Sunday, June 11, 2017

Complicated Grief and Silver Linings, 6.9.17

Grief. It is a crazy part of life. I'm fortunate that I haven't experienced grief on quite the level of many other people out there. But the types of grief I have the most experience with are complicated and have their own unique set of challenges. I've been reading about grief, lately, and this list, explaining the different types of grief, has been very helpful. Disenfranchised grief was the first one to present itself in my life, with the loss of Ruben J. (You can read about that grief here and here). When death occurs after several years of divorce, I think most people just assume that you aren't, or shouldn't be, negatively affected at all. But that's not the case. It took me a lot longer to work through that grief , I think, because I felt like I couldn't (or shouldn't) openly show people how much the loss affected me.

That was over five years ago. More recently, ambiguous grief (grieving the loss of someone who is still alive) and secondary loss have reared their ugly heads. Even though this recent grief is not the result of old age, physical illness or accident, the end result is the same. Loss. Huge loss. But what seems even harder to take is that it was/is a completely senseless and avoidable tragedy, involving many people, spanning many years and caused by a combination of some very ugly vices, with each party involved claiming a unique 'variety-pack' of them as their own. This disgustingly messy scenario  has led to the loss of a very significant person in my life and, as collateral damage, several others. It is overwhelming, to say the very least, and the hardest thing I have ever been through.

What makes any kind of "complicated" grief so hard is that closure is elusive, if not impossible. I have been anticipating the "end" (either good or bad) for quite some time now. So, after a long period of tears, frustration, worry, guilt, anger, anxiety, sleepless nights, apologies, rejected apologies, counseling, distance, space, awkward conversations, anticipation, etc., I had a decision to make. Should I let go or continue to be dragged? And I decided that, for the sake of my healthy relationships, my mental health and my self-respect, I had to let go. I felt guilty to be relieved. But, I was. I am. One day, after some time and distance, maybe the scenario will improve. But my life will not be put on hold, holding out for that hope. If it never happens, I have to be okay with that, too.

Because of my position in this situation, I've thought that letting go is not an option. But now I know that being dragged is no longer an option.

Looking back on the past several years, I realize that I've pretty much gone through the five stages of grief several times and have, again, ended up at acceptance. And now...I'm trying to go a step further and recognize the positives that can come from grief or loss of any kind. Once you get to a certain point, you can clearly see all of the very good things, good experiences and good people you still have. Things may be different, but that doesn't mean they are bad.  Hopefully, if you are going through a similar situation, knowing that may, at the very least, brighten your day a little and offer some hope for brighter days to come.

I have learned, through crisis and grief...

* You gain new perspective. There is nothing like a crisis to make you see certain, basic things in a whole new light. Lately, in my case, I've gained a newfound appreciation for the simple concepts of trust and truth and how they are a sacred and essential part of any relationship. Without them, what is the point of  anything, really? Lack of either one will only lead to something negative.
I've also realized the power of words. The power of kind words. The power of unkind words. And that, sometimes, using no words is best. This one was/is hard for me. If you know me, you know that patience is not one of my virtues ;)

*You  realize who provides your strongest support system. Through a crisis, you realize who can  really, truly put their own agenda aside to just be there- to listen and to understand. As a result, some people become your foundation, your rocks, and others fall away. Through this crisis, I've developed a newfound appreciation for people I once took for granted and a newfound appreciation for, and bond with, the people in my very solid, albeit small, circle-of-trust.

*You are forced to dig deep to develop a way to cope that works for you. I've read that people who have a strong spiritual practice are able to deal with crisis more effectively. So, through counseling, listening, reading and contemplating, I've developed a very grounding, new-to-me, spiritual practice. One that is very unique to me, makes sense to me and one that I have needed and have been looking for my entire life. That practice is now something I look forward to every day.

You learn to focus on the future. You always need something to look forward to. If for no other reason, as my husband says, it keeps you from looking back on the past. Ironically, I'm now pulling from my past to plan for my future, as I've had a renewed interest in psychology. In an effort to understand what has happened over the past several years, I've spent many nights looking back on my old college papers written on psychological theories and disorders and many nights spent "diagnosing" with the DSM 5. This has led to serious consideration of  a second (retirement) career in a therapy-based field. Using yoga, meditation and art as therapy has saved my sanity and if I can use this experience to help even one other person get to the other side of a crisis in one piece, that would be amazing.

*You develop grit. Just like with physical exercise (stressing your muscles to make them stronger), going through emotional stress can make you mentally stronger. Through this crisis, I have found strength that I never knew I had.  Was I aware of this developing strength? Heck, no. Because some days were so bad that I was just focused on getting through to the next day. But all of the above-mentioned items have taught me how to cope with the sad, the angry and the frustrating moments. Considering that I have been, as M. put it, "grieving and being pushed to my limits at the same time", for a considerable period of time, I realize that I am now doing very well. Do I still have bad days and moments of weakness? You bet. But the difference is, they don't last long because I am aware enough to recognize that it was just a bad day or a weak moment. It doesn't mean I'm a bad person. It doesn't mean I'm a weak person. It just means that I am human.

*You realize you only have control over yourself. You can only control how you react, what you say and what you do and that there is no way to control how other people react, what other people say, what other people do or what other people believe. You just have to do your best, speak your truth and speak the truth and keep moving forward.

So, my message here- there is always a silver lining. You just need to look for that little speck of light. Eventually, as you get through another day, that light reveals itself even more and suddenly, you realize that the good days are far outweighing the bad days. Remember, as Glennon Doyle Melton says here , "Crisis is a gift". So, "Carry on, Warrior."

Have a great day and remember- something wonderful is about to happen, right?!


P.S. If you are dealing with loss in your life, please check out Option B. It has recently become a wonderful resource for me.


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