I had a hard time believing that things would get better after my dad died; until they did.
“Is this how the rest of my life is going to be?”
I could barely sleep at night. I missed my dad so much that I could hardly function. Grief was the horrible burden I couldn’t seem to escape, no matter what I was doing.
While learning about grief online a few weeks after my dad’s death, I read that grief lasts forever. As someone who was at one of the lowest points of her life so far, that was the opposite of what I wanted to hear.
I wanted to hear that my grief would end soon. That I would get over my dad’s death and be fine in just a few weeks. Instead, I learned that I was going to feel that way forever.
Except… that’s not exactly the whole truth.
Stuck in my misery about having a terrible life because of grief, I didn’t bother to read the rest of that article right away. A few minutes later, once I finally turned my phone back on, I read the rest of the article. Immediately, I learned that, while grief does last forever, it gets easier over time.
So basically, my panic was for nothing.
Reading that things would get better made me feel much less stressed. I still didn’t feel great, though.
In the months that came, knowing things would get easier was like seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel of grief. It was something I could look forward to, but it was so far away that I wasn’t sure if it was just in my imagination, and if it’d go away as soon as I blinked, leaving me miserable for the rest of my life.
Realistically, I knew that things would get better. In the first months after my dad’s death, though, when I seemed to feel worse every day instead of better, it was so hard to imagine a time when I’d feel okay again.
It was hard to hang hope onto something I couldn’t imagine happening.
If I could go back in time and talk to myself after Dad’s death, I’d say two things:
1. Stock up on toilet paper (trust me).
2. IT GETS BETTER. IT REALLY DOES!
After those first months of horrible grief, my life slowly began to go uphill again. Every day, grief became a little bit easier to deal with, and the light at the end of the tunnel was suddenly much closer than it had been before, and much easier for me to imagine.
I miss my dad daily, but I don’t start crying randomly in class anymore. I wish my dad was here, but I’ve started imagining a future without him. There are days when I feel absolutely horrible, but there are also days when I feel so happy.
Things are better. As more time passes, I know that they’ll continue getting better.
(Please note that I used the word “better,” not “perfect.” Nothing is perfect. There are still times that grief is really, really difficult for me, but there are also times that I am genuinely happy and okay. As time has passed, instead of feeling bad 75% of the time and happy 25%, I’ve been feeling happy more than I feel bad. Better doesn’t mean that grief is gone, it just means that it’s not the center of my life anymore.)
When grief is at its worst, it’s easy to think that everything will always be terrible. No matter what I read online about teenage grief, I couldn’t imagine myself being okay again.
Even if you don’t believe what you read online about grief getting easier, try to believe me, someone who was once in the place you are right now: It gets better. It really does.
A lot of what makes grief easier is time, during which you need to let yourself feel your feelings. If you let yourself grieve and process the death of your loved one, over time it will get easier. Developing coping mechanisms helps a lot, too. For me, writing and talking to others helps a lot.
If you’re struggling with grief, it’s also okay to reach out for help from others. Sometimes, for things to get better, you have to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Ask whoever you live with if you can talk to a counselor, or reach out to your school provided counselor or another adult you trust.
Grief isn’t easy, but it does get better. While happiness and going a single day without crying may seem like an impossible thing right now, there will be a day when that happens.
Until then, let yourself be upset. Take a break and take care of yourself. And remember: the light at the end of the grief tunnel does exist. Things will get better. You just have to get through the hard part first.
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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response.