Sunday, 8 May 2016

Three Things I did to Move Past Grief and Out of An Existential Crisis




Losing a loved one can trigger an existential crisis. If you search the term on Google, you will get numerous definitions. How I define mine is the "questioning of one's purpose and meaning in life, of the existence of a higher power, and the existence of life after death".

This post reveals personal aspects of my life. I decided to write about it because grief is something commonly experienced, but hardly spoken or discussed. Someone dies, but after the passing and the funeral, no one seems to talk about it. Everyone seems to move on. The keyword here is "seems", because do we really know if everyone affected did move on?

Recently, a relative of mine passed away, I found myself recalling past griefs that I had not fully move past. It's quite amazing how the mind can suppress certain memories that it refuses to deal with at that moment in order to move on in life. And I did that for 2.5 years before it crept up to me and caught me off-guard.

Effects of Unresolved Grief
1. Disconnection from the present

What do I mean by disconnection? For the past 3 - 4 weeks, I didn't feel like the present moment was important, all I wanted was to just keep ruminating about:

  • Why didn't I do more things for her before her demise?
  • Did I pray enough to God?
  • Where is she now?
  • Is she in heaven, or hell, or has been reborn?
This affected my ability to be focused in class and also in conversations with people. Often, I drifted off thinking about my loved one who passed on. Doing the things I needed to do each day no longer take as much priority as "processing" the why of someone's death.

2. Decline in Productivity

Overfocusing on the grief really drained almost all of my energy. My productivity declined, I get exhausted really easily, I felt that I was in part losing control of my very being.

3. Isolation from others

In an existential crisis that arose due to the loss of a loved one, I didn't see the need to socialise or talk to people. For a whole 2 weeks, I barely spoke to people unless I absolutely needed to.

The Process of Moving on
There are three steps that I took to move on. 


1. Accepting the fact that there was nothing I could do to bring my loved one back into this world

Upon realising I still didn't process the grief, I read up as much as I can (about at least 20 articles online) on the subject matter. Many suggested great ideas, but it wasn't until I decided to move on that I started to take action. Coincidentally, my Creative Non-Fiction subject had a few compulsory readings that talked about loss. Reading them, I appreciate their honesty in revealing such personal stories about their lives, about the loss of their loved ones. These readings inspired me to write about it precisely because we often avoid talking about it and it can sometimes make things worse. 

It took me a while to realise no amount of disconnection with the present moment, avoidance of my assignments or doing what I needed to do as a student, or social isolation will bring my loved one back. It's impossible. What I could do was just to move on - even if I am unsure how I was going to do that - I needed to, in order to go on living my life.


2. Using my knowledge of some Psychology, I started doing what I needed to do to move past it. 

Resuming my routine
This meant doing my assignments, going for lectures, meet-up with friends, making sure I eat regularly and sleep well

Expressing grief in a healthy way
I don't often talk to people about it, so I found that journalling was the best way for me. Sometimes, as weird as it sounds, I sometimes write letters about things I want to tell my loved one if she was still here. Obviously, this is not realisable in actuality, but it's better than staying indoors and avoiding human contact.

Allowing myself to cry if I want to
I think I only cried once upon her death. That's actually pretty terrible from the psychology point of view. Now I will just cry when I am sad that she's gone, that all I am left with are chunks of memories I spent with her.

Cherishing the memories that I have left
All that is left for us is the memories. Memories fade, they sometimes alter. But perhaps what matters in the times of grief is to just remind myself of what my loved one would want me to do in the situation, and honour that, in hopes that if she had a consciousness after death, or if she was watching over me, she can see that. 


3. About discovering the meaning of my life or the existential part of my story, I gave myself some time.

Everyone has his/her own answers as to which God or Gods, if any, that he/she believes in. Frankly speaking, I have not found my answer yet. The purpose of my life is not immediately apparent at this point, and the best I can do now is to just resume my routine, hoping that through some exploration or adventures, I can discover my life purpose, something that keeps me excited, something that makes me happy. 

I am no expert, but I write from my experiences, in hopes to de-stigmatise the topic and more people would talk about it, if they need to, with their family members or trusted friends. Because it really does help. Finally, if you find my post helpful to anyone you know, kindly share it so that they may benefit from it.