On grief

About a year and half ago my husband had to undergo chemotherapy for a type of blood cancer. This happened two months before our wedding. It was a very difficult time for us, but in this post I want to talk about how I felt after the therapy was over. My husband was happy that the physical pain and regular hospital visits were over (I was too of course). Finally, he was allowed to start exercising again, he went back to his PhD, and we were able to travel again. So in many ways for him the worst was over.

However for me, the period after the therapy was the hardest (something I wasn’t expecting). I felt emotionally and physically exhausted after having taken care of him for eight months, and the constant worry. People around me kept telling me that I should feel happy and grateful that it was over, but that just wasn’t how I felt.

I was mainly angry – angry that we had to go through this while most of our friends were allowed to think about their career, travels or were buying a house. I was jealous of everyone around me who did not have it as hard as me. I was angry that, after the difficult life I had had, I could add a loved one with cancer to the list of adversity I had to go through. I was angry at the though that God would potentially rob me of the person I trusted the most in this life.

The anger was coming out of my every pore, and it was ugly. But that is what grief does to you. At the time I did not realise I was grieving. My husband was happy, everyone around me was telling me I should be happy too, and I felt guilty and ashamed that I was failing at being happy. I also felt like a failure, because after all the psychotherapy I had been through I was expecting myself to be able to cope with adversity better.

After several months of this soul-destroying anger, I decided to make an appointment with my former psychotherapist, and he managed to “fix” me in one session. How? By simply allowing me to grieve. One of the things he asked me was “Why do you think you need to be happy?”, and I replied that people keep expecting me to be happy. He was the first person in a while who did not expect me to be happy, in fact, he said that seven months wasn’t a very long time to recover from such a difficult period in your life. I didn’t leave that session feeling less angry, but I finally was allowed to feel angry. So I engaged with my anger, I listened to it, I grieved. And within a few months the anger subsided. And eventually, I was happy again.

There is no socially approved length of time that you are allowed to grieve. Grief takes time, and sometimes, it never fully goes away. No one has ever been in your shoes, and can tell you whether your grief is inappropriate. It is your grief, and you deal with it in your own way, in your own time.

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