You Don't Need to be Okay Right Now

If I pretended to be fine, wouldn't I be?

A toothbrush is pictured in front of a sink.
Toothbrush in front of sink.

My dad's death took a lot out of me, to say the least. While that's something I often talk about now, it's not something I was willing to admit back then.


In the weeks after my dad died, I tried to ignore the fact that I was not okay. Half of my life had been shattered in an instant, but I was determined to hide my feelings and pretend like everything was fine.


Pretending and ignoring my feelings actually worked for a little bit, though it did cause me many more problems later on.


I didn't know a lot about grief when my dad died, so I'm pretty sure I thought that if I ignored my feelings, they would just go away (which is NOT true). For things in the past, such as a bad grade or argument with a friend, ignoring that I wasn't okay hadn't caused any significant problems, and I always ended up being fine in a few days.


I figured out how not okay I was while I was getting ready for bed one day, a few weeks after my dad died. I was brushing my teeth, not facing the sink like usual, and turned to spit out my toothpaste in the sink. That's something I've done thousands of times, yet when I turned I completely missed the sink and got toothpaste on the counter.


Frozen, I stood there, staring at the sink and the toothpaste next to it. That had never happened before, and I was filled with a sinking feeling that something was really, really wrong.


I was not okay. And that is 100% okay.


While that is the moment I realized that I was not okay, it's not the moment I decided to help myself. I still ignored how I was feeling, and over the next few weeks I ran out of class crying, skipped practices, and didn't always try my hardest at school. Deep down, I knew that I wasn't alright, but I still wasn't ready to admit that.


On the outside, I seemed like any other high school kid. On the inside, I was spiraling, and helplessly watching everything around me fall apart.


It took awhile for me to realize that I was not okay, and that I couldn't just ignore that anymore. Instead of running from my feelings, I started writing what I felt. I began opening up more to the people around me, and stopped forcing myself to function at the same level that I was before my dad died.


I was not okay. And that is 100% okay.


Expecting yourself to function at your normal level after you lose a loved one is unrealistic. I tried to ignore my grief and act like I was fine, but doing that made it harder for me to deal with my grief later on. You will most likely not be at your best - or even close to that - after you lose someone, and that is okay and normal.


It's okay to not be okay, especially during grief. Instead of forcing yourself back into your usual routine, give yourself a little break. If you take the time to care for yourself now, your grief will be a lot easier to deal with later on.



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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Joshua Hoehne.