A Window into Grief: What Does Processing the Death of my Young Partner Really Look Like?

Jan 09, 2020

Since my Brian died nine months ago, my mother has asked me a few times what “processing” his death actually looks like. It’s a hard question to answer.

For me, it can be so many different things. It’s giving space to let whatever needs to surface, come up. It’s alternating between unbearable pain and numbness. It’s allowing the transformation to take over and giving up control.

Any time I pause and allow myself to just “be” now, I always automatically connect to and grieve Brian. His death, the fact that he is “gone”, the cancer trauma we endured for the three months beforehand, and the challenges or miscommunications between us that we never had time to resolve; are always there just below the surface.

So, the second I really stop, the second I let myself be, it all comes bubbling up.

This is why my blood would boil whenever well-meaning friends would encourage me to practice “self-care” in the early days of grief. I was the queen of self-care before Bri got sick. But in the first few months after he died, the fear of stopping to “relax”, was too great. The enormity of the pain, too overwhelming.

Now I find that it’s possible. The pain is still there, but I’m less scared it.

Sometimes now, I intentionally grieve.

I had some mini grief breakdowns over the holidays, but never fully let go. It was too hard to do because I was surrounded by so many people. But in my experience, there’s only so long you can hold it in before grief turns into self-sabotage, meanness, and hatred.

And so, a few nights ago, I drew a bath, dimmed the lights, lit a candle, and gave myself permission to dive on in.

This is what this looks like:

I fully let myself connect to Bri. To feel as if he is with me, beside me, talking to me. I work on actively welcoming his spirit into my new life. I work on redefining our relationship. I imagine conversations we’d have or things he’d say to me. Advice he would give me. His perspective on the new me, this person I am still getting to know and who one good friend has named “Mira 2.0”.

But I also let myself connect to our life together on earth. I let myself time travel back or imagine that what existed then still exists now, in another dimension that I can visit sometimes.

I imagine erasing the past nine months and replacing them with the memories that would have been if none of this had happened. I see Brian sitting beside me as I lie pregnant in the bath. I see us chatting and dreaming together, as we loved to do. Our daughter is asleep in bed and she’s not a grieving child and we are happy and waiting for our second babe to arrive. This is the life that could have been.

The pain of really going there, is deep. I feel the truth of the beauty that was once our potential. That could have been my life. That was my life. That was once me.

I realize now that I am not only grieving Brian. I am grieving the loss of the previous version of me, as well. I need to mourn the loss of the old Mira.

I want to remember her, instead of avoiding thinking about her. I want to be her again, even if just for a moment, connect to her, and let her go.

She still had lessons to learn. Her and Brian still had work to do together. Nothing was tied up neatly. There was no time to plan together for this “after life”. And that needs to be acknowledged.

Processing takes time and effort, space, and a willingness to just be. There is no road map and, in my experience, it will separate you from those who have not done that type of inner work.

From those who have not had to learn to manage deep emotional pain. Who have not had to live with darkness.

To really think and feel and let it out, is truly exhausting. The deeper the pain, the deeper the exhaustion, and the deeper the release as well. I always feel better afterwards and closer to who I really am. To my soul purpose. To my inner wisdom. And to what connects us all.

I guess this is the “gift” of grief you always hear about. But damn, what a tough pill to swallow.

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