Conversations in Grief Blog: Hitting the Snooze Button
When I was in college I always lived in a shared dorm or apartment and something I learned to love and hate was the snooze button. In the days before we used our phones as alarm clocks, we could simply hit the top bottom on an alarm clock and it would give us 15 more minutes of blissful sleep. When you share a room with others (who also have this ability) it rarely works that way. I’d hit the snooze button and five minutes later they’d hit snooze on their clock and no one would get any additional sleep. The times we most often used this feature were when we had more to do than usual. Extra papers, part-time jobs, and life issues all piled up and left us exhausted. “I just need 15 more minutes and then I can face the day,” we’d think to ourselves but it never really happened.
For many people, this past year has been a pile-on of a different sort. Instead of term papers and job stress, it is grief piled on top of grief. The loss of “normal life,” lost jobs, cancelled important events, loss of in-person connections, and so much death have been hard to process. One of these things is considered hard but when we compound loss upon loss it often feels like we don’t know what to be sad about. The pain is there and we aren’t sure what hurts the most. So often we don’t acknowledge any of it. We push it down and hit the snooze button on our feelings saving them for another day. The trouble with grief is that it’s not good at being ignored.
When grief is pushed down it finds ways to come out through anger/irritability, anxiety, general feelings of being overwhelmed, and physical symptoms like fatigue. When our bodies are injured, we divert energy to that source of pain so we may heal. When we are grieving something similar happens and our emotional and mental energies are siphoned away to the source of pain. If we ignore our pain that process still happens it just becomes much harder to bear. It’s like breaking a bone and trying to go on as if you haven’t broken anything. Your body is screaming while you try to go about life like normal. In these situations, a point will come where you can’t go on any longer and will need to get support.
So where do we begin when there is just too much grief and it feels like we can’t even think about it. We take time to acknowledge our pain. What this looks like is going to be different depending on what your situation is. It may mean taking time alone to just let some of it out, talking with a friend about it, simply naming what has happened and what is hurting out loud, or getting some professional bereavement support to guide you. When grief is hidden and unacknowledged it takes up much more space than when it is. It rattles around inside us and drains us of our ability to function wholly. By talking about it we take possession of it as our loss and our pain. It won’t undo what has happened but we will be able to work through it and feel a little less burdened by its presence in our life.