I've been on the road quite a bit in the last few weeks, visiting my NJ community. Not towing my trailer, because, you know, weather, and I'm on my way west to Arkansas now, for Thanksgiving.
All of which is to say...
I listen to podcasts as I drive. History podcasts, philosophy, widow stuff, life stuff. You name it, and I listen to it.
And I just never know what I might hear that will suddenly click the gears into place that generally turn non-stop, taking in all that is around me. Conversations of strangers, particular terrain, colors of the sky, what the road looks like in front of me...my internal gears are always spinning, picking up bits and pieces of everything and, sometimes, what seems like nothing but ends up being that one missing piece.
Today I listened to Sarah Nannen, of Grief Unveiled, and a guest of hers, named Leah, who teaches about self care and how our bodies reflect what is going on internally and choices we have the power to make, in response.
How many of you recall being told, either early in grief, or later in grief, that you have to choose to be happy? Or, as it was phrased to me, early on...Don't you want to be happy?
Because there is, apparently, a switch, light a light, that you can simply flick with your finger and voila! You're happy!
Except that it doesn't work that way, as we all know.
Leah and Sarah spoke of so many things, and I'm still working it all out in my brain, but here are some of my takeaways...
Grief is a profound human experience. We all know this, of course.
The brain fog that comes with grief is a result of a system overload. Mind, body, spirit. It is no surprise that brain fog is a factor in grief. Total system overload.
Our parasympathetic system is pretty much under attack when a loved one dies. Hence, the physical symptoms that are so prevalent in grief.
Helpful people tell us...
Just keep busy. Distract yourself. Get a hobby. Get a job. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Which is the worst thing we can do. Keeping busy, run, run, running through our days, adds yet more stress to our already overloaded parasympathetic system.
Sometimes (often), especially in the immediate time following our person's death, all we want to do is sleep. Get under the covers. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
But even sleeping is pathologized. Even if our bodies demand sleep, we think, because we've been conditioned to think...if I want to sleep a lot, doesn't that mean I'm depressed?
*I'm not talking extremes here, just FYI*
Grievers are given little to no time for our bodies, our sympathetic system, to kick back in to any degree.
Nope. It's depression. Must be medicated.
As Sarah said, here's where choice comes into it.
Our choice isn't about forcing ourselves into happiness...whatever happiness is, even...it's about the self care we give ourselves AS we grieve. How do we nurture ourselves? Do we move our bodies with short walks during the day? Do we hydrate efficiently? What do we eat? Do we take soothing baths in essential oils?
That's the part that's up to us. How we self care during grief. Not whether or not we grieve.
Grieving is what we do in response to the death of a loved one. It's really quite simple.
As I listen to so many podcasts as I travel my Odyssey of Love, I grow in confidence. Confidence in how I've done, how I'm doing, this grief.
Instinctively, since the night Chuck died, I've honored this profound experience of grief.
I've created space for it. I've opened my heart to the Love of those around me. I've remembered and honored Chuck and I've been sad and devastated and my body has reacted to the grief AND I've taken all of it, and created the beginnings of a life for myself, without him.
I haven't done it perfectly, but I've done what I can, with what I have, and it's a damn sight more than I could have ever imagined.
No apologies. To anyone. Ever.
I hope that you'll honor YOUR profound experience of grief. I hope that you've created a space for it around you in whatever way works best for you.
And I wish for Love to fill that space.
May you be blessed~