You are grieving perfectly, just as you are. Even if you’re sobbing and sloppy and inconsolable. You are choosing to live with your loss. You are surviving. And that can be very hard at times.
I wish someone had told me this when I was ten and my mom died. The psychological model then was that if a kid seemed okay after losing a loved one, you just let them be. So I wondered why I couldn’t concentrate on my math homework, and why everything had become so awful, but no one gave me a pass because my mom had died a few months ago.
When George died, I told myself I got to do whatever I wanted or needed to feel better. It’s just that a lot of my choices were really dumb. I thought if I looked great and dressed well and got out there and met people, I’d be okay because I was looking and acting okay. But inside I still felt awful, unbearably lonely and guilt-ridden. Somehow I’d drunk the societal Kool-Aid that grieving should look like a self-improvement project.
I’d had a second glass of that sugary maraschino red Kool-Aid when I thought that dating was a remedy for widowhood. But there is no remedy.
There is only living with the pain and surviving it, day by day, minute by minute.
Time helps. So do friends and family and meaningful activities (once we have the energy to tackle anything meaningful). But there is no cure and we don’t have to act like there is.
Our loss is hard enough without anyone telling us how we should be grieving or for how long. When I told people I was a a widow, some seemed to think that meant I was open to advice. We don’t normally tell other grown ups how to live. And I despair to think that folks thought I needed advice because I had become a woman in her own. One of the reasons I stopped dating was because I couldn’t stand one more moron man telling me how I should change my life when he’d never been widowed.
When we suffer a devastating loss, the first question is “How do I keep living?” For some of us it’s even, “Do I want to keep living?” Please, say yes, that you do. That’s my only advice.
And that is where time can help. My first six months without George I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live, but now, years later, I know that I do. And sometimes, I can even think that life is pretty good,. Other times, it’s binge-watching and chocolate cheesecake with all the pillows piled on the bed.
So if you are getting through your loss without being self-destructive, you are grieving well. You are surviving. You are getting yourself through this. And you are honoring what you need to do that. If you need long hikes in wooded areas (I wish this was me), fantastic. If it’s checking out for awhile with piles of carrot cake and expensive throw pillows…oh wait, that’s me.
Once when I was talking about a trip I was planning, my yoga teacher friend said she admired me. I asked what for? She said, “Deciding to live.” I thought my choices were pretty self-indulgent, a vacation I wanted to take to someplace I’d never been.
But I am living. And you are too. Despite the pain. Carry on my friend. And if you want, share what you did to survive your loss. It may help another griever in pain.