A friend shared an insightful diagram with me called ‘The whirlpool of grief’, which I thought would be good to share here (see illustration far below).
As soon as I saw this, it made perfect sense to me. I recognised the many elements to the ‘process’ that were illustrated. I call it a ‘process’ because I see that there are various stages and emotions to work through before an adjustment is made through mourning and acceptance. The stages aren’t linear, however, and move in cycles.
While I’m still very much in the early, raw stages of grief (i.e., just fallen head first over the edge of the waterfall), I recognised some of my emotions in this whirlpool diagram. Shock, anger, denial, despair all hit me at various times, sometimes in the same day or even hour. But I don’t feel one emotion and move on to another, I feel the same thing over and over again. I feel like I’m falling into them from a great height. Each day feels like the day before, but with the emotions mixed up again. Grieving has become a whirlpool of emotions and I sometimes feel lost in them and out of control.
To cope with this, I am trying my best to accept my emotions for what they are – sometimes I don’t feel like crying, but I’m angry; other times I collapse into uncontrollable sobbing; other times I’m sad and depressed; or I’m in shock and shaking my head in disbelief; sometimes I feel sick and cannot eat, other times I’m stuffing myself with chocolate.
As well as reaching out to loved ones for support, writing has also become a branch for me to hold onto while I allow myself to be swirlled around this pool; it helps me to make sense of how I’m feeling, and why … it helps me to accept that what I’m feeling is normal, to me. (It’s not all textbook though, I often simply clamber about in despair, not quite understanding what I’m feeling, but having this image in my mind has helped me appreciate that that is okay too.)
I know that suppressing emotions is the worst thing anyone suffering grief can do, but sometimes it can be so very hard to let the emotions out, or worse you don’t even realise you have been suppressing them at all, and then they hit you like a stone. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from bereavement counselling such as Winston’s Wish and Cruse; these services are there for a reason and I intend to get all the help I can.
I often want to keep my grief in, because I feel that letting it out means I’m admitting defeat – to the knowledge that Abi is dead. This way, I feel that I’m ‘allowing’ it to sink in slowly, on my terms. It takes some effort to let myself go, but I’m getting ‘better’ at it. I feel the tears and pangs often, and let them rise up and flow whenever I can. Having a good cry really helps to loosen the tight knot in my chest, and I do feel better for it afterwards. In some way, I’m trying to remember that allowing myself to grieve now will help to gradually slow down the flow of the whirlpool and steer me towards the horizon.