It happened so long ago it’s difficult to remember. I can remember sitting in the dining hall after I found out, foggy, detached, watching someone eat soup. I remember the spoon moving up and down, almost in slow motion, and chunks of white potatoes floating in broth.
Perhaps it was there, at the dining hall table my freshman year of college, the isolation began. The feeling of being small, different, and broken.
I got into a cab after lunch, hadn't told anyone but a couple friends. The cab driver asked me if I was going anywhere fun.
I responded, "No. I'm going home. My dad died." I looked down at my hands.
He said something I couldn't hear, and we didn't talk for the rest of the ride.
Yeah, now that I think about it, that is where it all began.
I didn't know it at the time, but what I was feeling was normal, and not uncommon. The problem was I didn't have anyone to talk to about it. I was new to college, had met others but had no real friends. My family was far away, and honestly, they were struggling too. My freshman friends were, as I would have been, clueless about what to say and how to act. So, I just pretended it didn't happen. I buried it.
Looking back now I realize I didn't handle things well. Burying it worked for a while, but it wasn't gone, it was under there working hard, watering, fertilizing, priming my psyche for a bumper crop of hearty anxiety and dense sadness. It grew mightily for three or so years. It wasn’t until my senior year that I started to try and trim it back, and it was back-breaking work.
"What's the point of sharing all this?" you ask.
My experience happened when I was young. But the feeling that no one understands your loss and sadness is not limited to youth. It spans all generations.
I share this because I want you to know there are others out there who can and DO understand. Others who have lost someone they love and experienced similar feelings. Get grief counseling, join a grief support group, get information about normal grief reactions, and talk to someone about what you are feeling. The power of connection and knowledge can't be overestimated.
And, finally, please don’t let your sadness grow unattended, like I did. You'll end up needing a much bigger lawnmower.
--Pippa H., grief counselor
For a list of Transitions GriefCare support groups and offerings, click here.