facing grief and loss all alone can be daunting

An Ideal Grief

You might recognize yourself below. Grief and bereavement are strangely universal experiences and painfully unique. Whatever you are feeling during your process (and it is a process, not an event) this grief is something that will change you in ways you can’t predict. There’s no wrong way to do it. There are right ways to find support through it and real help from trained professionals who have gone through it and know how to sit with you in it, walk with you through it, and support your healing. You are not alone. You don’t have to grieve alone. Call 513-530-5888 or email me at bethluwandi@gmail.com. Group is forming now. Individual work is ongoing. All of it is healing. 

Humans are amazing. YOU are amazing.

From this perspective, that is, standing in today glancing back, it’s a wonder you survived. It’s a wonder you are surviving the weight of this grief.

You even think like that some days, glancing back. And I mean glancing. There aren’t many days you want to stare into the moment you learned (or watched) your loved one pass from this world into the next.

Next followed the fog of ceremony and people pressing you and somehow you moved through the fog and said words to people to comfort THEM all while wondering if your heart was in your body or your brain really attached to any kind of self you used to know. It was a blur. I know.

Your head ached with tears or the numbness of holding them in.

You wonder sometimes if you’re actually breathing now.

And some days he is all you can think about. She is the air and the soft sound and a smell next to you wafting out of nowhere just when everything was moving along like clockwork, like normal, like life again.

You see his face in the crowd. Hear her laughter in the theater.

A song, a scent, a memory.

A dream wherein you forget…

then remember on waking, pained all over again. Your brain brings you up to date on a reality you question and wrestle over with God or the Universe or the Powers That Be, trying to resist cursing them all. And then, yes, do curse them all. It’s unfair.

You feel hollow. Like your carcass and body are empty, the rest of you someplace else.

Yet you’re determined. You will get through. You will move on. You will heal. You are a strong person.

And you do. You do work. You do move. You take the kids to soccer. You hug people or you avoid touching anyone. You read to her and watch him give his speech and show up for the talent show and field the hushed questions from others who ask “how are you doing?”

“Fine,” you say, smiling, sometimes wanting to choke the pitiful look off the asker’s face, sometimes avoiding the deep wells of sympathy afraid you’ll either want to scratch them out or fall into their warm pools, wailing. And you focus on whomever might be hurting more because that’s easier. Diversion. John has a nervous stomach. He got in trouble at school. Mary isn’t sleeping.

They have a therapist. Not you.

You keep up with the tennis club, the softball team, the yearly trip with the friends even when the whole time the topic that cannot surface as anything deeper than surface talk floats dangerously in the middle of everything. It’s light interest. How are you doing and how are the children doing and how are mom and dad doing. It’s easier that way.

No one truly understands and if you had to talk about it, these would not be your people. The kids are in therapy and Steven is on antidepressants which is best because he’s away at college now and you are all good. You are doing as well as can be expected. Everyone marvels that you are holding it together so well.

You sleep. And drink. Then decide not to drink since it makes you cry and ache.

You sleep and smoke. That feels like nothing, like the stench of smoke and there’s relief in feeling nothing. Oh, that’s why people smoke, you realize and wonder if you want to be a smoker again. Probably not.

But you don’t want to feel. To process. To unpack this. There are things no one needs to know.  Those who invite reflection or suddenly bring him up or recall a story with her in it or call and want payment on an expired insurance policy or whip out her photos without warning make you want to scream.

You’d spend all day telling stories and looking at pictures if you wanted to.

And time passes. You’re doing well.

Did you go a whole day without being sad? How could you do that so soon? What if someone finds out you didn’t even think of her today? You went a whole day without crying over him, without that dull ache under your ribs. Is this what it feels like to heal from grief? Is this getting better? Is this what getting better looks like – forgetting and guilt?

Then the song floods out of the car stereo. You thought you didn’t have to change the channel this time but as you let it play tears stream and bricks return to your shoulders. You thought you could control this. But another reminder surprises you, even this long after. As bad as you imagined it would be, you could not have imagined this.

You are not alone. Now may be the time to reach out. Find a therapist. Find a group.

And of course, come here. You are definitely welcome here.

Call me at 513-530-5888 or send an email. Or scroll down and leave me a comment.

 

 

 

Calling BS! on the directive: “you need to be alone!”

In therapeutic circles and with well-meaning friends, you’ll hear the advice: you just need to be alone  or you need to just take some time for yourself after heartache. You might hear the opposite as well -from your friends and your mom- you just need to get back out there and meet someone!

You’re not surprised that I’m going to say BS to both of those approaches, right?

First of all, you’re HURTING.

Getting back in the saddle is almost always the wrong approach. Remember the beginning of Romeo and Juliet? Romeo was gaga on Roseline and his buddy suggested, “you just need to meet another chica.” He did. That night. And he winds up dead by the end of that adventure.

Go there if you have a death wish, I guess. I’m not sure why anyone would pattern their love experience after Romeo and Juliet. But it’s tragic, all right. And it has some lovely, artful declarations of passion and devotion. I’ll give Shakespeare that. Good one.

For those of you looking for a saner love adventure, please keep reading in Modern American English:

When you’re HURTING, you don’t need to punish yourself.

So many people, systems, and sometimes even practitioners will suggest a time frame or course of imposed quarantine for the heartbroken or lovelorn. You’ve probably even heard experts advocate an imposed period of mourning: one year for each 4 years of the relationship. At minimum: no dating for at least a year.

Does this make you tired even listening to such advice?

So much is going on for you that rule setting, framework impositions, giving yourself a deadline or rigid structure is probably the last thing you need right now.

You might need comfort, some tenderness, and fun.

If that sounds simplistic, that’s because it is. And simple is good. You can work with simple. You can move through simple. You can let simple guide your choices.

Find comfort. Give yourself some comfort.

Is it comforting to go to the movies or eat a gourmet meal or spend time outside.? Do those things. Is it painful too? I know it can be painful to do everything when your heart is hurting. Choose the activities that ARE the most comforting. That can mean sleeping in. It can mean working out like a maniac. It can mean paying for a massage. It can mean going to the sauna or getting some heat and light therapy at a tanning booth.

And yes, I know, in moderation. I’m not advocating skin cancer activities, etc. Notice I’m NOT saying drink alcohol. That usually makes people feel much worse when they’re hurting already. It’s a depressant! I’m also not saying smoke cigarettes. THAT is not comfort; it’s a great way to AVOID feeling anything and therefore it won’t get you THROUGH your pain. This is also probably not the time to try to FORCE yourself to give up those habits (if they are regular habits) either.

You do not need to do this by yourself either. It’s okay to find someone to enjoy comforting activities with you.

Find tenderness. Spend time with people you know love you. If your other relationships have been neglected, rekindle them. Get in touch with supportive family and friends.

If your family and friends do not know how to be tender and supportive, don’t spend time with them. Avoid them. Minimize exposure while you are vulnerable.

And pay attention. Surely there are kind people in your realm. Notice small tendernesses: when clerks are friendly and sweet instead of all-business, when that infant in a stroller smiles at you, when someone at work asks how you’re doing. Notice. And count it as tenderness.

Create tenderness in your life as well: hug your dog. Force your cat to snuggle. (Yah, good luck with that.) Get outside yourself and BE TENDER to others. Smile at strangers. Ask your friends how THEY are doing.

Be tender with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind to yourself. Part of this is learning to ask helpful questions and abandon stupid ones, I explain it in context here in this podcast on midlife dating basics.

Find FUN. I love William Glasser’s outline in Reality Theory of the five basic human needs. He says and I agree we need: survival basics, love & belonging, power, freedom, and FUN!

You do not have to have fun all by yourself. In fact, though it’s possible, having fun with others is even better. Plan fun. Give yourself permission for fun. Take time for fun!

Notice when you’re enjoying something, anything. Laugh at a comedy. Watch some silly animals.  Join a mutual-interest Meetup group. (Google this if you don’t know what I’m talking about; they are everywhere!) Play. No matter if that looks like online gaming with strangers, planning a stupid board-game night with your nieces, or going on a rock-climbing date with that girl you’ve talked to ten times at the gym, do it!

The next relationship is not going to save you. Nor do you have to quarantine yourself from engaging with objects of interest and attraction for a specified period of time. But DO find and create comfort, tenderness, and fun! These are never a waste of time and before you know it, you will be in good shape to LOVE again.