Grief is an important part of moving on. It’s important to feel as bad as you really feel. It’s important to give credence to your grief and your hurt. But it’s also important to take time out (especially as the process goes on) and live your life. Yesterday was another anniversary for me and I could feel myself getting a bit funky. It’s okay to do.
But the other thing is that gratitude for what you do have is important.
Do you hear yourself saying, “It’s not fair…” or “Everyone has someone and I don’t….” or other extreme statements? These are really stupid statements in the scheme of things. It’s okay to feel them but not to stay in them. Whenever we engage in extreme thinking, we are being unfair to ourselves. We really can’t complain about the unfairness of x, y, and z, when the unfairness that we CAN control, is the way we treat ourselves and we’re treating ourselves unfairly by staying in, or propagating, a negative frame of mind.
Life is unfair, the world is unfair, love is unfair and shit happens. We have no control over that. What we DO have control over is our perspective and the thoughts we feed ourselves. Our wha wha why why me frame of mind is self-induced agony. Yes, feeling bad is part of grief and loss, but it should not be a black cloud that follows you continuously. If it does, you’re tethering yourself to that cloud and then wondering why it’s following you. Cut the rope.
Michael’s birthday usually fell on Memorial Day weekend. We spent several Memorial Days at Rolling Thunder in DC. We rode our Harleys from Boston to DC. We left on Friday morning and took all back roads and had a glorious time. We had so much fun and it was healing for him, as a Vietnam Vet, to spend time with the other vets at the Wall. We stopped going when we moved to California but when we moved back east, we planned to do it again. We had so much fun. Every year, as his birthday/Memorial Day approaches, I tend to float into a funk. When I think how long I waited for someone, anyone, to love me like Michael and in an instant (it seemed) he was gone, I sometimes am driving and take my feet off the pedals and stomp them….THIS IS SO UNFAIR.
I have a friend who I met right after she left her first husband who was cheating on her. She was devastated and eventually took up with a guy who was a commitmentphobe. MY friend is an attorney, drop dead gorgeous, so sweet, so funny and so loving to everyone. Her dog is a rescue dog and her house is a fixer upper. She supports lots of charities. And yet she was having such a time with relationships.
Finally she met the right guy after watching her exes and friends get married (yes, even the commitmenphobe got married!) and have kids and she was alone but held out for a wonderful guy and found him and they got married in a magical ceremony and had the baby she wanted all her life right before her 40th birthday.) There are few people I’ve been as happy for…I was ELATED. Her little family – the couple, her dog, his cat (also a rescue) and their gorgeous baby daughter was just the prettiest picture.
By the baby’s first first months, she was diagnosed with a form of cancer SO RARE that they couldn’t even give her a prognosis. The poor little thing had radical chemotherapy and radiation and took her first steps on the day her chemo ended. Now if you are the mom, you think THIS IS SO UNFAIR.
My friend is a sweetheart, one of the nicest people I’ve ever known…beautiful inside and out. And her forays into romance were horror stories until she spent time by herself, bought herself a house and rescued a dog and had a lovely life that she was proud of and in that serenity she met her mate. Every one of us who knew her and loved her were beyond thrilled. When the baby came along, we were all on cloud 9 for her. Then the diagnosis came along.
The baby went into remission and they had a second child. What they have done is remove themselves from social media and they travel with the kids and they celebrate life. The baby is still healthy but they honestly have no idea what the chances are of that cancer or any other cancer coming back (the cancer the baby had is so rare the doctors honestly cannot predict anything about the future). (UPDATE 2019: the girl is doing well and the family is still off social media and living their lives…holding onto to every precious moment and not wasting it on Fakebook Lives…they have real lives that they do not photograph and slap all over social media. They’re out living their lives and keeping the precious moments to themselves…good for them! I have their Christmas photo on my refrigerator and keep it there all year long to remind me how precious life is.)
In the meantime, they celebrate that child’s life and their other child’s life and their love EVERY SINGLE DAY. They do not distract themselves mindless web surfing, Facebook or any other stupid activity that keeps you distracted from what is important. I truly admire how they work, take care of the kids, travel and celebrate life EVERY SINGLE DAY. I miss her on social media and in email but I absolutely admire their decisions and how they handle their lives.
Fair or not fair, they don’t make the comparison. They don’t ask “Why me?” They don’t stomp that it’s not fair. They do what they need to do.
You also need to look at the people in your life. Do they have an attitude of a child? Do they stomp and whine and complain that nothing is fair and poor poor them? If so, you need to find new people. These types of people tend to bring everyone down with their negativity and not GET that so many others are so much worse off.
For me, I am grateful that all of my children and grandchildren are, and always have been, healthy. Do I ever question that fairness? No. Do I ever say, “My kids are healthy and other people’s kids are not. It’s so unfair.” No I don’t. But it is. Yet, I don’t complain about the imbalance of fairness when it’s working in my favor. And you shouldn’t either. There are plenty of things that you have and are and have had that other people would think is unfair because they don’t have it. You can’t just use “it’s not fair” when fairness is working against you. You have to see it when it’s working for you. Attitude of gratitude.
Happiness is not about having what you want, but wanting what you have. I have my health (to some degree—I’ve recently been diagnosed with Lupus and though it’s a chronic disease it answers a lot of questions that I have been struggling with the past few years), my family, my friends, my clients and readers and the wonderful community here. I have the ability to make money and to live in a nice place. Is that unfair? To someone else, maybe. To me, no.
I know plenty of people who are married or in relationships with complete bananaheads and my darling, loving, sweet, kind husband is no longer here. Is that unfair? Probably. When you look at it in a vacuum, it’s unfair. It’s very unfair. When I miss him, I practically hemorrhage anger into a major tantrum. It’s been a long time but I’ve had nights of grief where I have sobbed and wailed and dropped to my knees and pounded my fists on the floor until I collapse in a puddle. Yes, Michael’s death was the worst thing that happened to me in a life full of unfair things, but when you look at it in the universal scheme of things, a lot worse things have happened to a lot more people. And I also have Michael’s attitude about it (the video I made about it is at the bottom of this post).
I write about me a lot of times because I do not like to preach from the mount. When you talk about sadness, I understand. When you talk about feeling lonely or feeling that it’s all unfair or everyone has someone, why not you, I get it. I really get it.
I get that it’s a horrible feeling when your ex toddles off with someone else and you’re left holding the grief bag.
But that doesn’t mean it’s unfair.
It means it is what it is.
It may mean your ex will never “do” his or her process and will be running forever. You are standing there and facing it. It might seem unfair, but for people who can’t seem to stand still long enough to grieve, they will envy you one day.
But I also get that a healthy life is not about wallowing. It’s about giving voice to your grief. In my case I talk about Michael. I celebrate his life every year on his birthday and I cry when I need to cry. Last fall, when the holidays and our anniversary and my birthday were all crashing together and making me feel miserable for weeks and weeks, I knew it was an excruciating time but I had to see it through. It was not one day of grief but an agonizing six week stretch that, I guess, I had to go through.
It was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was hard to think that I would be feeling “okay” on his birthday/Memorial Day weekend. It was hard, at the time, to think that I would ever feel alright again. But, as I tell everyone on here all the time, trust the process. I was in the soup again last November. It starts on my birthday and washes into our anniversary (4 days later) then Thanksgiving (usually the end of that week) and Christmas and New Years. It’s a BRUTAL stretch of time for me. I have learned to lean into it but am always surprised as to how deeply it affects me. It’s a horrible time for me. When people say, “The most wonderful time of the year…” I think, “Really? No, it sucks….” My very worst time of the year.
And I feel alone and lonely and isolated and that no one is here for me.
It’s NOT FAIR. I didn’t grow up with parents who loved me. I didn’t grow up knowing where the hell I was going for the first 8 years. My wretched experiences led to abusive teenage and adult relationships. Was that fair? I have FOUR brothers that I was estranged from. One I didn’t know about and the one I felt close to passed away before I was able to reconnect.
Is that fair? It doesn’t feel like it. I cry – all the time- that I did not grow up with 4 brothers who all would have loved me and cherished me and beat up any guy who tried to mess with me. Instead I had 2 brothers who thought my abusive boyfriends were my fault. Is that fair? How do you fix that giant hole in your soul? Or do you?
Part of the process IS grieving and about feeling as bad as you really feel and getting angry and sad for what you don’t have. Part of the process if feeling decimated and horrible. Part of it is screaming, “WHY ME???”
But a very important part of the process is being grateful for what you have. For keeping an attitude of gratitude and knowing that life is about ups, downs, wins, losses, fairness and unfairness.
Healthy people get that and if you’re not getting that, then you have work to do. Write out your gratitude lists every day. Do your grief work while staying focused on the things you DO have and can be grateful for. And remember that the next time you feel that things are unfair, there are plenty of people who think that fairness is working in your favor.
Michael used to wave when photos were being taken. I hav no idea why. It was very silly and I used to tell him to stop. He even waved in our formal photos at my son’s wedding. After he passed, I would have killed to see him wave. One. More. Time. It’s something I miss. A lot.
One day I pulled out a photo of him on our honeymoon – in Pompeii – where he was waving at me. Huge smile on his face and a big wave…so silly.
I put it on the refrigerator next to my friend’s photo (the family I talk about up above). Every morning when I open the refrigerator, I wave to him and say, “Hi Honey!” I LOVE those photos where he’s waving. The ones I used to admonish him over. It’s amazing how things change. How your perspective changes. I would truly give all of my limbs to see him wave again.
Experience your grief but understand that you have things that others would kill to have. And be grateful for those things. That is how it works.
And it does work.
You can do this!
This is the Gratitude post I did last Thanksgiving:
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