I have been pondering comfort, self-care, and help – what each of them is, to me, and what makes one or other easier and/or more accessible than another. Here is where I am at. And no, I have done no Googling or other research into what each of them is. Just research in my own life and experience. They are oft-used terms in Griefland – wobbly yet somehow vital components in this messy puzzle called life. Components that I have been shining a bit of a light on this week, supported by my therapist Catherine, and my grief guru Tom Zuba. This piece of writing won’t be particularly deep, nor complete. Just reflections at a point in time.
Self-Care, and more specifically, Extreme Self-Care. I pride myself on being excellent at “extreme self-care” – a concept I readily stole from Cheryl Richardson, having purchased her book with the same title, some 9 or so years ago. I’ve never done more than flick through her book but read enough to determine my own version of Extreme Self-Care, which has been about learning to trust what is good for me, how to monitor my health and energy, and how to restore energy when it was getting low.
My ability to self-monitor is pretty damned good (she says), and my strategies for (re)filling my bucket are vast. More to the point, my strategies provide enjoyment and are readily accessible. I have long been a bit of a guru, mentor, or role-model for others (specifically professional working mums) when it comes to extreme self-care, and the same skills have served me well in the land of Grief. Nothing makes the loss go away. Nothing makes anything better. But knowing if I am moving towards more pain, or able to shift microscopically towards some ease is often the difference between an awful day and an okay day. My ability to provide myself extreme self-care is second to none. For that I am grateful. And I know it helps me live and function as well as I currently do.Read more
We lost my wife about a month after my daughter’s second birthday and I was so distraught in the early days that I was having panic attacks. The thought of being a single father was incredibly terrifying, how am I going to raise a little girl on my own?! Luckily, psychotherapy and a detailed wellness plan have helped me leave those feelings behind. Each year, my daughter gets a little older, and I am reminded that I do not need to worry about being able to walk the path of a single parent anymore. Especially, since each added candle to my daughter’s birthday cake means I am not only walking the path of a single parent, I am in fact, making MY OWN path as a single parent.Read more
When Mike first died, everyone asked me if I was going to therapy. When I said that I was it was somehow a relief to them. “Good for you,” they’d say. I didn’t get it. I was so fresh into it that I mostly just sat there and cried at my sessions. I mean, it was good to cry and talk and hear an outsider’s perspective but it was still very raw.
Now, just past the two year mark, when and if I ever mention I go to therapy I’m met with the surprised reaction of, “Oh? Do you still need that?” I’d like to be able to say that reaction was a one time thing but that’s the usual reaction I get from many different people. Sometimes also met with their embarrassment or discomfort in the fact that they are now talking to me about the “taboo” subject of therapy. I refuse to succumb to that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that I still go to therapy. Maybe people just don’t understand.
The “do you still need to go to that?” with the implied suggestion that I should be fine by now was the exact question my family doctor asked me when I asked her to sign the papers for my insurance. I replied, “Is my husband still dead?”Read more
It’s been far too long since I felt the sting of an icy wind hitting my face. Months have passed since I lazily stared into a campfire of my own creation, with nobody but my own self to discuss it with. I haven’t dunked into a mountain creek after a long march, and I haven’t been woken up by annoying crows, rather than an annoying alarm clock.
I have every opportunity to walk off into the woods for a day or two. It doesn’t cost much, other than the gas to get there. Winter has never stopped me either, in fact, I favor the winter when I’m out in the “back-of-beyond”. There are no insects, no stifling humidity, and most of all, no people. I can be truly alone with my thoughts, my triggers, and my memories. I can process the self-pity and pessimism that rears its ugly head every so often, without a facebook notification, ringing phone, or a TV interrupting me.
I don’t have any real excuses as to why I haven’t at least taken a day or two to be alone in nature in the past 4 months. But oh, do I sure try to find them. I have slowly been becoming grumpier. Angrier at minutia. Pessimistic and spiteful at the situation that I was thrust into. It’s a negative feedback loop...the more I NEED to be in those woods, the less I have the ambition to get up and go.
I’m using all of the tricks to talk myself out of it and avoid. I think it’s time to have a discussion of these finer points with myself. A “heart-to-heart”, if you will, with my own. It’s a time where, as I wrote over three years ago not long after Megan’s death, I need to flip the switch from suffering to determination. To dust myself off, climb out of my fighting hole, and just friggin’ DO IT.
Let’s talk, self. Have a seat and lets discuss the reasons your ambition is all but gone.
I wonder, frequently, when grief changed from a normal, human response to the death of a loved one, to a condition that, seemingly, must be gotten through (with all due speed, thank you very much for your consideration), with clinical protocols assigned to it?
When did grief get designated as complicated and unhealthy and uncomfortable and perceived as an enemy? When did our culture start demanding of us that we, as grievers, choose life as quickly as possible, focus only on the happy memories of life and not dwell in the layers of sorrow that come with death? When did grief become something to hide from the world at large?
When did we medicalize grief so that our approach is clinical instead of soulful?Read more
A dear friend and Air Force widow sister said to me last weekend, in response to my endless questions to her about this grief (she’s 6 years out), and time frames and, oh, you know, everything...she said this to me, and I’ve reflected on it in the days since.
It isn’t that it goes away.
We just get stronger, and we carry it differently.Read more
This is a list. Not a gratitude list necessarily, but a list that does include some good shit, nonetheless. And sometimes it’s easier to write in list form than prose form.
I have to remind myself, as many of us do, I expect, that this widowhood is, as I learned in AA, a matter of progress, not perfection. Because I, for one, consistently seem to expect more of myself than is realistic. By which I mean, I continually scan my body and mind and heart to see where I am in this grief and why I’m not further along, even as my mind tells me to stop such nonsense and lays out all the reasons why I need to stop such nonsense.
Still it continues. But I’m getting better at just letting it be and not gauging my grief by anyone else’s grief.
So...progress, not perfection.Read more
Is it just me? I wonder, even as I know it isn’t just me. Logically and because I literally know otherwise, it isn’t just me.
There’s a boat load of men and women through time immemorial who have lived this shit that I'm living, that we're all living.
And yet, my brain doesn’t let up about it.Read more
Tuesdays used to be only about writing my WV blog. Now they’re also about my EMDR sessions, so please bear with me as my brain and heart work overtime.Read more