YOU DON’T GET OVER GRIEF
“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied.” Edna St. Vincent Millay
I will never get over my grief. When my husband Peter and I used to take long car trips with my son, Nick would always say: “are we there yet? Are we close? This is taking too long!” Grief is not a destination! Grief is a process that will change and evolve until we adapt to its nature. When people ask me if I am better, it translates as “hurry up and get over the pain so you can be back to normal.” But I will never be normal without my husband. I have to get my mind around the term “getting used to,” which seems to be a goal I can manage. Getting over it implies forgetting my love. Adapting to my loss means I am remembering the good times, the pain of the loss, and finding ways to move on with my life, with Peter still a part of me.
Grief is a constant. Grief is the realization that you will never, see, touch, or even smell your loved one again. Grief is the ultimate, absolute loss of a love. Grief is an ongoing process that does not allow for closure. Closure implies finishing a task, checking it off, and then moving on. There will never be closure for me with grief. The pain will always be like a piece of my heart that has broken away and can’t be reassembled. You can’t put back the pieces of your heart like a puzzle, but you can build up other grief muscles in your heart so that you can move forward. You can find creative ways to assuage the pain and make it tolerable. By helping others, by writing, by welcoming friends, by working out, by finding joy in the smallest of measures, you can find your way back from the abyss of pain.
Many grievers run around, constantly moving at a rapid pace, in a futile attempt to escape the pain. They want to forget, and misguidedly run in circles to avoid facing the truth of their loss. If you try to forget grief, it will find a way to remind you and pop up like one of those Jack-in-the-box toys that jumps out at you suddenly, rearing its creepy head. Rather than pushing the memories away, I have tried to remember what I learned from my husband. We believed that we made each other better people by our union. If I think of how he would have loved the way I have carried on, it gratifies me. If I remember how Peter supported me, I can smile at the memory and feel genuinely warm inside. My healing is a result of my acceptance of loss.
I will never stop wanting Peter at my side. I will never stop wishing he was here to experience more of our lives together. But the knowledge that I never stop wanting to see him, is evidence of the love we shared. Even though my loss is more difficult because of the intense love I shared, I have learned to cherish that love as a talisman which helps me in my restoration.
As you learn to live with your loss, there are a few coping techniques that help you to move forward:
- Talk with your family and friends about your loss. Laugh, cry, and remember which makes you feel less alone and able to keep his or her memory alive.
- Make small dinner parties with close friends. Pot luck suppers are great so that you don’t have to do all the cooking.
- Take comfort in the love you shared and revel in the memory of that love.
- Make a list of all the good things that you have in your life. Find things to value and cherish in your new acceptably different life be it a funny movie, a good meal, or a great glass of Pinot Noir!
- Journalize. Journalize. As you write down your feelings and you weep openly, you can feel a release of the pain moving through your writing. When you look back at the writing in a few months, you will also note your progress.
- Do things that make you happy. Cooking, painting, or even shopping if retail therapy helps.
- If it is within your budget, take a fun trip with a friend. You can also plan to visit a friend who lives far away and stay with them for a short period of time. According to Benjamin Franklin: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
- If you have Amazon Echo, have Alexa wake you up to the Beatles!
- Eat healthfully. I know, junk food seems to assuage your feelings of grief but in the long run, eating the right foods will help you to cope. OK, a bit of dark chocolate is a must!
- Binge watch comedy shows. Avoid grief-evoking tear jerkers.
- Discover projects in your home to make it more livable. Making a photo album on your computer; cleaning out closets and donating clothes in your spouse’s honor; or just reorganizing so you feel more comfortable in your space.
- Work out for the endorphins, even though you may despise exercise. Those endorphins are better than any drug!
- There is no right or wrong way to grief. If you are perfectionist, you will have to learn to let go and allow the emotions to carry you through the process.
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