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Personal Stories About Life After Loss

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Acute Grief: What early response of grieving feel like?

This post describes my early grieving reaction following the loss of my loved one. I experienced extreme emotional pain during this time, as well as a multitude of physical reactions that I did not anticipate occurring, such as extreme sadness, yearning, and/or searching for my loved one.

Now that I have told you about the events leading up to the day that changed the world I knew forever, the day my wife died; I suppose that you’re wondering ………what’s next?

Guy, if you remember I told you earlier that I have experienced and am still experiencing some thoughts and emotions that I never thought were possible.. In this next phase of the journey, I want to go into more details of my grieving and mourning process.

I plan to break down some of my thoughts, and emotions in more detail. I know it will be sharing more of a very vulnerable and private experience, but I do hope it can help you. I know how much I needed this during the early response to my grief.

I didn’t know what to expect in this phase of the grieving process or journey. I had never imagined it and I definitely had no notes to compare with. I had no idea what was to come at every moment and how to respond or react to it all. I thought my mind would go blank and empty but I also thought my mind would be overloaded with thoughts and reflections.

What I didn’t expect was that I was going to be on a hunt for answers like a hunter stalking, still-hunting, tracking, driving, sitting up, and calling to catch its prey. I didn’t expect the tsunamis of thoughts and emotions that would overwhelm me. Let me attempt to describe one of the days to you as best as I can.

Imagine you’re on a holiday, actually scratch the idea of being on a holiday because your type of holiday could be retail therapy or an active ‘work yourself out’ type of holiday. So let’s scrap that. Please imagine this scenario for one moment.

Imagine you are on a beach somewhere, with a carpet of white soft sand under your feet, imagine you now have that perfectly toned beach body you have always dreamt of, yes that very one. So here you are on the beach, near the water. Please don’t spoil it, did I hear you say, “me near the water, God Forbid?!”

just imagine along for a moment with me.

So here you are with the perfect beach body sitting on the beach with your feet buried in the soft and warm white sand. You can hear the gentle waves crashing, the birds calling. You can see the most beautiful weather, gentle and still. You can see individuals, couples, families having fun, laughing, and giggling.

You’re relaxed and probably drinking chilled coconut water out of a coconut (please don’t spoil this one, it’s not going to be malt or Fanta, did I hear you say you prefer palm wine?); ok for argument’s sake you are sipping on your favourite drink (is this better?). You can feel the gentle breeze cooling you off from the heat.

Dare I say you even went for a brief swim, (ok let’s scratch that one, you and I know you didn’t swim) you dipped your feet at the edge of the water. Do you get the gist? Yes! Now hold that thought just for a moment.

black and white picture of a young man about to be washed over by a large wave. Grief: What is the early response to grieving like?

Whilst you’re busy enjoying this experience, what comes next is a high tide without any warning which overruns you, just about drowning you, dragging you deeper into the sea, the weather changes suddenly, now the weather has gone from being beautiful to being dark like 4 pm on a deep winter afternoon, your taste bud feels sour.

You can’t breathe and you are fast running out of air. What you realise is that you’re the only one experiencing this on the beach! Nobody else around you seems to be going through the same thing. But they can see it happening to you. And they feel sad for you. This continues for what feels like an eternity and then the weather changes again to a perfectly beautiful afternoon.

Imagine experiencing this many times in a day, added to this experience are the random trains of thought – continuous inner dialogues at different volumes competing for your attention which never ends.

One of the things I never joke about is my food. When I am hungry, I am grumpy and grouchy and when I see food, my my my………. Let’s say it’s peace on earth. I say when I am not fasting, I am feasting and experimenting with food, I wonder why I didn’t become a professional food taster because this guy is a foodie!

What I never expected was that there was ever going to be a time when I would experience loss of appetite and irregular eating patterns, when I, Tolu, would be begged to eat and each time I ate it felt like chewing gravel, and after each time I ate, my stomach would turn which meant the food came straight out.

Men don’t cry? The last time I remembered crying was several years ago when a relationship I was in ended and in that season the tears that flowed could make a good cup of tea for a small village! I never expected that I would be howling in the middle of the night, drenching my pillow with bitter tears for many nights and also never expected that I would experience disturbed sleeping patterns. Is it okay to cry, you ask me? (I’ll share a bit more on this at some point)

I never knew that I would find myself wrestling not to remain focused on my pain and suffering so much so that I would forget why I am called to be on Earth in the first place. Chidinma’s many names both official and pet names, were always never far from my lips.

I never knew I would find daytime hard and night hardest, each night was accompanied by a very empty hollow feeling inside me, where I struggled to breathe. It felt like the air was just sucked out of me.

reflective millennial writing in his pad while sat at his home office. Grief: What does the early stage of grieving feel like?

There are still times when laying on the floor appears to be the best medicine as the pain is so deep that sometimes I am unsure if I can get up. I read somewhere that the price we pay for love is grief especially when the person you love dies.

I am finding out that it doesn’t hit all at once, it’s multi-layered, continual with varied intensity. Above all, until you go through it, you never truly know what it feels like. And then it differs from person to person and in context of the relationship you have with the person who has passed.

I thought to respond first to your question about what grief felt like in the early seasons of my grief process before sharing what the emotions that accompanied the grief and mourning my wife felt like.

I also have a favour to ask of you though, I know you may know someone who like me has experienced the death of a loved one or someone supporting a bereaved family member or friend. Would you please share this with them and signpost them here?

I know that you may still have many questions on your mind, you already know that I learn by asking questions so please feel free to ask me questions either through the comment section or via the contact us page.

I have found your kind words, encouragement and prayers helpful as I learn to share how I am journeying from grief and loss to wholeness.



  • Guy: My friend

To Be Continued Next Wednesday…

I would like to hear from you. Would you please share your thoughts, comments and reflections below. Thank you.


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