On Dealing with Grief & The Grieving Process

I bet the first thing you’re thinking is.. How the heck does this have anything to do with a long distance relationship? Don’t worry, it’ll make sense. We’ll get there. This post is going to discuss dealing with the loss of a loved one due to death, the loss of pets, and a little twist – dealing with the “death” of a relationship with someone that is still living. This is a longer post of mine so if you just want to scroll to the part that may benefit you the most that’s okay!

Grief is something I think about a lot, but I feel like it’s not talked about enough. It didn’t strike me that this is a topic that needs to be discussed until I found myself getting so caught up in my own grieving process that it dawned on me.

The best advice I’ve ever heard for helping someone who is grieving is to avoid trying to help them right away. Like don’t rush to help them when you find out of their loss. Of course everyone is different and maybe some people need immediate comfort and assistance, but from what I’ve found in my experience, it’s usually pure shock. The loss of someone close to you typically results in an immense amount of denial and shock. It’s later on when the pain hits, like, really hits.

Of course the loss of someone close hurts like hell at first & later on, but that’s not the point. The point is most people probably want to be left alone to grieve alone, at first. I know I do when I lose someone. I don’t want anyone to talk to me or come near me. So when people rush to help me, I don’t want it. I shut them out. Quite frankly, I get annoyed. What do you say to, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Like, thank you? That’s always been weird to me. I’ve never said thank you to someone for saying that. I’ve always responded, “me too.”

This is why offering your condolences is more benefitial way down the road (again, not for everyone – don’t @ me). But think about it. Funerals typically happen right away. Like a week or so after the death of someone. In my experience, I’m still in shock about the loss at the funeral that I cannot grasp my head around it. I don’t want hugs or sympathy, I want space. The time I need condolences and people asking me how I am is now.

This would make more sense with examples.

In 2016 my nana passed away. She was practically my second mother and raised me just as much as my own mother. I am her only granddaughter, so we were quite close. She passed very suddenly as well. No one saw it coming. She had just gotten surgery on a lung and was in recovery, but unfortunately had complications that led to a heart attack quite young. It was such a shock to me. It was 4th of July weekend and we had just talked, then it was like the next day I get the news that she had passed, and five days later I had to book a one day trip to Florida for her funeral.

I was in shock. Just utter shock.

It’s been nearly four years since her death and I still have not accepted it. I actually am very lucky to say that I still have my great grandparents with me and they are nearly 100 years old! They are my nana’s parents. It is strange to think that they attended their own daughter’s funeral at that age. They are also the strongest out of everyone in my family.

Now I’m going to take a tangent. I understand there are other ways to deal with grief, like the thought of being able to see your loved one again someday. Or the idea that when a loved one passes away, it is just their physical being that is gone, but their spirit lives on with you day-to-day. I like these ideas and I think of them a lot. But like, I miss my nana’s physical being and that’s all there is to it.

At the funeral, a woman I had never met said, “I see so much of her in you. She will live on through you.”

I think that’s when it hit me that she had passed. It hit me like a train. I just remember breaking down and sobbing, hugging this stranger that said she’d live on through me. My nana, my godmother, my guardian angel.

A letter my nana wrote me & framed to give to me when I was 18 and graduated high school. I mention this letter in my post on why I am taking a break from modeling & how it inspired me to do so.
Also, a photo of my nana at age 16. I love this photo of her and keep it on my desk.
I intentionally covered most of the letter. I want to keep that private.

So now what to do with this? This grief? This mourn?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer. I’m still trying to cope. My main point I was leading to is that when my nana passed away, I did not want anyone to talk to me. I did not want any condolences. I wanted to be alone. My nana was burried months later. She wanted to be burried in Carthage, New York where she was born. So, in September of 2016, we had another funeral to bury her. My papa drove her ashes up in their RV and kept the urn on her side of the bed with her jewelry until it was time to bury her.

The time I need condolences is now. The time I need help dealing with this is now. Her and I were so close and I think of her every day, wishing she were with me, or wondering what advice she’d give me. But who is here to do that? Everyone gave me their condolences four years ago when I didn’t want them. Now is the time.

This isn’t a cry for help, either. I just want you to think about it. How would you feel? Would you prefer help dealing with grief in the early stages, or later?

Connor surprised me with these roses last weekend, little did he know they’d become the photos for this post…

Here are some ways I have found to cope.

Holding onto objects. I am fortunate enough to have inherited many objects from my nana. If you ever look closely in any of my photos, I almost always have rings on. Two of my rings were my nana’s. I wear her spoon ring on my right hand. My papa made it for her in the 70s out of an antique spoon and she never took it off for over 40 years until she passed. It has not come off since he gave it to me.

Another one of my favorite photos of my nana taken a few years before she passed in 2014. We were in Barnes & Noble and she found this book that talks about the town she grew up in and it’s history…… & she’s on the cover! She is pointing to a little girl.. that little girl is her! This was her grandfather’s parade float and she was riding it. She already knew about her photo on the cover, but she didn’t expect to see it at B&N!
You can also see her spoon ring on her right ring finger. This is the one I have now and wear on the same hand.

I have other objects that were hers as well. I have two of her sweaters, a few books, and a lot of jewelry. The rings are my favorite. I have other artifacts as well. My nana wrote a letter to Walt Disney when she was seven years old and to a surprise, he wrote back! We have it framed. Nana passed that down to me.

Search for new information. Again, I am so very fortunate enough to still have my great grandparents with me. They will often share new stories with me about my nana when I get to see them. My mom also has plenty of new stories to tell me. Oddly enough, my nana was a writer as well, so I have many poems, one book, newspaper articles, and journals that she wrote. I’m holding onto them without reading them just yet. I’m saving them. I don’t know what for, it’s just not time to read them, yet.

For my advent calendar this past Christmas, my mom filled it with poems my nana wrote when she was 13! (Advent calendars were a tradition my nana and I did with each other, my mom took over after she passed). I love finding out new things about her and reading new things she wrote. It helps bring me back some of the comfort she used to give to me. What’s even weirder is the poems she wrote sort of highlight my life now. They talked about wishing to know how to skii.. being in love with a skiier.. and even one about trumpets. Connor is a skiier, I can’t ski, and he used to play the trumpet! What’s even more strange is last Christmas, my mom got out my nana’s ornaments she passed onto us, and burried deep in the box was a random wooden Vermont ornament. She didn’t have any other state. It’s like she knew.

A small book my nana wrote about her childhood I haven’t read yet. Her cameo necklace. & some poems she wrote at age 13.

As you can see, I have a lot I could go on about. I have many amazing stories about my nana, but I think I’ll save them for other posts. To help deal with grief, see if you can find any of the loved ones objects and hold onto them. Cherish them. & ask your family or friends if they have any stories about your passed loved one. That helps, too.

Another form of grief we all know of… pets.

A year ago, Connor and I lost our baby bunny, Bun Iver.

Bun Iver
11-13-2018
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

(Is that not the best name ever for a bunny??!)

He was only four months old when he passed. We think it’s because of his immune system. He was the runt of his litter and almost didn’t make it when he was born. I really don’t know how he contracted an upper respiratory infection because he never got to interact with my other bunny since neither of them were fixed, yet. & she was fine and never got sick, either. But he contracted snuffles and just instantly fell very ill. He stopped eating on top of that and developed GI Stasis. I took him to the vet, stayed up all night with him every night he was sick (five days total), and had to force feed him. The medication from the vet and force feeding him helped get his digestive system working again at first. I still don’t fully understand what happened, but it worked and then it didn’t. His system just shut down and he ended up sleeping for like 20 hours. I knew this wasn’t normal and rushed him back to the vet. His temperature was low & when they tried to bring it back up, his body just couldn’t handle it and he passed away.

I guess in a weird and sad way, I am fortunate that this is the worst experience to ever happen to me.

I think maybe it’s because I thought of this baby bunny as my child more than I do with Clover. Clover is my baby of course, but my mom is also obsessed with her and she lets my mom hold her, but not me. Iver let me hold him and would just curl up in my neck and stay there for 30 minutes until he got bored. Like, at least. And then when he was sick, I had to cradle him in my arms and force feed him, which he always took fine. It was like he wanted me to feed him, he never rejected food – just didn’t reach for it himself. & when he didn’t make it, I just… collapsed.

I don’t know why this is particularly hitting me so hard. My mom and I have always taken in sick or injured animals and a lot of them haven’t made it, but also a lot of them have. We rescued two stray kitties and ended up having them for nearly ten years. I think it’s because my mom has always been the one to do the force feeding & vet trips, while I tag along and cry with her. Or I fill the water bowl. But this case was different because I was living in Vermont with Connor and didn’t have her with me to help with Iver. So it was all me. Obviously it ultimately leads to the weight of feeling like I didn’t do enough & should have done more.. & constantly wondering what I could have done different.

Connor & Iver
1-5-2019

What I did do was reach out to the rabbitry I got Iver from to let them know what had happened so they could check their other rabbits. Oddly enough, they said their other rabbits were fine… but now they aren’t breeding rabbits anymore. Not sure if those are interelated or not, but it’s weird.

Again, I unfortunately don’t have answers. But a year ago when it happened, I needed money to help for the vet bills. I am so grateful that my Instagram and Facebook followers reached out to me to help pay and actually nearly covered all of the bills. You people are amazing and I am forever grateful to have such support. Thank you, again, each of you.

Connor has helped me deal with this grief by reminding me that this was my first real experience with the loss of a pet, hands on. I now know what to do if Clover gets sick. Rabbits are fickle creatures. They can get sick real quick real hard. I was definitely on edge for months after Iver’s death out of fear that Clover would get sick, too. Thankfully, she didn’t.

I think that in hindsight, low key this is another reason I had to leave Vermont. For months after Iver’s death, Clover would lay in the spot he laid while he was sick. She’d just sit there or lay there all day. If we played, she’d go back to that spot after. It wasn’t like a nice spot on the wall either where rabbits will usually go to for stretching out. It was a random spot on the carpet. Anyway, this killed me to watch. Now as much as I love visiting Connor in Vermont, I really can’t wait for him to be out of that apartment because that’s all I can think of when I’m there. What I need to do instead is think of all the happy memories we’ve had in that apartment so I can feel nostalgic when he moves out (soon). But I’m just not there, yet.

Again, I think that holding onto objects and pictures really help deal with the grieving process. That seems to be my go-to. My mom asked the vet to stamp Iver’s little paw and give it to me after he passed. I couldn’t bear to speak to the vet. He called me to tell me he didn’t make it & then instantly jumped into the costs to have him cremated. I hung up and asked my mom to call them because I literally could not. So we did get his ashes back, this little paw print, and a small tube filled with a lock of his wild lionhead mane hair. I burried his ashes with his favorite stuffed animal & a little bunny shaped gravestone; I keep the pawprint on my shelf and the lock of hair in my jewelry drawer.

Connor’s outlook on life & death is a little different. His most difficult recent losses were his grandfather and his dog, Chance. They were both very hard on him, but he feels that he grasps the concept of death fairly well. He told me that his mom always told him that everything happens for a reason. & that we may never know the reason, but there is a reason.

Saying goodbye to his grandfather a few years ago was devastating & putting Chance down defintely tore him up, but he copes by remembering happy memories. Connor feels that grief is healthy for awhile, but sadness is ultimately a detriment so it encouraged him to just remember happy memories and be grateful to have had his grandfather and dog in his life.

Like I said, I’m still dealing with these losses myself. Connor’s outlook helps me deal, but it’s still hard. This isn’t a cry for help, just letting anyone know that if they’re struggling that I’m with you. I feel you. & If you have any tips that are not grieving groups, let me know. I’m not a group activity person. Never have been.

Okay lastly, let’s lighten things up & discuss a different kind of mourning. The loss of an ex. Or maybe the loss of a close friend. Is it possible to mourn the loss of someone that’s still alive? I think so.

I was with someone for nearly five years before Connor. Three solid years and then on & off for two. He was my first love at 16. He was everything. My world revolved around him. I have never loved a single person so much with every last fiber of my being. I would have done anything for him. Which is horrible because he actually treated me like garbage. We had our moments of course, but for the most part, he abused me in ways I didn’t realize were abuse until years later. He’s very much still alive and doing… well, the same. People can change if they want to, but he never did. You know who changed? Me. I gained self-confidence and self-love that made me realize he will never be good for me. He would never be good for me. & he’d never change.

I often wonder if this is how I should feel now in my relationship with Connor. Like I would just simply die without him. But, like, no. If Connor were to suddenly treat me like trash, I’d hurt & be sad for awhile, but as always, I’d move on eventually. I love him of course, so, so much, (sometimes I look at him and just feel the need to cry because I love him so much) but I’ve just become far more independent and confident in myself since age 16.

There’s also the loss of what could have been. I became obsessed with a guy who was my friend w/ benefits in the midst of those on & off two years with my previous ex. I became heavily involved with spirituality and started doing yoga classes just to get my mind off him. I participated in moon ceremonies & burried pennies into the ground as gifts to the earth & universe to bring him to me. I spoke with my pendulum on a daily basis, asking the same questions about if I would marry him. It always said yes.

I saw this display in an antique shop in Vermont and thought it was fitting.

He is with someone else now and I’m okay with that. I fully understand that pendulum answers are abstact & can change. I’m over it. I haven’t touched it since. I grew tired of trying for him. He also treated me as garbage and I thought I needed to change for him. I thought his educational status was oh soooooo, fancy. While I was a 20 year old literature major & he called me immature. I remember trying to wear my glasses more for him because I thought I looked more sophistacted.

Again, I think it comes down to gaining some self-love & respect. I honestly have no idea what finally made me snap and start loving myself at age 22. I think it was Connor. I think my last little two week Tinder streak before I met him was like my final hoo-rah of being single and made me realize I can fucking do anything I want. I can be whoever I want. & that it’s okay.

Connor assured me I could be myself. My total self. I knew it when we met because he was the first date I went on without wearing makeup. It’s hard at times, I think. He often tells me how blunt & brash I am. Tells me to tone it down when it’s needed. He helps me self-reflect and make me see that yes, I do indeed need to tone it down at times, such as writing this last bit. I got a little angry writing about the ex’s & he was like tone it down Emma. Lol.

I still hold onto the memories, though. I still have the ring my five year ex gave me as well as the photo album I made of us when I was a senior in high school. He was an important part of my life and I still talk to him from time to time just to say hi and check in. I’ll always care for him, but I changed for the better. It’s okay to love someone and not be with them. & to know you’re not meant to be with them. It hurts like hell, believe me, I know. But I promise that loving yourself feels so much better than loving someone who doesn’t love you.

Is that an abrupt way to end this post? We all deal with grief at some point. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, pet, or relationship. Hold onto those memories you cherish and talk about them. & remember to be grateful for having someone so special. This is soooo lame, but so true. I’m going to end this post with a A.A. Milne quote from Winnie the Pooh:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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