July 5, 2021
The day I realized just how much grief had thrust me into a whirlwind, I’d already hit rock bottom. Roughly 8 months following my mom’s death, I traveled from LA to Washington, D.C. for a business meeting. The airplane, minimally full, provided the perfect cocoon for me to cry myself into an emotional tizzy that lasted the entire flight. From the airport, I traveled to my hotel, where I spent the majority of the night crying out to God in a fetal position on the floor. After months of attempting to outrun grief by focusing on my career, I found myself blindsided by the sheer magnitude of it all.
However, when I made the decision to pursue therapy, I realized that grief was only doing its work. See I learned that grief’s ‘job’ is to dismantle, disrupt, and put on display every inward thought and emotion — good, bad, and indifferent. In addition, I embraced the reality that nothing about grief is structured, certain, or predictable. Nothing!
Thankfully, I had an astute therapist who asked me a pivotal question relatively early on in my grieving process. “Mekel, what would it look like if you relaxed into the pain of your mom’s death?” Though not easy at first, after a few appointment cancellations on my part, I realized that in order to move through grief, I had to acknowledge it, sit with it, and make choices to work alongside it. (FYI, if you’re interested in exploring the role faith played in my grief journey, you can snag a copy of my memoir, Relaxing Into the Pain: My Journey Into Grief & Beyond: https://www.amazon.com/Relaxing-Into-Mekel-Harris-Ph-D/dp/1512747076/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8)
Indeed, grief wasn’t going anywhere. So I decided to do what I could to co-exist with it. Can you relate?
First, let me acknowledge that everyone’s experience of grief is unique and influenced by a host of variables. Grief shifted my life in many ways and affected not only my emotions, but also my physical body and spiritual understanding. For example, I experienced significant sleep disruption after my my mom died, based in part on her dying while sleeping alongside me and my brother in her bed. Spiritually, my heart wandered from a place of absolute certainty and clarity to confusion and questioning. And even nine years later, I sometimes still find myself experiencing difficulty in places I thought I’d overcome. Oh, the ebbs and flows of grief!
In order to cope with the weight of it all, I do my best to embed structure and routine into my day. Yep, you read that correctly! It’s not easy; however, doing so allows me to experience some semblance of control against grief’s backdrop.
Here are three practical activities I engage in to help myself:
Know that I don’t offer any of these activities as quick-fixes — namely because we’re unique creatures that benefit from different things. Further, the activities mentioned aren’t the only ways to prioritize yourself as you grieve. My best recommendation is for you to engage in a bit of trial and error to discover what works best to keep you centered and grounded throughout your grief process. It took me several years to hone in on the strategies that work best for me. It’s also important to recognize that what works today may shift as you grieve differently in the days ahead.
At the same time, know there are daily practices you can implement to help yourself as you grieve.
Remember, you’re worth it.
Share a practice that helps you feel anchored. I’d love to hear!
Learn more about managing your lifestyle, love, leadership, and loyalties to God, self, and others by clicking here: https://mekelharrisphd.com/.