And Just Like That … I am Reminded How Much Grief Sucks
As a young adult, I watched Sex and the City, which I know is a raunchy show for a young adult, but it was entertaining.
To see a show about 4 different women in different stages of life, different views, and different relationships, was educational.
It showed viewers how complex relationships can be both emotionally and physically. Not only that, Sex and the City opened the dialogue about sexuality, gender identity, acceptance, confidence, etc., which helped me learn more about the world.
You don’t learn about these things in school, but it is important.
And just like that …. I started a new show.
When I heard about a reboot of the classic, I was interested to watch and see how Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte have evolved over time.
Finding a moment to BINGE a show is rare, so I was excited to have a moment to catch up on the girls in the big city. What I didn’t expect was the reaction I would have after the first episode.
So before, I delve into it further I want to make note that this blog has SPOILERS to the show. If you haven’t started to watch it, I would probably stop now and come back so I don’t ruin things for you.
I also want to note that this might trigger reactions for anyone who has experienced loss and who are working through their own process for grief. Please keep that in mind.
In the first episode, you get a nice summary of where things have evolved for the three ladies and the lives around them. You see Carrie in a happy marriage with Big as they have adjusted to life during COVID. You see Charlotte being the mom and wife we always knew she was capable of. Lastly, you see Miranda starting to shift into a new phase in her life.
Things, for the most part are just as we expected. The unfortunate part is that by the end of the episode Big unexpectedly dies.
For anyone who has social media, we all knew that happened. So, I knew what was going to happen before I started watching but seeing it unfold on screen brought me back to emotions that have been there for quite some time.
And just like that … I was taking a trip down memory lane.
In 2008, I started my journey in grief. It was an unexpected journey that I was not prepared to start when I lost my stepfather.
He passed unexpectedly of an aortic aneurysm in the shower. There were no signs. No symptoms. No warning.
That moment changed my life and the lives around me.
Seeing Big die of a heart attack while starting a shower brought me back to 2008 and hearing what happened to my stepfather. I wasn’t there, but it felt like I was. Seeing Carrie’s reaction reminded me of that feeling when I heard my mother hysterical on the phone. Something I unfortunately won’t forget.
That moment was unexpected for me.
It has been more than a decade since his passing. I have done the work. I have been through the steps. I know that the journey never ends. It is something I teach my clients, but it sucks to be back there.
And ... it didn’t end with the first episode.
What people don’t tell you about losing a loved one, especially in your home, is that you stay with the body. So, it is hard to process everything around you. I wasn’t home when my stepfather passed (something I will get into in a bit), but I just remember the despair I heard on the phone that no one had come to "get" my stepfather.
It took more than an hour and it feels like time stands still. Seeing Miranda arrive at Carrie’s apartment, it felt like there was a significant amount of time had passed before she got there, and yet they were just wheeling away Big.
Again, I was brought back to that feeling. That thought that no on fully prepares you to deal with death … and death in a home that you shared with your partner.
And just like that … I am Miranda, Charlotte and Carrie
In the second episode, I related to all the women.
With Miranda, I remember trying to figure out how to be there for my mom while also being in school. When my stepfather passed, I was starting my last semester of college. I remember trying to juggle my grief while also trying to keep myself afloat in my studies. I didn’t do so well that semester. Mind you, I take pride in my education, but I simply couldn’t focus. It was especially difficult to graduate a few months later knowing that things felt empty.
I saw myself in the guilt that Charlotte was experiencing. While I wasn’t as emotional as Charlotte, I felt the weight of that guilt for a long time. The guilt of not being home when he passed even though I know there wouldn’t be anything I could do. I was supposed to be home but decided not to go. You wish you could change decisions, but you simply can't.
I also felt guilty because I didn’t believe what was being said to me over the phone. I tried my best to relay what I thought would be the best course of action while I was thousands of miles away, not thinking that it was anything severe. Again, there wasn’t much I could do. Nothing would change if I had been more receptive, but it still something I feel heavy about. So, I feel for Charlotte.
Miranda and Charlotte also dropped everything to be there for Carrie. Which is exactly what I did. My life stopped to be there for my mom. I stayed with her for weeks until I unfortunately had to go back to school. I felt bad for leaving her, even though she wanted to move forward (however, she was in denial … sorry mom but it is true). But you do that for people you love, you are there for them no matter what.
While I saw bits and pieces of myself in Miranda and Charlotte, I mainly saw myself in Carrie. Carrie was really trying to hold it all together to get what needed to be done, done. Trying to keep it together and helping others through their emotions while not facing her grief. I avoided my grief for quite some time. Thinking that it wouldn’t be productive or helpful to open that Pandora’s box. Boy … was I wrong.
I found myself to be SUPER sensitive about the smallest things. I would be angry and lash out at my boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband) for the dumbest reasons. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating well. I was forgetful. I simply wasn’t myself. It took me more than a year to realize that I had a problem. That is how deep my denial was.
Not only that, I found myself learning more about my stepfather after his passing than I knew when he was alive. Like what Carrie was going through. I found myself feeling bad about how I was when he was alive. Not that I was a horrible stepdaughter, but I don’t think I valued him as much as I should have.
I didn’t know about his struggles with PTSD and knowing that explained a lot about his behaviors … and why my mother also changed. For years, I thought it was strange and I never understood why. Until he passed.
Would it make our relationship better? No, because we had a good relationship, but I think it would have made it deeper.
Learning about his struggles also made me respect my mom more. To learn about the importance of support and adjustment to your partner is not something that you get in school. It is something that you learn through your parents. I got to see it and made me realize how important it is.
And just like that … I needed to REALLY start my grief journey
When going through my process of grief, I realized I had to make movements. I started my grief journey in 2008, but I was stuck in phase one. My first step in grief was figuring out exactly what I was feeling. So, working through the guilt was the first feeling I needed to process.
I needed to understand that my guilt are not facts.
As I mentioned before, there was nothing I could have done, unfortunately. An aortic aneurysm doesn’t have warning signs. Whether I was there or not, I wouldn’t have stopped it from happening. If anything, not being there helped me separate myself from the trauma that happened in the home so that I could be more present for my family. I reframed my guilt to make it something positive and useful in my story.
It isn’t easy but it is possible.
My next step was evaluating what I was grieving. Grief isn’t just about the loss of a person. It is more than that.
In my case, I did lose part of my mom. I love her to pieces. She has been my support system and has always been there for me, even to this day. But she lost her joy … and she hasn’t fully gotten it back. She is still in her process of grief. For her, she loss the vision of her future, so I get it. This was a man she wanted to grow old with and unfortunately it didn’t happen for her. That breaks my heart.
It can be painful to process your losses. In this stage, there is no reframe. It is reality.
My last stage (because I don’t follow the conventional 5 stages of grief) was evaluating what I need for myself to be better with the grief that I carry. I decided that I needed to take better care of myself. To be open and honest about my feelings. To be ok with processing pain just as much as I would process joy. I learned that I needed to create boundaries with others. Not to be selfish, but so I can be better for them when I am ok and ready.
This stage is important to establish that grief is not something that ever leaves you, because you won’t ever forget the person you lost. You carry them with you, to honor them. You also use this to help you be a better person.
These lessons and process is what drove me to do what I love to do today. Working through my grief, my heartbreak, my pain has showed me that there can be change. There can be a silver lining.
I want to be able to give that gift to others so that they can find joy in their pain. They can find the light amongst the darkest part in their life.
And just like that … I found my calling as a therapist.
This process drove me to learn more about helping others. In that process, I learned more about myself and what I needed to do to help me in my grief.
Loss is unfortunately a common part of life, so I don’t expect everyone to go to graduate school to learn how to deal with grief. Plus, graduate school is A LOT more expensive than a few sessions with a therapist.
So, while I haven’t seen Carrie seek help with a mental health professional, I am hoping that if she sees herself struggling with her grief that she seeks the help she needs. I am only on episode 8 … so hopefully she is doing the work and if not, there are people here to help her out!
And just like that … I started grieving again.
I finished writing this blog on January 20th, 2022, it was all drafted and ready to publish but life is cruel. While processing the grief journey that I have been on for 10+ years, I was about to be hit with another heartbreak that was unexpected.
Nearly 2 weeks later, I lost my dog. I know for some people the loss of a dog is not comparable to the loss of a human. And that’s okay to feel that way, but for me my dog was my person. He dog was always there. He was there when I found out about my stepfather. He was there to provide me some comfort during that process and now there is a new void in my life.
I found myself going back to the same roles as I mentioned above, but this time advocating for my needs. Letting people know how I feel. Allowing myself to cry when I feel the need to.
It hasn’t been easy by any means. I miss him so much, but he will always be with me. The loss of my stepfather, which sucked as well, helped me prepare to deal with loss in a healthier manner. It is a necessary evil but it teaches us the much needed lessons about life.
So … at least I know this blog helped one person … me. I hope it will also help you too!
Written by: Jessica Jefferson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Perinatal Mental Health Counselor and Owner of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services. My passion is helping individuals through heartbreak, whether that is heartbreak with others or heartbreak within themselves. My goal is to be their guide on their journey to their self-discovery so that they can build the life and relationship they want. I am here for when you want to start your journey.