What Grief Feels Like on a Bad Day

Miranda Atkinson
a woman meditating at the ocean
a woman meditating at the ocean

I’m having a bad day. It’s just not my day, I guess. There’s this heaviness that I can’t escape, it weighs on my soul. It’s been there since the day I got that fateful text about my Momma, on October 9th. She passed away on a Wednesday, October 10th. I’ve come to terms with her death and accept the fact that she’s gone, but I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout. Some days are harder than others, today being one of those days. I’m lost in my thoughts and memories, swept up in a sea of emotions. I don’t know what to do with myself, so I’m writing it out as I go.

Grief is a strange thing to experience. Grief is a multifaceted response to loss. Emotional, physical, cognitive, spiritual, cultural and behavioral are some of the dimensions of grief. People may experience some,or all forms of grief, when losing someone they loved. We have all experienced grief in some way, shape, or form at one point in our lives. It may have been the loss of a friend, a pet, a family member, or an acquaintance, the loss of a job, a relationship, or friendship. In my opinion, no one really talks about the grieving process though. Nobody told me that it would be physically draining and numbing.

Related:When Grief Feels Death by a Thousand Cuts

I’ve experienced grief and loss more than once before. I’ve lost many beloved pets and I have buried my first born daughter. Losing my mother is an entirely different kind of grief. The first three months after she died were excruciating. I felt so heavy, inside and out. My eyelids felt heavy, I wanted to sleep all the time. Consuming caffeine had zero effect on me, I fell asleep a few times while drinking coffee. My arms were heavy, my feet dragged when I walked. Daily tasks were arduous, to say the least. Every little thing reminded me of Momma, made me want to text or call her and tell her about it…and realizing that I could no longer do that was agonizing. I wouldn’t speak or move, sometimes for hours at a time. I often felt numb and empty inside, a shell of myself. I felt like I was on autopilot, going through the motions of daily life mindlessly. I was constantly lost in my thoughts, and though I may have been outwardly quiet and still in my brain it was nonstop racing thoughts. All kinds of things went through my mind. Memories, questions, things I wanted to tell her.

Related:How Joy and Grief Can Coexist After Losing a Child

I had so much I wanted to tell my mother. I was going to call her and Pop that morning. I made coffee with special flavored beans they gave to me as a gift. I had been saving it for a special occasion but decided to indulge myself. My plan was to phone them and have morning coffee with them, and tell them that the night before we fed our baby pablum for the first time, that I was going to register for adult education and hopefully finish my grade 12. I wanted to tell them my two older munchkins were excited to be coming down for Halloween and trick-or-treating at Baba and Zaide’s house. But I never got to tell them. I never made that call, because “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I love those lyrics, thank you John Lennon for writing them. I sang that to my mother while hugging her, right before we said our goodbyes and the Rabbi gave her last rites. She used to sing that to me often, as a reminder. I didn’t understand the lyrics until recently.

Related:It's Strange How the Mind Works When Grieving a Loved One

The physical aspect of grieving is over, I think. It’s hard to distinguish between grief and my illnesses sometimes. My bipolar has been messing with me, I’m back to ultra rapid cycling. Even on my manic days, I still grieve but it’s manageable. I have my moments where I cry and remember Momma, and then I wipe my tears and carry on with my day. I look up at the sky often and smile, believing that she is looking down on me. Grief is tolerable when I’m manic, mixed manic not so much. Grief is crippling when I am depressed, it’s incapacitating. I’m a housewife, and you can tell when I’m struggling. The house will be a mess; I can’t keep up with the housework. Laundry and dishes start to pile up, dust accumulates on every surface…and the piles. I make piles of stuff to take to each room and put away. Some days, I’m so scatterbrained that I don’t move the stuff and then it just sits there and becomes an organized mess. This is where the other dimensions of grief come in and mess with me. I already have executive function issues, attention deficits and brain fog due to my illnesses. Now I have this heaviness on my soul and it leaves me hopelessly muddled. I will spend the day with my baby and crochet instead of doing my housework, and not because I am trying to shirk my housewifely duties. I literally don’t know what to do with myself. I will wander from room to room, trying to decide where to start and what to do…for hours. I stopped listening to my phone alarms that prompt me to take my meds, do my morning/bedtime routines, make supper, etc. I don’t even realize that I’m dismissing my alarms, I’m on autopilot. I get lost in playing with my baby, he makes the grief go away and that helps.

Distractions are a blessing. I distract myself from the grief constantly, I don’t really know what else to do. I crochet daily now. I taught myself how to crochet a few years ago, but I didn’t make it a habit or hobby until I was pregnant last year. It kept me busy and upbeat. Momma wanted me to teach her, but she wasn’t feeling well enough to do it when I was staying at her house. She loved taking me shopping at Michael’s, we’d stay in the yarn section for as long as her pain let her. She bought all kinds of yarn for the munchkins. My three munchkins were her only grandchildren. Sadly, she never got to crochet with me and make beautiful things together. But I digress… I was crocheting regularly when Momma passed away, in fact I brought a scarf I was working on for my daughter with me when I drove down with my girlfriend to see Momma at the hospital. When we went back to our hotel rooms the evening that Momma passed away, I brought out my yarn and started crocheting. It helped me process what was happening, it helped me think. Just like music, I love listening to music. It soothes the voices and thoughts in my head, so I can think straight. The lyrics, the rhythm, it’s like therapy for me. Crocheting is very much the same, the rhythmic stitching has the same effect on me. It slows down my brain, so I don’t get lost in myself.

My Pop gave me all of Momma’s yarn, and I have made it my personal mission to create meaningful things with them. I have made scarves, hats and blankets so far. I am still figuring out what to make with the rest. I feel compelled to honor her memory each and every day, and so I have been crocheting almost every day. She had this soft acrylic yarn in beautiful hues of pink and blue. I didn’t know what she intended to make with them, so I made them into messy bun hats for myself and my daughter. I love wearing my hat, it makes me feel close to Momma. There were a few large skeins of bulky yarn, it’s plush and mermaid colored. I made an afghan blanket out of it, and we call it “Baba’s blanket.” I frogged that blanket damn near a dozen times, trying to make it perfect. I don’t know why but it had to be perfect, as if Momma was going to inspect it or something. I’ve had that mentality with every project using Momma’s yarn.

It has been 10 months since Momma’s passing and my youngest son recently had his first birthday. Sometimes falling into a depressive episode is inevitable. Every month around the 11th, I crash. It’s like a subconscious delayed reaction to her anniversary. I’m aware of the date but it doesn’t hit me until the day after. I didn’t want my grief overshadowing my joy for my son’s birthday. He was my Mother’s Day gift, and this last one was my first one without Momma. Oh boy. I was not prepared for that and it was rough. This is why it’s so important for me to stay distracted, because if I don’t then the emptiness will return and the grief will take over. I have to stay strong, for my family. I need to keep my head above the water, so to speak. Maybe if I stay focused on my routine and day to day work, it won’t be so bad. I’m trying some new habits, like walking around the block with my baby and exercising. It feels good to eat healthy. When I’m depressed I don’t cook, meals are simple to make and less clean up. The most menial of tasks are a daunting chore for me, things like prepping veggies and making smoothies. I avoid them like the plague, and I don’t understand why. I despise myself when my depression negatively effects the household, and that needs to change. I started meal planning again, it helps keep me on track for daily meals. I tend to wander aimlessly like a lost sloth in traffic, wondering what to feed the family for supper. Meal planning will eliminate that conundrum altogether. I need to be more mindful so I can combat my frequent dissociation. Dissociation is a hallmark of BPD, however it is also experienced in PTSD. I’m not sure if either of those are causing my dissociation or if it’s the grief. Does it really matter which of my illnesses cause symptoms? Yes and no. I use DBT for all of my illnesses but depending on the situation I may use different skills. In this case, mindfulness skills. If I’m mindful, I’m more self-aware of what I’m doing which would be quite helpful for those times when I’m on autopilot. It would also help bring me back to the present when I am ruminating on the past.

“Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days/ When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.”
-“Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots
(Written by Tyler Joseph)

It’s quite onerous living with grief, but it is what it is. I detest it but I accept it. This too shall pass; I won’t feel this way forever. Tomorrow is a new day. Every day is a fresh start. I’m grateful to wake up every morning, and thankful to be alive. I live for my family and friends, and for myself. Positive affirmations, they’re working. This felt good to get out, I should do this more often.

Follow Miranda’s journey on her blog sparklesintheshadows.com.

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