As a woman in my early 20s, you'd think I'd have experienced grief at least once. But it wasn't until recently that I felt the feeling for the first time. I've been questioning the word 'grief' at least once a day for the last 6 months and how I should be feeling. Was I doing it right? When will it end? What am I supposed to do?

A bit about my experience


Last October, I very suddenly lost someone who was a big part of my life. She suffered a stroke that wasn't found in time. Whilst in the hospital a couple of days before she passed, It was as if my whole world froze. My body stopped working in the usual way and I had lost all concept of time. I had no appetite, I had extremely mixed emotions and I just felt disconnected. I hadn't experienced grief before and it was at that point that I came to the realisation that it was actually happening to me. I felt scared, confused and like I just couldn't go on. I didn't understand it. 

My outward emotions are so beamingly happy all the time.  I mask every emotion with a smile. Some of my university lecturers comment on how I'm still smiling during the absolute worst time of my life. My best friends describe me as a kind, friendly, sassy, fun-loving individual. But the truth is, I cry at home, I cry in the car and I pretty much cry whenever I'm on my own when a brief memory flickers through my mind.

Credit: Glitter & Grief


My journey through grief has been difficult. Not difficult in the obvious way. Not crying every day, no depression and no constant sadness. That's what you would usually associate with the term grief. It's been a totally new experience for me. I've lost family members before, but I had been too young to feel this emotion to the full extent.

I lost a best friend, a mother figure, someone who I had a one of a kind relationship with, someone who wasn't supposed to leave so soon at such a young age. I lost a piece of me that will forever be missing.  I lost a woman who chose to love me and accept me as her own when she didn't have to. She won't get to see me graduate. We spoke about my graduation ceremony not long before she died and we were excited. She was already thinking about what to wear.

It's been just over six months now, and I've sort of got used to the idea of life without her. God knows how I've got through my final year of university with this cloak of grief draped over me. But I have...just about. Today is her birthday, so I thought today was a good day to mark my strength and share a few things I've learned over the last few months. 

What I've Learned


1. Suppressing grief prolongs the pain

The first few days, weeks and months, I refused to press pause and let my feelings have their moment. I'm the sort of person to make sure everyone else if okay first. And this was no exception. But what I should have done right from the get-go, is just be vulnerable. I also threw myself into work and university straight away without so much as a day to recover. The thing is, I was never going to be able to hide from it, it was always going to find me. For me, it took about 3/4 months. By then it was like I was right at the beginning and everyone had already started to accept it. Plus, I was getting to a really crucial period in my life where I had all sorts of deadlines creeping up on me. I couldn't exactly pull the grief card months after it happened, could I? So in hindsight, I should have just let it happen to kick start the process. You don't need to be strong when the worst happens. 

2. Don't feel guilty for carrying on

The horrible truth about losing someone is that life goes on. Jobs resume, studies resume, socialising will eventually resume. They won't hold it against you, they will want you to carry on. They wouldn't want you to stop living your life just because they lost theirs. And if you're worried what others might think, then don't. I worried about this at first. I actually thought about quitting my job and postponing university because I was so overwhelmed. But I didn't, I carried on. I didn't forget, I just coped. Sort of. And I'm glad I did because it's made me realise how strong I really am. 

3. There is no right way to feel and no right way to deal with it

As I said before, this has been my first experience of grief. I had some preconceptions of how you're supposed to feel and act when you lose someone. I thought you might cry every day, be angry at everyone, be depressed for ages, not go out to see family or friends, talk about the one you have lost. Sometimes I just like to stick on a bit of Billie Eilish and have a good cry in the car. Sometimes I sit in front of a photo of her and just stare for ages. But then sometimes I go out and meet friends and do what makes me happy. It doesn't matter what you do or how you act, as long as you're thinking about how it makes you feel and how you are coping with it. 


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My journey is on-going. From time to time, I still lay in bed thinking about sad things and sneak into her room to sniff some of her Jean Paul Gaultier perfume. How you deal with it is personal to you. What's important though, is that you talk. Don't hold in your feelings. Talk to family your partner, friends, colleagues, lecturers. Keep talking. It will get easier.

Useful links:

Mind Charity: Bereavement 
NHS: Grief After Bereavement and Loss
Stroke Assosiation