Sunday, February 10, 2008


When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.
— Sufi Proverb

As a widow/er, to say that you're familiar with stress is something of an understatement. More likely, you feel it before you've even opened your eyes, and, like a strong wind on a bitterly cold February morning, it cuts through you like a knife all day long until you can finally doze off for those few fitful hours of troubled sleep. But have you ever thought about stress? Why it exists? And wouldn't it be nice if there was a Grief Recovery Tool that would evaporate all that stress forever?

A poignant example from my own life: about 5 ½ months after Deb died, I was in the last days of what many call the Denial stage of grief. Not denial that she was dead, but denial that my old way of life was finished as well. I had thought that the majority of my grieving had occurred throughout Deb's long illness, and I was determined to get on with my life and do all the things I still wanted to do. I still wanted a family, and I wanted to live internationally. So in the first few weeks of September, I was trying to begin a new relationship while simultaneously putting my house up on the market so that I could move with my son to Central America. And right about this time, all those lovely brain opiates the mind excretes during the shock phase were finally starting to dissipate.

Life started getting real ugly, real fast. I knew, just knew, that the relationship I was trying to start was totally the wrong thing to be doing right now. And I knew that moving to Central America right now was also a boneheaded thing to do. Because of my stubbornness, though, I plowed recklessly forward. And my body fought back. Me, a person with normally low blood pressure, could feel my blood pressure rising. Still I persisted. And the next day, I thought I was soon going to have a heart attack. So, I made the very difficult decision to drop all my plans. I broke off my fledgling relationship, and I called my realtor and told her to forget listing my house. And I dropped all my other plans as well. I did not want to wind up in the hospital. I didn't know what was going to replace my plans, but life was right there with the solution. The last of the shock drugs wore off, and I was plunged headlong into the despair phase of grief which was to last for many months. I needed to heal. What I didn't understand, going into acute grief, was that I would heal so much else in me that was broken.

So it was with some humour that I recently read what Guy Finley has to say about stress in his book The Secret of Letting Go [pg 114]:
Stress exists because we insist! It's really that simple. It is our mistaken belief that we must push life in the direction we choose that keeps us in a strained and unhappy relationship with it. Our wish to have power over life comes from this wrong relationship with life. Reality has its own effortless course, and we can either embrace its way or struggle endlessly with our own. We do not need power to flow. In other words, why push when we can learn to ride?

Looking back on my early days of grief, I can of course now see clearly the folly of my persistence. And I also recognize that the moment I simply let go of wanting to continue with my old life, that stress immediately evaporated. I never had to go to the doctor to have my blood pressure evaluated. It returned to normal that day. And something deep within me knew that would happen as soon as I let go. I just had to decide that what life had to offer was more important than what I wanted to happen.

So, I share this intimate part of my history with you in the hope that it will save you much pain and suffering. It took me many, many months before I could start applying this same principle to other areas of my grieving, probably because I wasn't consciously aware that this was a powerful tool that I could use at any time. Since I've started applying this multiple times a day, I have never been so happy and at peace. I wish the same for you also.


Julianna said...

The word 'despair' attracted me to this particular posting of yours. Twenty-seven months of mourning the loss of my beloved of 36 years has brought me to a desert of despair--which is a different place from the meat-grinder of wrenching pain that has abated little by little. But this desert feels more deadly because at least when in the grip of weeping I feltSOMETHING. The frivolity of people who urge me to 'have fun' and 'see what will be next in your life' astounds me. Those things are NOTHING compared to love. Friends are not a replacement for a soul mate.I can't go to a support group because I'm quite introverted. At 63 I'm like an abandoned child.

Vic said...

Hi Julianna, I'm very sorry for your loss.

I can appreciate that you'd rather not go to a support group. However uncomfortable that may be to go check one out, would it feel worse than the despair you now feel?

I too didn't want to go to a support group. But I also wanted to get through my grief, and I wasn't doing that very well. So my desire to get through grief overcame my dislike of support groups. And BFO wound up being a major component of my getting through grief.

If you haven't checked out Widownet yet, that's also a great resource. And you don't have to leave home ;-)

May you find peace,