Death and Therapy

I don’t handle death well. I know they say that time can heal everything, but the last few years have made it clear that when someone around me passes away, even if the person was not someone I knew well or was just someone I knew of through the 6 degrees of separation, I don’t really go fully through the ___ steps of grief. That doesn’t necessarily set me apart from most people (insert statistic about that here). But what does, is that I recently decided that I need to do something about that. Translation: I’ve decided to seek out getting a therapist.

This was the post that really led me to, what seems obvious now, this epiphany. Having lost both my grandmother and father in a 5-month period of time back in 2012, the concept of death has become extremely sensitive for me. Around that time I started doing a lot of questioning and “researching” death and spirituality and everything, related to that. I sought out everything I could find to try and find comfort that there was indeed a heaven and that spirits do live on. Death being a part of the circle of life was not enough of a confirmation. I was desperate for some kind of reassurance that the finality of death – someone being here one day and then being gone forever – was not, for lack of a better word, final. But of course, ultimately finding concrete evidence on that is not really possible. I mean the science world backing up the spiritual world battle has been waged by the most brilliant minds in the world for – well almost for forever. Still, that search was my primary “go-to” for dealing with my grief.

But after that it stopped. I would find myself randomly crying whenever I became overcome with memories. I wrote a lot. I sometimes talked about it. And in the end I hit a point where I started to just bottle things up. I chose to put my attention everywhere else that I could. Unfortunately that’s what I tend to do when it comes to anything that brings me pain. I try to run from my feelings and hope that eventually time will numb it all. I’m not traditionally self-destructive – being the social drinker that I am, I actually refrain during these times – it’s just that at a certain point I just kind of, for lack of a better word “shut down.” I seek therapy in the gym, literally trying to run or pound away my hurt. (This is always why the times in my life when I have been the smallest have often been times when I’m going through the most. Trying to be in good shape physically and emotionally is seriously an on-going struggle for me). You could say that I’m chasing the endorphins and a clear mind.

As is evidenced by me writing this: that shit does not work. At least not for the long term anyway.

As I wrote in the last post, a student of mine was killed earlier this week. I did not know the student well, as he had only recently been added to my class and had attendance issues. He was definitely what would be considered an “at risk” student. But nevertheless he was a child. And he was a person. And he was in this world one day and the next gone, trying to defend his mother. So when I heard the news, read and saw what happened on the news, and then witnessed the grief of this boy’s friends, my students, you can guess that the trigger was pulled for me. But as is my way, the attempts of comfort from others were received differently. I felt uncomfortable when those I didn’t know well tried to give it and I felt/feel a bit of resentment from those I wish were around weren’t to give it. It’s craziness, I know. But it’s also a reflection of the snowballing effect of not really going through my issues related to dealing with death.

So my epiphany of sorts is needed. It’s time. I can’t be of help to anyone when I am walking around on autopilot due to a huge wound that I have never fully dealt with. And I can be as empathic as I want, at a certain point I have to be real that my taking on others grief around death is due to me never having fully processed the deaths of 2 people that were such a major part of my whole life. I know that therapy can be a taboo subject, particularly in the African-American community. It’s never been something I’ve had issues with, having had a therapist twice before in my life for different reasons. But my lack of making it a priority to seek it out ultimately amounts to avoidance, which has been to my detriment. It’s time for that to end.

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