Sunday, December 2, 2007

Grief Judo

Today turned out to be a heavy day, yet an eminently enjoyable one. I attended an infant baptism for the son of my late wife's cousin. I'll preface this by saying that this was my third baptism as a widower, and the previous two had really messed me up. The first one had been a few months after Deb died, for the child of Deb's co-worker, and all I could think about was how much Deb would have loved to have been there. The second one was 3 months later for her new niece, and I cried through the whole thing, and for most of the rest of the day. It's hard to enjoy a day when it feels like someone is cutting you in half with a sword.

Today, though, I had no apprehensions about attending, even though this one was for the son of Deb's favourite cousin. The ceremony went very well, and I was genuinely happy for the parents and the family. Afterwards, we gathered at the parent's house for an excellent lunch, and I remember distinctly thinking to myself, "baby, you've come a long way."

Of course, the universe seems to wait for moments like that, doesn't it? ;-) Almost like it says, "oh yeah, buddy? You feeling lucky today?" in its best Clint Eastwood voice ;-)

As I was preparing to leave and had started to say my goodbyes, I noticed a man around my age hanging back a bit, but obviously wanting to speak with me. I knew most of the people present, but I didn't know him. After I gave my aunt-in-law a hug goodbye, he came up and introduced himself: "Hi, I'm Dr. S____; I was the one who originally diagnosed Deb and arranged for her hysterectomy."

Gulp. If you've been a widow/er for any length of time, you've probably heard that grief comes in waves, and could I ever sense a 15 footer coming my way, fast! What was I going to do?

A few days prior, a widow I had attended a 10-week closed group with earlier in the year had emailed me and had mentioned that I always seemed to be able to find resources for coping with grief that others hadn't been able to find. I had thought about that comment long and hard and came to the conclusion that, sure, I was able to find a lot of unique resources, but I was motivated to find them.

Several years ago, I had read a really good article by Jim Rohn called "Skills Make Labor More Valuable":

As you know by now, if you have been a long time subscriber to our weekly E-zine, I'm a very big proponent of activity, labor and discipline. In fact I devoted one of the five major pieces to the life puzzle (in my book under the same name) to the subject of activity and labor. But now let me add another key word to the labor equation - skillful. Yes, skillful labor.

We need the skills to help build our family's dreams, the skills to stir up an enterprise and make it successful. We need skills to build equities for the future. We need skills of all kinds.

How about this - skillful language. If you just talk to your family you can hold them all together, but if you skillfully talk to your children you can help them build dreams for the future. That is why I spend so much time at the Weekend Seminar on communication - how to affect others with words.

You can't be lazy in language - it cost too much. What if you meant to say "what's troubling you?" and instead you said "what's wrong with you?". Wow, that's too big a mistake. And sure you could have made that mistake 10 years ago, but not now. You should have gotten much better by now in language and communication.

Skills multiply labors by two, by five, by ten, by fifty, by one hundred times. Hey, you can chop a tree down with a hammer but it takes about 30 days, called labor. But if you trade the hammer in for an ax, you can chop the tree down in about 30 minutes. What's the difference in 30 days and 30 minutes? Skills. Skills made the difference.

So do what you can - labor. But also do the best that you can do – improved skills. And you will find that the labor combined with skills will start producing miracles. Miracles with your money, miracles with your family and miracles in every part of your life.

After Deb died, and once I had recognized that I was grieving, I was determined to become skilled in grieving. I wasn't going to be wailing away with a hammer 30 years from now trying to fell this tree of grief. No, I was going to become a master griever, a Black Belt, if you like. And that thought really propelled me in my search for the best tools and skills to help me grieve really well.

Fast-forward to today: I could feel the wave of grief crash over me, but this time I wasn't broken, floored, or floundering. It was almost like an impromptu Black Belt test: think fast; what are you going to do?

I'm a firm believer that my body knows how to grieve, and I just need to let it do its thing, and be fine with that. As the grief wave hit, I could feel all kinds of things going on with my body, but it was almost like I mentally just stepped aside and let all that energy pass me by, like a judo master stepping aside a split second before the bigger, stronger, tougher opponent plows into him.

The Doctor and I had a great chat about his practice, the latest advancements in cervical cancer prevention, and I purposely prolonged the conversation to see just how far I could go. I told him at the end of 20 minutes that I couldn't have had this conversation 6 months ago.

My body continued working through the grief for a good hour or so afterwards; I fumbled things I was carrying, and I was a bit more preoccupied and distracted than usual. But mentally, I saw no reason to get involved. My mind just needed to get out of the way and let my body grieve.

Today was a milestone.

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