Grief. We’re not taught how to grieve in school. We’re not shown how to process our emotions. Or how to deal with them when they come flooding in, years later, unexpectedly, on a random Tuesday.
My dad passed away from multiple forms of cancer in 2016. Even though we knew the diseases would eventually take him from us, you can never really be prepared for the death of a loved one. There’s no way to tell how you will feel when they are gone. No way to know how you’ll react in the short term. And certainly no road map for your grief with each passing year.
Anniversaries are hard.
As the third anniversary of his death drew near, I subconsciously stopped taking care of myself. I functioned on the bare minimum for my daughters, my hubby, my family, my friends, my clients, and my volunteer commitments. As the manager of our household function, everyone got clean laundry only when they were on their last pair of the essentials.
When I didn’t have a commitment or a meeting or a kiddo who needed to be shuttled, I found myself at home. I’d snuggle up with our puppy for a long morning nap, waiting until the absolute last minute to get myself ready to go out and interact with people.
What was wrong with me??
Was I getting sick? Was I just not motivated?
Then it hit me. Dad has been gone from this life for three years. Three years since I’ve heard his voice or felt his amazing bear hug or heard his boisterous, infectious laugh.
Cue another 10 days of the same cycle. I realized what I was struggling through, but I wasn’t willing to allow myself the time I needed for that introspection. I had too many things on my calendar to let myself feel the feels.
Well guess what?! I can’t continue on this pattern of ignoring myself, pushing down my emotions, and looking just past my grief forever. That won’t serve anyone, most importantly myself. So now what?
Time for a “Come to Jesus”!
I realized I was telling myself to “work through this” so it won’t happen again. Listen, Linda…grief is now a part of my life. I can’t change that. The more I try to pretend that it’s not or not admit that it can show up unexpectedly, the worse it hits.
I started to look at how I was treating myself during this current period of grief. Pretty lousy, that’s how! The only thing I was allowing myself was rest, and I was using that as a way to avoid actually processing what I was feeling. I had completely stopped filling my own cup so it was sitting dry as a desert.
How do I climb out of this dip?
I realized that if I’m not feeding my mind and my heart with positivity and empowering words there’s nothing to balance the feelings of grief when they come up. Adding negative voices of self doubt and unworthiness to the mix with the grief is just a recipe for disaster! If I want to live within my grief while also moving forward in my purpose on this earth, my current MO ain’t gonna cut it. So, here’s my plan:
- Me Time: I’m moving my phone off my nightstand and plugging in my old alarm. That phone alarm is too dang easy to snooze! Not to mention the social media pull when you wake up with your phone in your hand. My trusty “sunrise” alarm will be waking me at 5 am every day so I can have time to care for myself before I have to care for the rest of the fam. This hour will be used for my journaling, sipping on my favorite tea, my current devotional, and reading or listening to a non-fiction book.
- Intentional Movement: Whether it’s a structured exercise program, swimming laps, taking a run, or just taking a long walk, science has proven that moving our body is essential not only for physical health, but also for mental and emotional well being. Thanks to the puppy we adopted in late December, this has become easier for me to keep as a part of my day. So I’ll continue, but I’ll also allow myself to extend when I have the time and feel my spirit needs it.
- Creative Play Time: I tend to take myself too seriously. If I’m not working towards a result, I don’t often allow myself to just play around and have fun! I’m setting aside a total of 2 hours a week to just play and create and let my guard down, with no pressure for a result. Some weeks I’ll pick up my cross stitch. Others I may take in an art exhibit or discover new music. No rules, just freedom!
Moving to acceptance.
Grief isn’t something you can set an event for in your calendar. Or download a checklist online for working through it for good. It will continue to come up at expected times, like anniversaries and birthdays and holidays. But it will also show up when you hear that song. Or your kiddo says something unexpected that triggers a memory of your loved one. Or even when the sun hits the mountains just right.
Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel what comes up as soon as you can. Be grateful for the time you did have with your loved one. And when you find yourself lost in the shadow of your grief, know you are not alone. I and so many others are here with you. Create your plan to refocus your energies on your self care. And move one toe in front of the other.