Right after Jen passed away, I found myself blogging much more frequently; sometimes multiples times a week. Now, almost five years later, I find myself struggling with what to write. I have found myself able to talk about Jen, and not get that lump in my throat. I can hear the name “Jennifer” and not wince. And most importantly, I feel like I can help others.
I found a great article with some points to highlight that you are progressing on your grief journey:
1.) You are in touch with the finality of the death. You now know in your heart that your loved one is truly gone and will never return to this earth.
I understood this very early on. The evidence was there. There was no questioning it.
2.) You can review both pleasant and unpleasant memories. In early grief, memories are painful because they remind you of how much you have lost. Now it feels good to remember, and you look for people to share memories with.
This could not be more true. I find myself telling stories of Jen to people (some who don’t know that she passed), and I don’t feel the urge to cry. It’s a way to talk about her, say her name, and look back fondly on the time we had together.
3.) You can enjoy time alone and feel comfortable. You no longer need to have someone with you all the time or look for activities to keep you distracted.
This is also very true. I look forward to my alone time, and I’m not worried to be alone with my thoughts.
4.) You can drive somewhere by yourself without crying the whole time. Driving seems to be a place where many people cry, which can be dangerous for you and other drivers.
If anything, I do most of my crying in the car. But, in my defense, that is when I listen to the radio the most and when a song reminds me of Jen, I tend to cry.
5.) You are less sensitive to some of the comments people make. You realize that painful comments made by family or friends are made in ignorance.
There is that quote; something along the lines of “Don’t judge anyone, you don’t know what their story is.” and I think that is describes peoples’ ignorance best. I’m sure if someone knew everything I went through, they wouldn’t have made such an insensitive comment
6.) You look forward to holidays. Once dreaded occasions can now be anticipated with excitement, perhaps through returning to old traditions or creating new ones.
My family and I keep many of our old traditions (that Jen was apart of), but we also made new ones. Now, we have two sets of traditions, and I really do look forward to them.
7.) You can reach out to help someone else in a similar situation. It is healing to be able to use your experience to help others.
It is my nature to help people, and I really enjoy doing it. Sadly, many people close to me have also lost sisters and close family members, and I find it my untold-duty to help (if they want it). I sometimes worry if I am crossing a line, and I don’t want to be know as the Grief Lady, but I try to reach out whenever needed. I wish someone was there for me, so I would like to be there for someone else.
8.) The music you shared with the one you lost is no longer painful to hear. Now, you may even find it comforting.
Yes and no. Music is still my biggest trigger to memories and making me sad.
9.) You can sit through a church service without crying.
Again, yes and no. Sometimes going to services where they talk about about family makes me tear up.
10.) Some time passes in which you have not thought of your loved one. When this first happens, you may panic, thinking, “I am forgetting.” This is not true. You will never forget. You are giving yourself permission to go on with your life and your loved one would want you to do this.
This is so very true. There will be days where I think a lot about Nif, and then in a panic go, “OMG Did I not think about her yesterday?” It seems silly looking back, but I made a quasi-promise to myself that I would think about her everyday; even if it is a fleeting thought.
11.) You can enjoy a good joke and have a good laugh without feeling guilty.
This was never an issue. Laughter is the best medicine.
12.) Your eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns return to what they were beforehand.
…if not better than before. I am trying so hard to take better care of myself, eat better, and work out more. I feel like I look better, my skin is flawless, and I feel better about me. No more “I feel sad” snacks.
13.) You no longer feel tired all the time.
…and my body doesn’t ache all the time either. The weight of the world can get heavy!
14.) You have developed a routine or a new schedule in your daily life that does not include your loved one.
I no longer need to look for my hair brush/blow dryer/make up. However, there are times when my fiance will put the blow dryer away in the wrong spot, and I go to find it, and laugh because I have no idea where it is (just like the good ol’days)
15.) You can concentrate on a book or favorite television program. You can even retain information you have just read or viewed.
Yup. My mind doesn’t wander (as much)
16.) You no longer have to make daily or weekly trips to the cemetery. You now feel comfortable going once a month or only on holidays or other special occasions.
I don’t think this was ever a concern for me. But now, when I go to my parent’s house, when I go into the room where Jen’s urn is, I always say ,”Hi Jen.”
17.) You can find something to be thankful for. You always knew there were good things going on in your life, but they didn’t matter much before.
I’m so very thankful for my fiance, my family, and know the importance of close relationships.
18.) You can establish new and healthy relationships. New friends are now part of your life and you enjoy participating in activities with them.
I must be a bully because I don’t know how many new friends I’ve made since Jen’s passing, but I definitely love spending time with my existing friends.
19.) You feel confident again. You are in touch with your new identity and have a stronger sense of what you are going to do with the rest of your life.
Tee-hee. Confident ❤
20.) You can organize and plan your future.
Organize? Check. Plan? Double Check. First stop, wedding. Then, a house!
21.) You can accept things as they are and not keep trying to return things to what they were.
When someone passed away, things will be different. I really don’t think that there is a way around that. However, when you’re able to say, “Yes. Things will be different, and that’s okay,” you’re on the right track.
22.) You have patience with yourself through “grief attacks.” You know they are becoming further apart and less frightening and painful.
Right, and for that, I am thankful. I know that they will sneak up, and that’s okay. I still cry in Hallmark, and that’s perfectly fine.
23.) You look forward to getting up in the morning.
I do. I enjoy life. I’m happy.
24.) You stop to smell the flowers along the way and enjoy experiences in life that are meant to be enjoyed.
Adam always tells me that I am a big kid-at-heart because I get excited over the little things. New drying rack arrived in the mail? I’m ecstatic. Scored a great deal on socks? Super pumped.
25.) The vacated roles that your loved one filled in your life are now being filled by yourself or others. When a loved one dies he or she leaves many “holes” in your life. Now those holes are being filled with other people and activities, although some will remain empty. You are more at ease with these changes.
Jen has big shoes to fill (no really, she had bigger feet than me), but my friends and family and doing a great job of filling some of those holes. Some holes can never be filled, and that’s okay with me.
26.) You can take the energy and time spent thinking about your loss and put those energies elsewhere, perhaps by helping others in similar situations or making concrete plans with your own life.
I always have enjoyed crafting, and like to make baby blankets when a friend is expecting a baby. I also really enjoying help people, and sign up for conferences where I can present and talk about my own experiences in an effort to help others.
27.) You acknowledge your new life and even discover personal growth from experiencing grief.
Almost five years later, and I think I am in a good place. Untimely, I’d like to write a book about my experiences, and share what I have learned with others. I’ve said it before, but I think that siblings are the forgotten mourners.
SUPER IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Everyone grieves differently; and that is perfectly okay. You can’t put a time frame on something so monumental. What’s not okay is if you feel like you are stuck at one point along your grief journey. Grief is like a river. There are times when the water is rough and unbearable. There are times when the water is calm, and you are at peace with your thoughts. But the water is always moving, and you should be too. Don’t get stuck. Keep on swimming.