September marks two and a half years since we lost Greg.

Two and a half years seems like such a long time and yet feels like such a short amount of time as well.

I have felt and noticed a change within myself over the last 6 months.

Reflecting upon the first two years of this journey of grief, I felt as though I was “asleep,” in shock, trying to process everything that has happened and just trying to survive not only the loss of my fiancé, but all the secondary losses that stem from losing Greg as well.

Then within the first few weeks into this third year of grief I felt like I had an “awakening”.

Over the last 6 months, I have found myself not only surviving but thriving as well.

Not only are basic survival needs being met such as being able to keep food in my body not only to maintain but also to add back much of the weight I lost that first year of grief; I have also found that my soul is alive!

For example,

I laugh again.

I smile.

I pose for pictures with my trademark silly face again.

I ask random people that I pass by on the street, or on campus, or at church how are you doing?

I thank God for the sunshine (this one makes my dad smile).

I am beginning to find color in life again (this one makes my mother smile).

I sing to songs while I’m driving.

I care about how I look and what I wear so much so that at a conference I recently attend for widowed people, all my widowed friends were eagerly anticipating my dress and shoes debut!

The simple fact that I do any of these things again is such a huge step for me in my journey of grief and in creating my new normal.

When you’re in the midst of grieving and processing, you stop caring about things and about life; you are in a state of so much shock and taking it all in and even recalling if you brushed your teeth this morning is a chore.

Often you no longer care about what you wear or how you look – you’re just trying to survive to the next day.

Then something happens.

It’s what I often attempt describe as “grief gets different.” Grief changes, it evolves.

You finally get to points in your journey where grief itself changes and no longer are you just living minute to minute and day to day – you are living week to week too. The overwhelming feeling becomes less, you find you are able to do more and handle it without having an emotional breakdown or an outburst of anger towards the situation that you did not have a choice to be in, in the first place.

No, instead you find yourself able to start functioning again, albeit “functioning” looks different than “before”. Then again everything is different than “before”. But you are able to compartmentalize the grief and set it aside in order to live each day and function in the context of whatever your new normal may be. No longer is grief weighing you down and holding you back from living.

Not only are you functioning and compartmentalizing in order to effectively do what you need to accomplish on a daily basis, but you yourself awakening and finding joy and not only experiencing but also are embracing life again.

For me, it started in the small things such as when I found a bag in this mustard yellow color that I used to love “before”. I found that I could fit all my stuff in for class and I held it up across the aisle at the store; the smile on my face was so big and through my exhaustion, my excitement came out, my mother looked like she was about to cry because for such a long time after losing Greg, I found joy in nothing. I think that she smiled because I cared about something again.

Prior to this “awakening,” I couldn’t care less if anything was in any of my favorite colors or not. Everything was met with the same simple shrug. Simple yet the shrug told exactly how I felt. I simply didn’t care one way or the other.

After a long and stressful day this color brings a smile to my face, I can have a moment full of tears and see the yellow bath sponge and even if it’s for a brief moment – smile. I have developed the same calming response to the colors turquoise, pink and coral as well. All colors I used to love “before”.

When I was deep in grief, I never thought I would smile again, never thought I would laugh again, never thought I would care again if I dressed up and had my hair done and got some pretty heels and looked all cute again.

None of those things mattered to me.

Then this year I “awoke” and as I was continuing to survive and put the various pieces of my life back together as I created my new normal, slowly but surely life found its way back into my life, and I began to live again.

When I found a dress to wear to the conference in August, I cried because I never thought I would care about looking cute again. I never thought I would want to put on a pretty dress, some heels, do my hair and makeup and completely rock it!

I cried because I was seeing months of progress bear fruit. I cried because others have told me that they’ve seen the progress I have made this year. I cried because grief no longer has the hold over me that it once did.

I cried because I finally cared. I cared about me. I cared about living. I cared about life.

At this conference, I told a young widowed friend something that I want to share with you.

This particular friend is seven months into her journey, very upset, very raw, very emotional, very overwhelmed, doesn’t care about anything. She reminded me of myself when I was seven months into my own journey.

She saw me make my dress “debut” and she saw my widda sisters get excited and happy for me because these special group of friends know me and know just how much of a step this was for me, many of them have travelled this journey with me since very early on, they remember how I was my first time at this same conference the previous year.

My new friend said, you look beautiful.

As I said thank you and fought back tears, I told her one very simple truth.

“I remember what it is like to be where you are at in your journey, I know what it is like to have everything taken away from you and I know what it is like to not care anymore. I never thought I would care about looking pretty and wearing a pretty dress again. I never thought I would wear heels like this ever. I’ve been there and I’m here to tell you grief gets different. If I can wear this dress and look like this and more importantly want to do so, then you can too. I’m an example of grief changing.”

That’s what I want to share with you today.

Yes, you will always love your loved one and you will always miss them; hold on to the fact that grief does change and becomes different and one day you too will find yourself smiling and laughing again and finding yourself caring about things you used to care about and caring about new things as well.

This does not mean that you love or miss your loved one any less, it shows that you while you continue to love and miss them; you also continue to live.

While grief is a universal experience it is also a very individualistic experience as well and we all experience periods of “awakening” at different times throughout our journey of grief.

It’s a very freeing feeling to experience and more importantly very empowering when you allow yourself to experience coming alive again and allow yourself to embrace the “awakenings”.

All Material Copyright @ Brandi Reyna


Brandi Reyna

Ms. Reyna is a creative soul with a passion for helping others. Her faith is very important to her and is reflected in her writings. She writes about her faith and the role it plays in her grieving process and how she grieves. Ms. Reyna's purpose for writing is to give voice to and shed light on unique losses. Ms.Reyna's articles focus primarily on building and living a new life after the sudden loss of her fiancé; the subsequent grief associated with sudden loss, her identification as an "unwedded widow" (a widow who was not legally married to her beloved), loss of a parent (grandparent) and creating a new life while living with loss. Ms. Reyna shares her journey to encourage others in their own faith and in their own healing journey. She hopes that by sharing her story and leading by example through her own life that her journey will show others that we can experience significant and impactful losses and still experience a full and joy-filled life after loss. Ms. Reyna holds a Master of Arts degree in Professional Studies with a specialization in Counseling.

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