Friday, November 30, 2007

First Year Grieving

Today I'm going to shake things up a bit with a guest post from WidowNet, a great free Yahoo Group I recommend you check out. We'll let Denise take it from here:

Hello everyone

Although I don't post often anymore -- I do read the emails and thought I would share with those of you who are in the early stages of this journey none of us wanted to take. I've been a traveler for over 19 months, with both good and bad days. I came across the following thoughts surrounding first year grieving about 6-7 months after Craig died. I can tell you that there were many times I had to start rewinding because I had dropped the ball of string. In fact, it still happens -- just not nearly as frequent.

Take care everyone

First-year grief is perhaps the hardest work you will ever do. We are challenged in so many ways that we cannot take loss in all at once. We can only see the world from where we stand; and to most of us, our new world looks and feels like landscape without gravity. There are no maps to guide us through this grief. But others who have made the journey can help by listening and sharing what they have learned. They show us it is possible to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones along the way.

Grieving requires enormous energy, but pretending that you're not grieving requires even more. You begin to sense that your world is anxious for you to get on with your life, and no one understands that this is your life and you are getting on with it. "This is it, folks." Then other times you pretend and you wear a mask and perform like a trained seal just to keep what's left of your world from leaving you.

There's not a set schedule and no recovery period for grief. But, time alone does not heal -- it's what we do with the time that counts. Take the time you need to do your grief work. But also take time away from grieving to do things you enjoy, and to rest and replenish yourself. When a loved one dies, our hoped-for future dies, too. Beginning in this first year, and continuing on from there, living with our loss means taking on new roles, new relationships, a new future — without forgetting our past. Sometimes, life takes surprising turns. But, as the wise adage goes, "Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans." Confronted with loss, we can weave the strands of our past into a new, meaningful future we would never have planned to live. Doing so is a conscious choice.

Getting through the first year of your grief is like winding a ball of string. You start with an end and wind and wind. Then the ball slips through your fingers and rolls across the floor. Some of the work is undone, but not all. You pick it up and start over again, but never do you have to begin at the end of the string. The ball never completely unwinds; you've made some progress.

May your loved one be there to help you during this painful first year and in all the years to come.

I'll just add that, when I contacted Denise for permission to use her post, I really enjoyed her tag line:

Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.


sad lady said...

This is my first year as a widow and i feel so overwhelmed and without hope.I have 1-2 weeks where I feel OK and then boom I cry for no reason .I miss him so much he was my best friend since I was 20.I had a lady that I know who lost her husband 2 years ago tell me it never gets better.I do not want to live like this,but I would never harm myself.I pray to god to take me which seems so wrong.Its been 6 1/2 months when will it be not so painful.

Vic said...

Hello sad lady,

I am very sorry for your loss. What you are experiencing is very, very normal. Something that really helped me was to learn to observe my experiences and to let them be -- to accept my experiences for what they are.

I am sure that your widow acquaintance means well, but please keep in mind that she is only an authority on one person's grief: her own. Her reality does not have to be your reality.

You will hear things from other widows and widowers like, "grief is forever." That sounds too much like a death sentence (pardon the pun ;-) I much prefer the statement, "grief is a part of life." It doesn't have to be your focus for the rest of your life. You can choose to focus on other aspects of life. I have.

After a ton of work on myself, and after my free Vipassana meditation course, at 2 years I would often catch myself smiling and thinking, "I have no problems." Just so you have a bit of a contrast.

It also really helped me to understand that much of grief is chemical in nature (see my posts on "A Bad Trip" and "Withdrawal").

I hope you are able to find something of value on this blog, and please be easy with yourself. 6 1/2 months is early on yet, and it will likely get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

A great question you can ask yourself every day is, "how can I find peace?" Seek and ye shall find.

May you find peace,


Gina said...

I lost my 37 yr. old husband Roman suddenly one month and one week ago. He was my best friend and I feel such an acute loss. I have a great support system but no one has really said anything that struck me as much as what you told "sad lady:"

A great question you can ask yourself every day is, "how can I find peace?"

I just want to thank you for your blog. It really seems like a labor of love for yourself, your wife, and all the bereaved spouses. Thank you.

Oh, by the way, my husband and I used to call each other "Victor" as we loved the movie Smoke Signals. So finding your blog gave me a smile.

Vic said...

Hi Gina,

Thanks for your great comments, and I'm very sorry for your loss.

You know, once I figured out that what I really wanted out of grief was peace, it became a very simple matter for me to look at every action I took in my life and ask a simple question: is this action bringing me closer to, or further away from, peace?

Oftentimes, I wasn't able to answer that question yea or nay, but if I had any reason to hope that a given action would bring me closer to peace, I would pursue that action. I didn't care what that action was.

That single decision, to pursue peace at any price, served me as a bright shining North Star as I struggled through the dark desert of my grief.

I am so glad that you find this blog helpful, and I am glad I could give you a smile :-)

May you find peace,