If you had asked me, before my Dad died, what grief was going to feel like, I would have expected it to be intense at first and then ease over time, with somewhat random intense periods from time to time.
Instead, I had a very short intense period and then a busy time, followed by a strange time when I was simultaneously supposed to carry on as normal but still make room for my grief, and then we have gotten to this week in which my emotions are so tangled that I hardly know what I am feeling.
The only thing my prediction would have gotten right was the random intense grief but even that doesn’t feel like I would have expected and it isn’t activated by the things I would have guess it would be.
Now, before you think that I was expecting grief to be an orderly process, I definitely wasn’t.
I just thought that it would have an overall pattern to it that it definitely does not have.
And the intense grief doesn’t feel like sadness, it feels like a weight settling on to me. The best description is that I end up feeling defeated or exhausted, like I have used up all my energy.
I know this is quite normal but it is a strange sensation to have my grief show up in my body that way instead of as intense or racing thoughts.
I was expecting to be swept away by memories that might then show up as a physical sensation. I wasn’t expecting to have the physical feeling anchor me in one spot and leave me feeling down – but without any specific thoughts attached to the sensation.
I really thought that it would be thoughts and memories of my Dad that would prompt the random intense grief.
Instead, thoughts of my Dad are making me smile, sometimes wistfully but mostly happily.
The heavy feeling either seems to arrive without prompting or it shows up in response to trying to work on something that takes focus or concentration.
It’s almost as if I can access a finite amount of brain power for tasks while the rest of my brain processes my grief.
That finite amount of brain power takes me pretty far but if I try to borrow any power from the parts of my brain that are processing my grief, I end up flooding my body with that heavy, defeated feeling.
So, it’s not that I am trying to do too much or that I am trying to do things I am not ready for. It’s that I misjudge the energy needed for a given task, I reach into the usual places in my brain for that energy but that part of my brain is busy grieving so I fall into the gap between the energy I have and the energy I need.
It’s a bit like when you think you have more steps to climb than you actually do and you find your foot suddenly dropping through air on the landing. Something you expected to touch wasn’t where you were expecting it to be and you are a bit disoriented and disconcerted by its absence.
Obviously, trying to climb a phantom step doesn’t really compare to navigating grief but it’s a small example of the sort of thing I am experiencing.
And, actually, reaching for a phantom step and then finding yourself falling a little is a pretty good analogy for my grief overall.
Part of me keeps expecting Dad to be in all kinds of places in my days and weeks but he’s not there.