When the lights went out

I knew my spark had gone, but how could I get it back?

Symptoms

I felt like a zombie at work, dutifully appearing at my desk each day, but being unable to focus. I felt desolate, usually on the verge of tears. How did I figure out that I needed help? Was it when I routinely walked slowly, alone, around the silent rooms at home, and, uncharacteristically, couldn’t face listening to music? Or when I had no appetite, and food became a chore? Was it that growing feeling that, day-to-day, there was nothing to look forward to, that I was just going through the motions? I knew I couldn’t go on like this; something had to change.

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what do you do when your internal light goes out?

A wedding and a funeral

These weren’t the kinds of feelings you would expect from a newlywed. My wife and I had got married that December, but we had to live on different continents while my visa was being processed (we had been doing the long-distance relationship thing ever since we had got together, with me in the UK and she in the US, so this was nothing new). However, seven weeks before our wedding my best mate died suddenly in a car crash, and it was these dual, conflicting emotions of the pure happiness of getting married and the utter devastation of grief that were tearing me apart.

I asked my doctor if what I was feeling was normal

My doctor referred me to a grief counselor. For me, the death of my best mate was catastrophic, and I didn’t know what to do; we’d been friends forever (for more than twenty-five years) and we always imagined that we’d still be mates long into our old age.

Counseling

So what did that grief counselor say to me? She told me to keep breathing and commented that the timing of my best mate’s death was very interesting; that there was somehow deeper significance to be found in the fact that he died just before my wedding. It was as if she was suggesting that I wasn’t supposed to have a best mate and a wife, that one was traded for the other. I didn’t find this helpful. The only reassurance was, that yes, what I was feeling was normal. I didn’t go back to her again; in fact I wouldn’t seek out any more counseling for another two years, when I really did feel the need for help with dealing with grief, after it had cast its shadow over me for too long. I wanted to know the secret; what’s the solution to grief and how do you move on?

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