Grieving is a difficult enough process under the best of circumstances. Grieving when you’re buried under an endless to-do list and surrounded by people 24×7 is even harder.
Fortunately, I’m here to share some helpful suggestions.
First, it’s important to have (or at a minimum, fake) a healthy sense of humor about things. We created a hypothetical drinking game, in which we would pretend to take a shot to dispel the inevitable awkward moments when the subject of death comes up and then everyone gets quiet.
Q: Will so-and-so be okay with that decision?
A: She’ll live.
That kind of reaction, where you acknowledge the dead elephant in the room and then move on, helps to keep things light.
Still, though, there will undoubtedly come times when something will hit your emotional buttons just right, and you’ll find yourself overcome by the moment. This is especially problematic when you’re on an airplane, or in a taxi, or at a restaurant, or really any time when you’re in a public place surrounded by strangers and you don’t want to lose your shit in front of everyone.
Here’s what you do: look straight up, take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, close your eyes, hold your breath for a few seconds, then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Pause for a few seconds, and repeat as needed.
This has been invaluable in helping me keep it together for the past week. I’ve used this technique when they were bagging up my dad to take his body away, when I went into his bedroom the next morning and saw the empty bed, and even when I first encountered his ashtray in the bathroom for the first time after his death. And yes, I’ve used it on planes and in taxis. It’s been amazingly helpful.
The problem? I still, more than a week after he died, have not had a really good cry yet. Even when I’ve tried to set myself up in scenarios that would facilitate getting it out, I’m oddly calm. It’s not until I find myself in a terrible environment to start sobbing and wailing that the emotions come clawing their way to the surface.
I’ll be back in New York next weekend for three days between trips. Maybe I’ll have myself a proper meltdown then, and then I can get back to my to-do list.