re feeling for a very long time. That’s why people send condolences and never want to receive them; the pain of receiving them is the reality that what you never wanted to feel is here to stay.

I’m speaking from my own experience of ironing out years of emotional laundry that I chose to ignore – and ignore is putting it mildly. When you’re doing drugs in the bathroom of your grandma’s funeral, you may need to stop, smack yourself  and wonder how you allowed non-feelings to go this far. Non-feelings, like any feelings you don’t want to feel, are herpes. Just when you think you’re in the clear, you wake up with 34 cold sores on your face and a whole lot of explaining to do.

Since I was a girl and everyone expected me to cry like one, I learned not too. I fought back every single one of my tears like a good pirate-ninja-warrior should. I also created a bigger mess for myself than the original mess that existed. I don’t why I made such a big deal of not feeling. Maybe I stubbed my emotional toes too many times and associated that feeling with being bad. That’s a pop-tart psychological example and since I’m not a psychologist, only a patient of one, I’ll keep my tongue in check when diagnosing my own fuckedupedness. When they finally took away all my coping toys (a.k.a drugs and pony) I realized that dealing with feelings is like dealing with something that you don’t want to do but know that you have too. Then you do it and half way through it you realize you made it up to be a lot worse than it really is. Being sad sucks but at least it’s authentic and real. You can sink your teeth into sad and know that what you’re feeling is human and okay. Being sad means you cared; it means you had the opportunity to love. I’m still super sad about Scotty and will probably play whack-a-mole with my feelings for awhile. But at least I feel them, I know they exist – just like he did in my life.

To find a grief recovery group, click here.

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