We’re finally getting to that episode we’ve been promising you, and that is we’re going to talk about grief symptoms. And the reason I wanted to talk about this is I apparently learned from media (i.e) the movies and TV and thought that grief symptoms were crying and wailing and maybe some light sadness.
Let us give the people some relief about what are some of the millions of symptoms that you can have in grief? We’re not going to cover every possible symptom but we are going to cover many that you may or may not be experiencing.
Tami: [00:00:00] Welcome back, Michelle. Hey, super glad you’re here. If you are wondering friends, we’re finally getting to that episode, we’ve been promising you, and that is we’re going to talk about grief symptoms. And the reason I wanted to talk about this is I apparently learn from media I E the movies and TV and thought that grief symptoms were crying and wailing and maybe some light sadness.
Tami: [00:00:40] Oh. And the ice cream. I am allergic to dairy so we can cut out ice cream. I. I was going to say, I’m not a big crier. I am. Except when I’m totally in grief, tears are not a hundred percent natural for me. So of course I was like, what is my go-to? Oh my God, what is wrong with me?
So, Michelle, let us talk today. Let us give the people some relief about what are some of the millions of symptoms that you can have in grief?
Michelle: [00:01:17] Yes, this is going to maybe be surprising for people and just to make the note that there is a handout on this, there’s a download so that you don’t have to remember all of these.
And we’re not going to cover every possible symptom because we have five categories of them. But yeah. We’ll go over some of it, and then you can download the PDF and have this little resource for yourself. Yes, I really want to echo what you’re saying about most of us believe that the feelings of grief are sadness.
As you said, maybe some crying and. Like light depression. It might be kind of melancholy. And then, you know, we moved through the stages of last
Tami: [00:02:13] episode. Myth-busting no stages going in which case you’re probably not crying after your dad
Michelle: [00:02:21] died.
Tami: [00:02:22] So poetic.
Michelle: [00:02:25] So, so we’re going to talk about, there are so many possible symptoms.
We’re actually going to talk about symptoms in five categories. So emotional, physical, cognitive, what we’re going to call social and behavioral and then spiritual. Okay. So we’ll just kind of highlight a few in each category. So emotional symptoms get extra complicated because. That can be broken down into two categories.
We have what we tend to call or think of as negative emotions like sadness, sorrow anger’s is a real forward emotion in common in grief and loss.
Tami: [00:03:14] I’m sorry, you’re going to have to say that louder for the people in the
Michelle: [00:03:16] back, better red headed,
Tami: [00:03:20] like explosive head guy from inside out is holding hands with grief.
Michelle: [00:03:29] would say you, you shared about your anger at, you know, best friends and having that come up around. It was I think, with your move to Portland, but also, you know, kind of anticipating that when you start to go back out because of Tessa’s death and I’ll just share a story that you already know about four years after I lost the baby, I just full on hated hatred toward pregnant women.
Hated, and I might pass one into groceries. I mean, I tried to avoid them because it wasn’t uncommon to also burst into tears, but really the forward most emotion was anger and rage. And in some ways that was more helpful because if I was in a grocery store, I could, you know, murmur under my breath or, you know, have a little fire inside of me.
And that was actually more convenient than bursting into tears. But I might drive on the street and have someone walk by with a stroller or someone pregnant. And whenever this happened ever four years, I would say almost always out loud. Fuck you and your baby. Okay. Sorry.
Tami: [00:05:01] I remember that. And I swear to God, it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.
Also, do you guys want to invite us to your parties now? We’re super fun at parties. We never got, you should totally invite us in. We won’t come couples who are like, fuck you and your baby. Fuck you. And your best friend.
Michelle: [00:05:22] That’s right. That’s right. I mean, that is the degree of rage that can come with a really intense loss that, and it’s tied up with jealousy and envy and despair, but it often comes out as this anger and rage.
So that’s just a little side note story. What else under the common negative we’ve got guilt. We’ve already talked a little bit about shame, self blame. Feeling lost, disoriented, fearful NGS, so phobias and anxiety and security. This is a whole kind of category of emotions that can come up that can be surprising and can feel unrelated.
Oh, I don’t know. I have this phobia. And you know, I’m afraid if a spouse dies, you know, now I’m afraid to be in the house or I’m afraid to go out by myself or I’m afraid to drive the car. A lot of fear can come up around loss. You have any in the quote unquote negative category that you want to throw them.
Tami: [00:06:25] Irritability, Erin, why was like, why does it feel like it’s a windy day? I’m a cat and everyone’s petting me backwards. Right? I was like, it was almost electric where I was like, Oh, everyone’s doing everything wrong. Yeah. There’s static on the TV. My socks are uncomfortable itchy. And I didn’t like your tone, how you’re talking.
The food’s too hot. It’s too bland. It’s too. It was just very I super irritable nitpicky. Oh, here’s one super need for controlling my environment. I was like, I may be sad, but I need the house to be really cool. Yeah. Yeah. And now I’m going to be mad at you because you don’t see the dust. Cause we got to bring it back to anger.
Michelle: [00:07:23] Yeah, we do. Right, right.
Tami: [00:07:25] Yeah. And why can’t you people put your shoes where they belong. Right. But don’t leave the house because I’m afraid you’re going to die. Right. You should stay here with my angerness and we should. Scrub, like I will say after tests died. I couldn’t cause we’re going to get to cognitive in a second, but I couldn’t do hard things like cook from a recipe, but I could scrub the hell out of the bathroom where I was like, I can read for comprehension, but my baseboards are super
Michelle: [00:08:05] clean.
Right? Yeah. Right. Yes. Having an actually that kind of sematic outlet is really helpful. It can really help people not get stuck in. And emotion.
Tami: [00:08:21] So when you say somatic outlet, what do you mean?
Michelle: [00:08:24] I just mean movement. So having some kind of physical movement or expression. So, you know, the scrubbing, the thing might not see the rage cleaning.
Yes. It might not seem related to, you know, you don’t, you might not feel like a great person might not feel like, Oh, I’m getting my grief out grief as this big category. But the movement itself is just helpful in the body. Like emotion, motion. We are emotional moving beings. And when we just sit, you know, which is also a part of this experience often but when we don’t get any movement, then things really can stagnate.
Whether that’s literally your lymphatic fluid, your.
It feels like energy, emotion
Tami: [00:09:19] getting rusty, you know what I mean? Yeah. Rusty or having cobwebs. And it’s so interesting. The other day I was on a grief support call. So I just want to bring this up really quick and that is there’s. So the grief is what we do inside in morning is what we do outside.
And so we’re talking about all the things that you’re feeling inside right now. So this is, so I just wanted to bring that up because a lot of people are like, I’m in grief, but they’re crying. And it’s you know, sometimes what you, what other people can see, looks as the morning part, but the grief part is the internal.
So the experience, the internal experience. So what about, so. Yeah. I was surprised that there were so many negative emotions involved with grief. Are there positive ones?
Michelle: [00:10:12] So, so this is interesting because so called positive emotions are actually a place. People can get hung up because it was like,
Tami: [00:10:21] Oh, I just had a, like a sinking feeling.
I’m like, Oh my God, are you going to save relief? I am. I know that’s a tough one. That’s a tough one.
Michelle: [00:10:31] Yeah. Yeah. Relief, peace, contentment gratitude. It strength, perseverance, resilience, clarity, courage. I it’s it, you know, these are things where we can, again, if we have that really. Medical model and kind of mainstream idea of what grief is.
Then we might come up against some shame here Oh my God I shouldn’t be feeling so I shouldn’t feel like laughing. I shouldn’t be laughing right now. It’s I am in morning. I’m having, you know, this big loss. I shouldn’t be laughing at this funny thing, whether it’s related to the loss or not, you know, the can feel really wrong to be in good humor and a good mood.
And it’s just important to remember that as we talked about in our last episode, there are cycles and none, the only thing we guarantee is change. So, you know, our mood will change. Our state of mind will change. Emotions will come and
Tami: [00:11:36] go, right, who hasn’t started out laughing and then turned to sobbing and he hasn’t started out sobbing and turned to laughing.
Yeah. Also, I have to say, I have laughed at a funeral before, because some of us are blessed with the absolute curse of inappropriate laughing. And then the person sitting next to you looks at you and you’re like, I am crying, but my eyes are dry or they catch your eye and then they start laughing.
It’s true. Story set. A whole Pew, often a church one time during a funeral because somebody said something that just tickled my funny bone in the wrong way. At the wrong time. Couldn’t get it back. You guys could not pull the laughter back. At one point, my brother was pinching me because I was making him laugh.
And I was like, I might die in this Pew because I can’t stop.
Michelle: [00:12:37] So again, you know, just expression of emotion, that motion, whether it’s the laughter and that like none of this story surprises me, I can visualize the whole thing. But just in a broader way for people to understand that there are, first of all, there, aren’t positive and negative there.
Aren’t good and bad emotions. There aren’t wrong emotions do not bad if you feel jealous or you’re not better. If you’re super grateful, they’re all within the context of being human. And so any movement, any expression of emotion that we can get just helps us navigate, like cruise in the boat, down that river.
And You know, wild, probably what’s you’re saying, if it can’t be fun, make it funny. Yeah. Yeah. And I
Tami: [00:13:33] don’t get grief constipated, so these are the things that are growing from it. You don’t want to be rusty. You don’t want like dust bunnies in your grief closet. Like you want to move your emotions so that like they don’t get
Michelle: [00:13:45] stuck.
Yeah, absolutely. And again, along these kind of positive, this quote unquote positive line a lot of people can feel a deep, spiritual connection. They can really feel connected to love. They can get more clear about their life or some part of their life. It can give a lot of clarity about where they want to go or what they want to do so, or who they are.
Tami: [00:14:13] So. Yeah. I felt that a lot after my mom died, I got some clarity in such a, like straight up download where I was like, I’m never doing X again. I’m never doing Y again. I’m and I was like that was clear. Oh, okay.
Michelle: [00:14:32] Yes. Okay. Should we move on to physical?
Tami: [00:14:36] Yes, because this was so shocking to me.
Michelle: [00:14:39] This is this is very surprising, but if we think about how our nervous systems respond to our sense of safety and grief can activate our nervous systems in a kind of fight or flight way, then it makes sense that grief can be incredibly physical.
Tami: [00:15:03] So, I mean, who hasn’t thought about their nervous system, Michelle? Right. Cause let’s be real. Most of us don’t think that we have what we were like. So for those of us that haven’t spent a bunch of time thinking about our nervous system and the fight flight freeze. There’s one more in that fight flight freeze.
Fine. So tell me, what does it mean to have our nervous system activated?
Michelle: [00:15:32] So the simplest way to think about it is we have two kind of States. We have this fight flight freeze or fond response, which is more it’s like internal systems at the ready to fight or run away or Freeze and paralysis because there’s a threat.
So it’s that, it’s the part of the brain that responds to threat and send signals and hormones to the rest of the body to prepare for that threat in some way. So we often call that the stress response or the fight or flight response, and then there’s this other, which, you know, it’s not this cut and dry simple, but to make it somewhat clear for us, then there’s this other branch or way of state of being that is called the relaxation response.
And that’s just where we’re cool. Like just hanging out. I don’t feel threatened. I feel safe. Saber tooth tiger is not going to come and eat. You.
No I’m good. I’m in my house or I, you know, I can even be out, but I feel confident and alert and my systems are relaxed. My digestion is just chugging along.
You know, blood pressure’s normal. My eyesight is normal. All my senses are online, but not heightened. You know, I’m just grooving and just being me and my body is relaxed. Everything is working at you know, kind of homeostatic
Tami: [00:17:14] state. I know, but you know, what’s bonkers and you know this because you work with so many people in their bodies is that most modern people don’t live in this state.
Most modern people are living in that jacked up nervous system state. That is true. Right. So when we talk about the physical body, a lot of us are already hyped to begin with before something traumatic happens. Yes. So how does this, how does grief a pretty traumatic experience, although totally normal.
How does it show up in the body?
Michelle: [00:17:48] It can create, so again, when we get stuck in this kind of stress response, which as you said, we can already be in to some degree. So then it’s just exacerbated, but there’s a whole host of chemical changes that can create these physical symptoms. Anything from changes in blood pressure and heart rate to hormonal shifts that can lower immunity.
Of course our breath is affected. Our posture is affected. We can get aching or stiff muscles headaches, lots of digestive stuff. So especially, you know, there are some people who take stress in different ways and maybe that’s in the stomach and digestion, so you can get nausea, diarrhea, constipation, old ulcers, and then your appetite can be affected.
Some people lose their appetite and some people have a big increase in appetite exhaustion, lethargy. And then on the other side of that restlessness feeling really manic. And I think another huge one that people might relate to is sleep insomnia or oversleeping or some weird combo of both.
Tami: [00:19:06] I am currently in a, I would pay cash money.
To not see the sunrise stage of life, because I like to wake up somewhere between three and 5:00 AM. Doesn’t matter when I go to sleep. And because yeah, at first, right after test died, I was being able to sleep. And I was like, Oh my God, I’ve got this anxiety. I’ve got this sleeping anxiety, insomnia thing.
I’m I’ve conquered my life term, my lifetime thing. And then a couple of weeks ago, my body was like, and now we shall enter the insomnia phase of grief. Good luck sleeping until it’s light. So I just go to bed really early now for my defensive sleeping.
Michelle: [00:19:55] Yeah,
Tami: [00:19:56] right. Yeah. And it’s it goes with it being able to sleep, right? Like you, that shows up in your body to where then you’re like, now I’m really hungry. No only eat weird food. It’s like being hung over
Michelle: [00:20:10] and it makes all the emotional aspects so much harder.
Tami: [00:20:15] Absolutely power over it.
Michelle: [00:20:18] Yeah.
Right. Yeah. Totally. I think it’s really helpful for people to know that some of these physical symptoms are possible because it’s not uncommon. I’ve read a lot about people going to the doctor. I think something’s wrong with me when. You know, really it’s just this physical manifestation of the grieving
Tami: [00:20:41] a hundred percent I will say, after my mom died, I went to two specific grief support groups.
One was the drop-in and that was lovely. But then I went to one for mother loss and it was like a more structured class. And one of the classes, they gave us a sheet with all of these different symptoms on it. And almost all of my symptoms were physical at that particular moment. And I thought I was losing my mind, but Nope, turns out you’re just grieving.
And it’s it like super sore muscles, like it was, but it was such a relief to know that this is a thing. So that’s the reason why I wanted to have this conversation too. Like you’re not losing your mind. Right. Your body is working really hard to process something. Yeah.
Michelle: [00:21:41] that even kind of brings up the idea that using the download that we have for you, you can go through and, you know, just get a sense, maybe make little check marks.
And if you have a lot of symptoms or most of your symptoms are in one category or, you know, concentrated in one or two categories, then that gives you a little more information about the ways that you might best take care of yourself. Okay. So how can I, if almost all of my symptoms are in the emotional category.
Okay. So how can I support myself a little bit better emotionally, just knowing that this is a, where a lot of my stuff is showing up. And just knowing it might be. Enough, but there might be some supplemental support that you can give yourself in any of these ways.
Tami: [00:22:38] Absolutely. Yeah. And it, again, when we’re talking about self care, it’s not like Manny’s, Petty’s vacation kind of thing.
It’s that stuff where you’re like, I found myself drawn to when I’m feeling really sore in my body to doing some gentle exercise, to doing some gentle strength training, to doing some gentle yoga so that I could sort of work that emotion through my body. Did I want to do it? No, but this is the sexy part, right?
The sexy part of self-care is you’re doing all the shit you don’t want to do, but it’s because you’re tending to yourself in a way that you’re like, I know you don’t want to, but you gotta. Right. It’s like the kid who fights to go to bed, but you’re like, you’re tired. And as they’re like losing their mind, they’re like tired.
And you’re like, okay we don’t have to talk about it, but you still have to go to bed, right? Yes. Okay. So basically what we’re saying is so far, what I’ve heard is grief can show up hell a different ways and you can feel it in your brain. You can feel it in your physical body, you can feel it in your emotional body.
So let’s talk about your brain. What about your cognitive symptoms of grief?
Michelle: [00:24:02] This is one where I do hear people a lot saying I just feel like I’m losing my mind. I feel like. I can’t remember things. I feel like I would say again and again. I just feel crazy. Like I, my, I just don’t know what’s happened to my brain.
I feel like I’m a mad scientist or something, and this is kind of true. So your brain, one way to think about it is your brain is using so much energy to reconfigure this new reality, just to kind of cope with what has happened, this loss, and that takes a lot of just calories and brain energy so that your brain doesn’t have a lot of space for memorizing things or, you know, reading a book and following a story reading or focus.
Reading a recipe following directions, right? Focusing on something for a long period,
Tami: [00:25:10] ordering from a menu.
Michelle: [00:25:13] It, all of it. Seriously all of it, just a general brain fog, forgetfulness, absent mindedness. I would put the cereal in the refrigerator. I mean, just silly things like that, where you just not really online.
And then of course we can get into the mental spiraling and rumination, which might be somewhat unavoidable. It’s also really unhelpful it’s just almost always completely unhelpful and unproductive, but I’m not saying that it, you know, it’s a place that we might go. It’s just a place to be aware of getting stuck,
Tami: [00:25:56] knowing.
So again, My best friend dying recently last fall is not my first trip to the rodeo. So immediately after she died, I actually went through and I made a checklist and I called some grief friends who I know who have significant losses. And I’m like, what are the things I’m going to need? What are the things?
Because I knew I had a brief moment before my grief brain kicked in and I was going to be unable to do it. So I made a list and I have it. I keep it on my phone and it is a checklist. And it’s do you want to know what the number one thing on my grief self-care list is Michelle, tell us, eat shower.
Yeah, this is a good one. Wash your hair in parentheses. This makes you feel better.
Michelle: [00:26:49] Yes.
Tami: [00:26:50] Drive. See the leaves read a griefer spiritual book. Don’t forget to do your shoulder physical therapy. Go outside, stay off social media meditation, ask for help, sleep. Rest nap, bath. Watch your favorite TV show with your kid.
Treat yourself. I walk morning practices, brush teeth, take medicine, get dressed and cozy clothes. Do yoga. I look at that list every day for months because I would be like, can I brush my teeth? I would go touch my toothbrush. Gosh, I’d asked her brush
Michelle: [00:27:37] my teeth. Yes,
Tami: [00:27:40] because I was like, I am on it. Able to remember a single thing about what I do.
And I was like, did I brush my teeth yesterday? Did I brush my teeth 10 minutes ago. So I kept this checklist, so I could be like, okay, these are the basics that you need to do. And you’re like, present me, took care of future me was like, you’re going to be real dumb real soon. Yeah. And so one of the things that I found again, super helpful, because I could not read a recipe, was people bringing us food because I know I need to eat, but I don’t know how to do that.
I just need to be able to go into the refrigerator and get something. So tons of people are not bringing us food because we’re living in a pandemic. We got these great gift cards for restaurants, Michelle. I couldn’t read a menu to order food because my brain was like, I’m sorry, you don’t do your brain isn’t for that anymore.
Yeah, you don’t use that part, right? Because you can’t remember what food you like, you’re you it’s too much. Everything felt like it was too much. And after I do a few things, I would be like, and now I’m so tired. I’m going to go lay in bed. Yep. Yep. Which is, you know, I took two, two full months off work because I just couldn’t.
Michelle: [00:29:14] And I did on top of a pandemic.
Tami: [00:29:18] Oh yeah. And supervising distance learning and the holidays that was, Oh my God. The holidays are a complete blur to rim. Like I know we ate and I know I made the food. Because I remember it compliments, but I’m like, who bought these Christmas presents? The answer was me in a very moment.
And I remember thinking I better order every present I’m buying right now because I can’t rely on my brain later. Yes. And then later when I was going to wrap the presents, I was like, I don’t remember buying base, but I have the receipts. Okay. And I’m not going anywhere. I’m like, how did this happen? So in case you’re missing anything, it can really affect your memory, your short-term memory, your long-term memory, reading comprehension, sense of
Michelle: [00:30:19] time.
Oh, my gosh. I mean, even with my surgery and, you know, I had a hysterectomy, there was, I had cancer. There’s a lot going on around all of that. And it’s been six weeks tomorrow and I’m like, wow, wait, what just happened? Did you
Tami: [00:30:39] say three years, or did you say two minutes? I don’t know. It’s all the same.
Michelle: [00:30:45] true. And my, you know, surgery is kind of its own thing as well, but it partly related to the physical aspect of surgery and healing, but partly related to my grief around all of this, I have very little recollection. I can’t remember much at all. I know I watched a lot of Netflix, but I don’t know what I watched and I don’t know if I liked it.
I just have very little memory of probably the last five weeks. Maybe I remember a few things from this week, but.
Tami: [00:31:19] I’ll just say test died four months ago. Yeah. And I feel like it was three minutes ago, 200 years ago, right?
Michelle: [00:31:33] Yeah. Sense of time. And then, so one more and I’m, I would love to hear if you’ve had this another common cognitive one that people can find kind of surprising, or even a little bit alarming.
Our dreams, nightmares, sometimes visions as the person.
Tami: [00:31:52] At one point after my mom died, I said to my husband, I’m afraid to go to sleep. Right. Because I was like, what’s happening in there? Yeah. There’s apparently a lot of processing. Oh my God. Yeah. Dreams are sometimes completely pedestrian. And sometimes it’s you’re I like to dream about my dead people.
And I always have this conversation, which is, you know, everyone thinks you’re dead. Right. My God. I mean, that’s, that is a con in my dreams. I’m always like, you’re clear about that. Right. And they’re like, yeah okay, so you’re like in witness protection so yes, dreams, and then sometimes they’re just bizarre and sometimes they’re terrifying and sometimes they’re sad, but they’re always real vivid.
Michelle: [00:32:48] Yeah. So a couple of things about that, first of all, some people we all create and choose the meaning that works for us around what stuff like this means. Like for somebody it might feel like a visitation Oh, you know, my, my. Last person visits me in my dreams and it’s really lovely and welcome, and that won’t be everybody’s experience.
So, you know we do choose what all of this means for us and just trusting, even if, you know, like if dreams are wacky or you don’t know what they mean, it’s totally okay. Just knowing that it is, this is part of the cognitive component. It is your brain working things out and our brain chooses symbols to make this meaning and process all of this.
And sometimes this isn’t often the symbol has really
Tami: [00:33:51] nothing to do with
Michelle: [00:33:52] the literal person or thing. It’s what it represents to you. And, you know, dreamwork is its own kind of. Whole field. But I think just knowing that this is your brain’s way of making sense of things and it doesn’t need to be super personal or it doesn’t even literally need to be about that person if you don’t want it to
Tami: [00:34:18] yeah.
That makes sense. Oh yeah, totally. I’ve just what, the thing I take away from what everything you just said. And from my experience is in my periods, especially a few months out from the immediate acute, because in acute grief, let’s be real. Most of mine is just I it feels like my head is stuffed with cotton 24 hours a day.
Whereas now that I’m a few months out and I can get dressed and hold a conversation and maybe even do some work for a few hours a day, My dreams get super vivid and weird in the few months. And then I have the early wakings. Yeah. I just I also think that my brain is so we didn’t totally process all of this during the day.
So we’re going to do some of this now that you’re writing down. Yeah,
Michelle: [00:35:07] absolutely. Good luck. Good luck with that luck to you and good luck. So you bring up such a great point because you know, even with the emotional symptoms and physical symptoms, we didn’t talk about any of those being specifically, like this is more acute phase and this is maybe longer term because that’s, it’s a little bit gray, but yes, it’s definitely these symptoms will come through much differently in that acute early, early time.
And then as the weeks and months and years go on, it will be different. And I forgot the other thing I was going to say.
Tami: [00:35:49] I’m sure it’ll come back. It’ll come back. Okay. So you said there was emotional, physical, cognitive, and then we have social. So what are the social symptoms? Yeah,
Michelle: [00:36:00] social and behavioral.
And so some of this, you were kind of hinting at, in the last section, in the cognitive section. And this is going to be really personal and again, will, it might surprise you what you go to. It might be out of what you normally do. If you’re normally really What is the word I’m looking for?
The opposite of extroverted introverted. I was like
Tami: [00:36:27] the thing that we both very are
Michelle: [00:36:32] in water, like to talk to each other. Yes. I might find that actually you have a desire to be around more people or it, you know, it’s also super common to just to want to isolate and avoid people. So whatever way you go, you know, wanting a community and support or wanting to be alone, there’s no wrong way when sorry.
Tami: [00:36:56] I’m laughing and it’s like the idea of going somewhere. And then you’re like then you’re the one crying at a party. By the way I’ve done that. That cracks me up because you’re like, Oh, so I finally left the house and now I’m having a conversation where only one of us is weeping and it’s me.
Michelle: [00:37:16] I just go to the party. And then I find the corner where no one else is so that I can be alone.
Tami: [00:37:23] That’s my Mo at all parties anyway,
Michelle: [00:37:26] or go to the bathroom, that’s always the safe place.
Tami: [00:37:28] The cat we’re playing with the kids or talking very deeply to somebody husband.
Michelle: [00:37:35] Oh, thank God. We have to do an episode on all of these, how to survive parties.
Tami: [00:37:43] Yeah. The introvert
Michelle: [00:37:44] weirdo way. Yeah, totally. Okay. So here was one of my and I do this in grief. And I remember doing this with a couple of people specifically around the baby. I pushed them away and then completely forgot that anything had happened, that we’d had an interaction that they’d contacted me, that I hadn’t responded, whatever.
I forgot all the details. I just felt so abandoned. I was like, they never reached out. They don’t, you know, they weren’t there for me. When in reality my two cousins, my two favorite cousins, they contacted me a whole bunch of times. You know, they sent texts, one sent a card. But when I was in it, it didn’t, it wasn’t like that.
That wasn’t, I didn’t, that didn’t help that didn’t take away my pain. And so it didn’t really register it wasn’t for some reason, you know, maybe what they weren’t here. I don’t know, but it just didn’t register. It didn’t land in me. And so later I just felt super abandoned when really I didn’t respond. I pushed people away.
So that’s really common too. And I just want everybody to have a lot of compassion for themselves around that, because it happens and you are not at fault. Hopefully the people in your life is for our, you know, forgiving and understanding and just know that grief is crazy-making time.
Tami: [00:39:22] I was like griefs weird, but there’s also, so one of my things was I really wanted to only talk to people.
Who I knew could handle the depths of my loss because one of my early experiences was when I told them, because this was in person and you see a lot of, you can see people’s entire life story go across their face when you’re talking to them in person. And I remember I only wanted to be around other people who had a significant loss because I felt like I needed to caretake people around my loss because they were so uncomfortable with it.
Like it would be like my mom died and then I could see this whole scenario where they’re like, there’s three options. One. My mom died too. And I was like, now I love you too. They’re like, Oh my God, moms can die. Shit. I need to work it out with her before she dies and they’ll have this lifelong thing. And I’m like, back to me, your mom’s still alive.
And they’re not saying anything, except you can see this playing across their face. And then the third thing is Oh my God, my mom’s my best friend. And I get it. And I’m like, again, I only want to hang with people who have had a significant loss so that they can be like, that sucks and pain.
Nothing I can do to take, can take this away. Like people who’ve walked, the walk can be, I have found a lot of them can be the people who can like, just sit with you and like how much sucks. Yeah. So that really, so that led me to this Hanging out with support group people. Right. Which led me to hanging out with you after we got over our super acute grief and ironically with tests because her dad died a few months before my mom.
And it was this big, like we could be great friends yeah. After the acute part, because we deeply understood what it meant to be in loss. But the, but I couldn’t handle necessarily being quite frankly, anywhere near people who I felt had not. I was like, okay no. So that cut down on some of my social things.
Michelle: [00:41:56] Interestingly I went through something really different while I ha I share that sentiment. Wholeheartedly, how. Part of this came through for me in real time was I felt this uncontrollable need to retell the story of my loss again and again, and I would tell innocent bystanders. Yeah.
Tami: [00:42:26] Yeah. I got that a little bit too.
Yeah. Sorry. You’re going to circle back around. I’m going to tell you how sorry I did that.
Michelle: [00:42:34] I know I’m S I’m sorry to the person in line, I’m sorry to the cashier. Like it just, I think it was my, this burning desire to validate and, you know, be seen and to be. Known in my just deep despair. But also I think people do this I’ve I’ve talked to people who have this kind of just want to retell the story and it helps us make sense of it.
If I say it enough times that helps my brain kind of organize around Oh, okay. All right. Okay. This thing happened and it kind of helps us learn the reality of where we are.
Tami: [00:43:18] I know, but it’s also so interesting because baby loss, I feel like has this added layer of shittiness because it’s invisible to so many people because they’re like, how can you be so torn up about something that was an idea that wasn’t fruition.
It’s not like you lost a child, you lost this. And it’s okay Now that we’re splitting hairs. But there’s this, you know, there, isn’t an invisible part of if your loss isn’t readily apparent to other people, that’s also socially isolating. Oh my God. And then when your loss is very visible, say you lost your child in elementary school, or you lost your college age kid or whatever.
That brings up this whole other thing where people are like, Oh my God, they don’t know what to say. People
Michelle: [00:44:11] will cross the street to avoid you.
Tami: [00:44:13] Right. Cause they’re like, that is something I can’t even imagine. That
Michelle: [00:44:18] is super uncomfortable and really saying, I can’t imagine that. It’s just saying, I don’t want to, I don’t want, I won’t.
Tami: [00:44:25] I’m glad I want you there. I’m glad I’m not you is what I’m saying. Yeah. Yeah. So grief confess your social life is what we’re
Michelle: [00:44:33] saying. You know, and I do want to point out one other thing that can be happen, especially if this is a person loss. Either we get really Daredevil fuck it, I’ve hit bottom.
Like nothing matters. Now I can do whatever. Cause I’ve been through the worst and kind of attracted to risk or get really fearful of new things. Not want to go places, not want to meet new people. Kind of back to that phobia thing.
Tami: [00:45:07] So I’m like I know which way I fall. Over here, rage scrubbing my bathroom.
Michelle: [00:45:16] Oh, that’s amazing. Okay. So yeah, those are some good, very common social behavioral. Should we move to our final category? Yeah.
Tami: [00:45:26] I’m like, is this the part we’re going to talk about? People are being hella mad at God.
Michelle: [00:45:32] Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Just direct some of that anger.
Tami: [00:45:37] Yeah. Yeah. How else does it show up spiritually for people?
Michelle: [00:45:43] I mean, if we think about what loss, like personally, my loss really shattered my trust. It shattered my worldview, my sense of myself and my practice of yoga. Like I thought things were going to go a certain way. I thought. I thought I was, I don’t know, protected. I’m not sure what the ideas were in there, but it really shattered my face.
So it can really common lead, lead us to question every thing, like nothing is off the table of examination, your job, your relationships, where you live your purpose in life. Everything
Tami: [00:46:33] is shit is what you’re saying. Oh
Michelle: [00:46:35] my God. Yes. Yeah. We ask those big questions. What is the purpose of life? What am I doing?
Who am I? We seek meaning what does, you know, what does this all mean? Why am I here? Yes. Big stuff can come up. And this is one of the things that doesn’t often happen right away. This is kind of, you know, months or years down the road, when there’s more space for some of this to come up.
Tami: [00:47:03] Oh, yeah.
Yeah. And sometimes people I’m speaking from personal experience, turn into brief spiritual seekers, like after Carla died my first friend. So I was 19. So again, months later after I was out of the really acute phase, this, if anyone who’s sat next to me at anything, knows that I am not by any stretch, a religious person.
I went to church a handful of times to be like, is is this it? Is this what the thing that I’m supposed to get out of? This is this. And the answer was a resounding no, it was not, but it was so interesting because I am somebody who. I don’t actually have to experience a lot of things for myself. I can literally look over there and be like, Oh, I don’t want that experience.
I can look at other people’s lives and be like, no, thank you. I, you experienced that so I can learn your lesson. But I went back several times to be like maybe it was the denomination. Maybe it was how they set it. Maybe it was just an off day. And after five or six times, I was like, maybe this is not my answer.
Maybe this was the answer that I was like, wow, I am acting, not like myself. That’s for sure. But I thought maybe this is it. So many people find solace here. Maybe this is where I’ll find it. And then just. D is finding so many people that had found solace before grief in their religion and their relationship with God.
Those people turned hella angry and I was like, dang, this is an interesting turn of events.
Michelle: [00:48:58] I think that speaks to just this quality of shatteredness of, and then of searching okay it wasn’t that clearly it wasn’t that that didn’t protect me. That didn’t save me. That didn’t make it easier.
So what the fuck is it like now I have this quest I have to search and I think there’s value just in the searching. So even though you didn’t find the solace or the answers that you were looking for, like that just becomes a part of your process with it, and you might not even fully understand what that was or what that did for you, but, you know, just.
For our listeners really trusting, follow those little nudges because they don’t need to lead to, you know, again like this nonlinear point a to B thing, but it can still have value. There can still be value in, in just the doing it and trusting yourself and being curious. And, you know, we’re relearning a new way of life after someone or some circumstance is gone or different.
So it’s really healthy. It’s part of our creativity to try things
Tami: [00:50:12] out. Yeah. I’m having this moment of grief feels like that movie sliding doors. Oh my God. Right. Where it’s okay choose your own adventure in one way. This is happening. And then in is slightly different. Realm, this other thing is happening and it’s you’re navigating between these worlds of before and after.
And it is instant that your life changes. And then as the months and the years go on, you’re like, shit, are you kidding me? Everything is going to change. Yeah. Oh, so, so that leads me to kind of a last thing. You had mentioned invisible loss, which is a really important category, you know, the intangible losses.
Michelle: [00:50:56] And that would be like, you know, loss of a child or a pregnancy is often put in that category, but there are others loss of a dream loss of a job. You know, things that are a little less tangible and therefore less acknowledged publicly, which then leaves us in our own grief that can often be laced with some shame.
But another category that is important to talk about is secondary loss. And that is what did you, what else did you lose? What did you lose because of your loss? So that’s when we talked about retirement in our first episode. So, you know, you, I mean, let’s just call retirement a loss for right now for the sake of this example.
So, you know, you say you lost your job. That’s a better example. Let’s say you lost your job. You also lost your status, your title, your community, your purpose to get up in the morning and shower and get dressed and go somewhere. Your salary. So those are all secondary losses. Another great place to think about this is in the loss of a spouse.
So if one person dies that person might’ve been the one who did the bills or cleaned the gutters or serviced the car or kept in touch with everyone, did the holiday traditions. Like those are all little losses that aren’t so little, but they’re the secondary losses that are going to come up. Maybe daily has, you know, for sure seasonally.
And those are kind of the ambush ones too, that it might just be like, Oh, I lost this person, period. No, it’s so much broader. And Multi-faceted so there are all a lot of losses in any one single loss.
Tami: [00:53:06] Yeah. Somebody gave me a good example the other earlier this week, and that was a man had just reordered checks with both of his name and his wife’s name.
And then she passed away and he had ordered like 2000 checks. He’s okay. So literally every time we buy something, right, w it’s going to have a check with her name on it. And then he’s and then a couple of years down the line, when I use the last check from them, he’s I’m expecting a big gut punch and it’s almost like little weird shit.
Right, because you think, yes. If I get through the, if I get through the first year, if I get through their birthday, if I get through the holidays, if I get through the, this and that, this, but it’s who’s to say on their next birthday, you’re not going to get kicked in your guts again. This is the good stuff that’s coming.
You guys you’re welcome. This is this preview grief is the gift that keeps on.
Oh yes. But I promise you, even though you may not know us in real life, we are normal people that you would want to sit by at a party. If we ever went to one. Even though we’re a grief weirdos who are like, it just keeps on coming. But I want to demystify grief so that people don’t feel alone and I want to demystify grief.
So people don’t feel like they’re crazy. Yeah. I want to demystify grief, so I don’t feel like a weirdo because I have all of these feelings and experiences so far away from the actual loss. Yeah.
Michelle: [00:55:00] Yeah. I think it’s so important for us to hear again and again, you’re not broken, you’re not weak. You’re not flawed.
You’re not, I mean, we’re calling ourselves weird affectionately, but I don’t even like to use the word normal. I like the word natural. Like grief is a natural response. It’s a healthy response. But what that looks like is going to be so Fareed and. It’s hard for us to not have the instruction manual and the checklist and all of those things that don’t come with grief.
They don’t come with life. And yes, just remember also, and you’ve mentioned this, but, and we’re going to get to kind of, I think we have in one of our next episodes, the things to do, but all of these symptoms that we’ve just talked about are so much harder when we’re not taking care of ourselves in the really super basic ways.
Tami: [00:56:01] So, and that is our next episode. It’s what do you do immediately? What are some self-care practices? And just to preview after that, we’re going to talk about. Things that you shouldn’t do when somebody around you is grieving,
Michelle: [00:56:17] don’t don’t ever do this list?
Tami: [00:56:21] Get out there that we want to be really common.
We want these to become the new myths to replace like the five stages. Yeah. We want to get rid of the BS and get the real talk. So so there’s a, as we’ve been talking for a long time, there’s lots of symptoms to grieve. So if your grief doesn’t look like what you saw on Netflix last night, that’s because they don’t have enough time to really dig into all of the symptoms.
Michelle: [00:56:52] Even if your grief doesn’t look like anything we’ve just talked about.
Tami: [00:56:56] Right. You can have your own experience and it’s still legit.
Michelle: [00:57:02] Yeah. Okay.
Tami: [00:57:05] So we’re going to have the. Symptoms firstname.lastname@example.org slash episode 82. Michelle, where can people find you online?
Michelle: [00:57:22] You can find me at Michelle Marley, han.com
Tami: [00:57:26] and you can find us both on Instagram.
We’re both very cleverly named our names, Michelle Marla Han and Tami Hackbarth. And until next week, remember that you matter too.