There’s a surreal moment that happens again and again when grieving. It occurs after sleep. Falling asleep is hard enough, and yet waking up feels harder still. That’s when reality comes back into focus. The reality of a life you don’t want. The reality that you’re in free fall. The daunting task of making it through another day when even simple tasks turn challenging. Getting dressed. Work. Kids. Eating. Holding it together. Falling apart. And finding one’s way into sleep again.
It’s the nightmare version of Groundhog Day where panic, dread and anxiety play on repeat. At the very beginning of my own grief, I remember waking up already out of breath, my body in a constant state of fight or flight. Later on, the dread turned into exhaustion as my brain struggled with the hard task of adjusting to my new situation and trying to forge meaning from uncontrollable circumstances. Nothing’s quite as tiring as the heavy lifting of carrying a broken heart. Over time my mornings became lighter and easier to face. These days, dread doesn’t descend frequently. Anxiety doesn’t grip my stomach. My breath travels in and out more easily as I’ve slowly shifted into a new reality.
Looking back, it makes sense there’s cognitive dissonance between the old and new life. There’s so much new information for the body and mind to assimilate as we struggle with acceptance and eventually crawl towards joy. Waking up to grief is process. Please be patient with yourself.