There was a day last week where I had a really good day.
I woke up early and walked Tango before work. I was able to leave to get there early and there was not much traffic either. I had so much extra time in the morning that I was to finish my personal work for the course I’m taking before anything else. I made applesauce with the kids at school that day and it all went really well. They loved the process, it tasted great, and we had some great learning. Another teacher had extra time and covered my class to give me extra time to do some other work. After work, I went to my tutoring job and that also went really well and the girl I tutor was successful in what we were learning. I got home to a surprise that David had passed by my house between job sites that day. He left a beautiful bouquet of flowers on my kitchen table with a note. I then had time for a hike with Tango in warm weather with pretty, colourful fall leaves. Then I met up with one of my girlfriends at the gym and had a really good workout and talk with her too.
It was a really good day. I was feeling really good.
That’s when 2 things happen.
First, I wonder if it’s too good to be true and start to be extra cautious in anticipation for the “bad” thing that must be around the corner. Second, I feel slightly guilty that maybe I’m *too* happy.
I hate both of these reactions. They try to take away my happiness. I try to take away my own happiness. I self sabotage. I know logically that both are such unnecessary ways of thinking. It does not stop anything bad from happening. Usually, nothing bad happens anyways. And I didn’t do anything wrong that I should feel guilty over. The thinking just ruins my fun. I ruin my fun.
Why do I try to stop myself from feeling completely happy? Why do I feel bad when things go right for me? My therapist once said something to me and I often think of it in this case...When will I allow myself to feel completely happy? At what point do I think I deserve that? How long do I feel I need to punish myself for?
My immediate reaction to all those questions is that of course I don’t need to punish myself and that of course I deserve to be happy but that’s not always how I act or feel. I downplay my happiness. I feel guilty sharing it with others who know that Mike died or have experienced loss and are maybe not yet at the point I’m at. I feel I should somehow be a *good* widow by holding onto a piece of that sadness even when happiness is staring me straight in the face.
I’d like to say I can’t help it and often that’s how it feels but I know it is something I need to work on. I have made progress with it. I can sometimes push away the guilt to just feel happy. I think it’s a practise of habit. It’s a practise of working on my patterns of thinking and my self-talk.
It doesn’t make me any more or less of a *good* widow by being sad. Being happy doesn’t mean I forgot Mike. That’s a ridiculous thing to think. It’s such a distorted and limiting way of thinking by associating the two so closely.
What other life changing event do people go through that they feel the need self-inflict unhappiness? People who get divorced don’t hold onto unhappiness. They don’t try to show the world that they’re doing terrible. They try to pick themselves up. People who have gone through horrible illnesses don’t try to hang onto that either. They try to live. So what do widows feel they have to prove? And to who are we proving it?
At what point do we get to release ourselves from our own prisons? What is the grief competition I’m trying to win and against who? When will I be okay to acknowledge that my happiness does not make me a bad widow? My happiness does not mean I forgot Mike. When will I be okay to share that I’ve had a good day without the need to try to justify that I still miss Mike?
I don’t need to inflict suffering to be a good widow. I don’t need to prove my feelings of loss and grief through sadness to myself or anyone. I know that I deserve to be happy. I know that I am often happy. I know that being happy and admitting I am is is something I have to be willing to accept for myself.
I want to be just happy. I want to be okay with being happy. I want to allow myself to feel happy. I just don’t know why it can be so hard.