Why I call myself the “Grief Freak”

I am a grief freak. And freak to me is an endearing term. I have always been slightly ‘off’ as I am an artsy kind of gal, so when someone calls me strange or weird it means I am on the right track.

Speaking of on track, let me get back to explaining what I mean by Grief Freak.

Well, you see, ever since my honey fell on his mountain bike and broke his neck resulting in quadriplegia, I have been dealing with my own grief process. I have been experiencing grief as an inside job every day since August 27, 2012.

It ain’t pretty and yet, it is so utterly normal to grieve.

The root of the word grief is from Latin gravare which means to ‘make heavy or cause mental pain or sorrow’. (By the way, the root of the word freak is in typical freak style, there is no known origin and I just love that).

So, I ask-what does it mean to grieve?

The way I see it is that I grieve because I loved. The more you loved the more you’ll grieve. Grief is the flip side of love/joy.

Have you seen the movie “Inside Out” (a must see in my opinion and more on that later…). It is a great story of how sadness and joy work together. And this is especially true when you are grieving.

So I call myself a grief freak because I live grief every day. I deal with the loss of life as I knew it everyday. And because I have had to live with grief I have also come to know it intimately.

And since I am a therapist and enjoy helping others, well, I became a grief expert or in my endearing terms-a grief freak. I am passionate about normalizing grief.

But I ask, am I really a freak?

Actually if you take the meaning to be the odd one or weirdo version of that word, I am not really a freak…but the culture I live in makes me one.

Grief is not supported in this United Statesian culture, at least not in my experience. We live in grief phobia.

Here’s a few examples-

  • 3 day family leave after the death of a loved one.      Seriously!?
  • People expecting you to have gotten over it after a few days, weeks, months, or at least a year.
  • Keep a stiff upper lip.
  • Keep calm and carry on (although that was a mantra that served me well simply for getting through each day…more on that later)
  • Denial of mortality
  • The idea that you ‘resolve’ grief or get over it.
  • Getting back to ‘normal’.  Normal? No. New normal? Yes.
  • Grief goes through sequential stages (see blog #1  The Mess of Grief for my opinion on that idea).

I even had a dear friend of mine caution me against using the word grief in my marketing simply because she was repelled by the actual word grief. And when she stated that I thought-wtf? Really, repelled by the word grief? Yet the synonyms aren’t much better…listen to these:

heaviness

loss

despair

misery

adversity

sadness

sorrow

suffering

hardship

calamity

mourning

heartbreak

Okay, take a long deep breath. Especially after heartbreak.

Grief = heart broken.

Take another one…I will wait for you.

Because once you know grief intimately-all those words will make sense to you viscerally. And remember in my first post-I suggested taking long deep breaths a lot of the time when you are grieving? Make it good practice and do it as often as you can.

Write “Just Breathe” on post it notes and put it all over your house and one in your car.

Really. Because it is easy to forget to breathe with grief.

As the grief freak I want to help you feel less freaky because we live in a culture that doesn’t support us to grieve.

Remember grieving is the natural and utterly NORMAL response to loving and losing someone or some part of your life that you truly and deeply loved.

I leave you now with the task to see your grief as your love for the person or thing or part of you that you no longer have.

Treasure it.

Honor it.

Tell others about it.

Cry about it.

Remember it.

Write about it.

Make art about it.

Smile and cry about it at the same time.

If I could I would give you a badge that says “Grief Freak”.  Like a girl scout badge and you could wear it with honors because to grieve is not an easy thing to do in this grief phobic culture.

Until next time.

Beth, aka the Grief Freak