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“You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.”

  • Herman Hupfeld from the movie Casablanca

I was always a sigher.  I sighed in frustration when I had a glitch with my computer.  I sighed happily when I saw love scenes in the movies.  I sighed annoyingly when I was overwhelmed by the bills I had to pay.  I sighed with a sense of relief when I finished a workout.  Man, did I sigh!  But most importantly, I sighed blithely every time Peter walked through the door.  It wasn’t a sigh of frustration.  This was a sigh of pleasure and contentedness.  I knew my love, my protector, my sweet husband, was home.  The feeling of security was enough to make me exhale a gratifying sigh.  That was the “boy, life is good,” sigh.”  And there used to be the sigh for “thank goodness that horrible thing didn’t happen to me.”  But, Peter died, and no amount of saying kenohora (Yiddish for evil eye), or knocking on wood, could change this life-altering occurrence.

A sigh is defined as “to let out one’s breath audibly, as from sorrow, weariness, or relief.”  Sighing involves inhaling, exhaling or a combo of both and is unique in every person.  When one sighs, it usually has some heavy emotion beneath it.  Physically we don’t need to sigh since it is not part of breathing.  Sighing is more of a psychological expression.  It demonstrates emotionally how we are feeling at a particular moment like “phew, glad I finished that blog!”

The Norwegian scientist, Karl Teigen, did a series of studies with students at the University of Oslo to explore the context in which people sigh.  He wanted to find out when people are sighing, and how the sighs are perceived by others.  According to the study, a sigh is an expression of resignation and frustration, but it all depends on who is sighing, what the context is that makes them sigh, and how the sighing is perceived by others.  Another study by Elke Vlemincx, and her colleagues at the University of Leuven in Belgium, suggests that sighing acts as a physical and mental reset button.  Velmeincx felt that when you breathe in one state for too long, the lungs become stiffer and less efficient in gas exchange.  Adding a sigh to the normal pattern, stretches the lungs air sacs and thus gives a sense of relief.

A sigh can be akin to the word “maybe.”  There is a flexibility that becomes available with the power of the word “maybe.”  It allows one to take a breath, or a sigh, before answering.  If I can sigh and say “maybe,” I am leaving myself open to other solutions or answers.  Maybe gives us the power to be more accommodating in our approach to a problem.  Maybe gives us a freedom from answering yes or no right away, and thereby taking care of our personal needs and wants thoughtfully.  More on “maybe” in my next blog.

Now that I am well into the process of grief, I have found the power of the sigh, and the word maybe, to be positive factors.  I agree that a good sigh can be a stress reducer and can help me to move forward.  A sigh is a respite which gives me time to regroup and find the resilience to fight.  When I sigh, I am pressing the pause button to breathe until I can continue.  I sigh and sigh again, and then go to my computer to write down my feelings. Yes, I sigh all the while, (sometimes at my misspellings), but mainly at the ability to release my thoughts through sighing and forging ahead on my journey to my new life of acceptably different.

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