Sunday, April 20, 2008

How Questions

I was poking around The Grief Blog a few days ago and stumbled upon this great article. It lists a number of common questions for newly bereaved people, and I remember asking several of these myself. I've highlighted a number of them, and I'll explain why I did that at the end:

Common Questions

Will the pain ever go away?

Will I feel better?

Why haven't I been able to cry yet?

Why am I afraid to leave my house when I used to be active?

Why am I running all the time, filling every waking moment with frantic activity?

Why do I find it impossible to accomplish even simple tasks, or even get out of bed?

Why do I find myself breaking down in embarrassing places? Why can't I have any control over my emotions?

Why don't I have an appetite? Or, why can't I stop eating?

Nothing makes sense. Am I going crazy?

Why am I so forgetful?

When I have the energy, how do I set new goals?

How do I even begin to know what I want?

What am I going to do with the rest of my life? Does this feeling of numbness get better?

I'm not used to traveling alone and taking care of myself. Will I be afraid forever?

When I get sick, how will I take care of myself?

When should I discard my spouse's clothing? When should I stop wearing my wedding ring?

How should I talk about this to my young/grown kids?

I hate feeling so dependent on others; will I ever feel capable again?

How can I deal with the first birthday, anniversary and holiday after losing my spouse?

Why do I feel guilty about being happy again? Why do I feel disloyal in thinking about dating?

I've been told that the one-year mark ends the mourning time, but I don't feel that way. In fact, I feel worse than at the beginning. Why?

What future is there for me beyond the feeling of unending, unchanging desolation?

How will I know when I'm ready to date? When is it too soon?

Am I forgetting my spouse if I begin dating? What will my children say? Why am I hesitating and troubled by uncertainty?

Am I going to spend the rest of my life lonely? Feeling like a fifth wheel with our old couple-friends, how can I have any kind of social life?

Will I ever be able to remember the joys, hopes, memories ... smiles ... without feeling sadness?

My husband was abusive to me and we had a horrible marriage. How do I mourn a loss that I'm not sure is even a loss?

"How do I live my life in a positive way without you ... not losing the memory and loving feelings of you, but incorporating them and going on? What tools can I find? How do I learn to heal in a way that's positive and energizing instead of depleting?"

Grieving is a process that unfolds during the 24 months after the death of your spouse. At the beginning of your mourning, it is not uncommon to have limitless questions with answers that feel completely out of reach.

Yet, despite the overwhelming pain, you instinctually know, somewhere deep within your heart that: "I need to stay alive, alive in a way that supports me and the "us" that was. I must seek a new emergence of myself after visiting the 'dark.' I sense that this awareness comes from the realm of my feelings, not from the sphere of my thinking." This is your beginning, to mourn and to heal.

Disaster looks us in the face and we survive. We hardly know how we do that, but we succeed. Underneath all the pain, there are elements of faith and trust, an "I can't lose" feeling, and the energy to go on and survive.

The entire article is excellent and I strongly encourage you to read it in its entirety. Now — I'll get on with the reason I highlighted several of the questions.

First, you'll notice that the majority of the questions are "why" questions. My advice would be to not spend too much time thinking about the "why" questions for one very simple reason: humans are quite bad at determining causality. In fact, for a number of these "why" questions, I don't think there really are any straightforward answers. As the article states, the answers feel quite out of reach. There's just too much going on all at once, and we are not able to collate enough relevant data to answer these types of questions definitively. Notice that I didn't suggest not to thing about "why" questions, I just said don't spend too much time on them. There are better uses for your grieving time.

You'll notice that the highlighted questions all begin with "how." I firmly believe that it is these "how" questions which will lead you through the desert of grief and out to the other side. There's something about asking "how" which engages the brain in a new way and changes our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately, our behaviors and habits. As I've made plain before, it is when our behavior and habits are changed that the pain goes away. How does the pain go away? Good question ;-)

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