A LITTLE BIT OF WALLOW GOES A LONG WAY
“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” – Carl Sandburg
Grieving is not wallowing. Wallowing is defined as: “an unrestrained indulgence; as something that actually creates a pleasurable sensation.” If you have ever grieved the loss of a loved one, you know the process is definitely NOT pleasurable! Grievers not only suffer a painful loss, but they also have to function in their daily lives. They must multi-task grieving while taking care of families, working full-time jobs, cooking, cleaning, and just trying to get through the day. Each day they wake up to the loss and re-experience the pain like the movie “Ground Hog Day.” Grievers do not wallow. They just try to work through the pain step by step.
Perceptual adverse biases are ingrained in society. So long as the experience of grieving is deemed a negative, people will think of grievers as wallowing in their sadness. Right after Peter died I went through such an intensity of loss that I thought I was cracking up! I went into deep sadness and had to spend an inordinate amount of time grieving through the pain. I wasn’t wallowing in the sadness, I was grieving! I wasn’t ready to “move on” or “buck up,” or do any of the “shoulds” people suggested. “He would want you to move on,” was a favorite. Really?
Even though wallowing is not grieving, I must admit to occasionally needing a day or two of obligatory wallowing. I won’t call it wallowing though, I will call it immersing or bathing in a day of solitude with an added touch of self-compassion. In the Urban Dictionary, wallowing has come to mean “the act of doing an assortment of activities such as; watching sappy movies, eating absurd amounts of junk food, crying, sleeping, and talking with friends after a particularly bad break up.” These are not common days but sometimes you just have to say what the heck and go with your mood.
On immersion days, I recommend starting out the day with chocolate-coated granola, downed with a piping cup of hot chocolate. Allow the wonderful memories of your departed love to take the place of the hurt and pain in your heart. Look at pictures and weep openly. Ignore phone calls from cheery friends so that you can process the immersion day fully. Don’t look at bills or the mail, but keep focused on plunging yourself deeply into your thought processes. Play songs that were favorites. Binge on tearjerker movies.
To be clear, wallowing doesn’t mean you are lost in the gloom of despair. Sometimes you just run out of energy to make others feel you are doing okay. Sometimes it is great to take a retreat day and embrace the sadness in a just a teensy bit of wallowing. Wallowing in this reflective aura, makes me grateful to remember that if I had not loved Peter so completely and so richly, I wouldn’t have had such a happy and love-fulfilled life.
Here is my famous recipe for truly The World’s Best Brownies to comfort you on an immersion day:
WORLD’S TASTIEST BROWNIES
Yield: 32 Brownies
1 12-ounce package real semi-sweet chocolate bits (I like the mini-chips that melt faster)
½ pound (2 4-ounce sticks) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon instant coffee
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter or coat with nonstick spray a 9-inch X 13-inch X 2” baking pan.
2. In a non-stick heavy bottomed pan, melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat, stirring often until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the instant coffee and stir to dissolve.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the eggs for a minute until lightly colored. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth.
4. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs mixing until smooth. Add the flour and continue to beat until all the ingredients are incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or less according to whether you like them fudgy or cakey.
6. Allow them to cool. Cut into squares and serve.
• 1 cup chopped walnuts can be added with the flour
• Baked brownies can be turned out onto a sheet of aluminum foil, wrapped, and chilled for frozen. The brownies can then be easily cut, cold or semi-frozen, and brought to room temperature before serving.
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Laurie is the author of the new book The Joke’s Over You Can Come Back Now: How This Widow Plowed Through Grief and Survived. She can be contacted via her website: www.lauriegrad.com or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Laurie-Burrows-Grad-2060571070637592/ or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lauriegrad/