“Getting Back to Normal”
Whether it’s grieving a loved one, or grieving the effects of COVID-19, there isn’t any getting back to normal.
What is normal, anyway? Some people prefer to say, “the new normal”, and that seems more appropriate to me, because I don’t know exactly what the future holds. It also helps me to realize that this is ALWAYS the case. My beloved husband becoming ill and dying showed me that I can never truly know what the future holds. And believing that I can is an illusion.
Since losing my husband, whenever someone tells me how my life will be, after time passes, (the infamous “time heals all” idiom), I tune out. It’s all blah, blah, blah.
Obviously, life will change over time – that is just the nature of things – but painting a picture of perfection or bliss after a requisite amount of time passes isn’t realistic, in my opinion. I’m not saying achieving joy or happiness cannot happen, but it won’t be because a certain period of time has passed. It will be because I have done the requisite healing and growth during my grief recovery process that will bring me to these states of being.
As we age, it is natural for people we love to transition off the planet. My first dearly beloved person left about 20 years ago, and it’s been ongoing since then. My husband’s death was the pinnacle for me, but if we live a full life, we will all experience grief during our lifetime. And, remembering too, that loss of any kind – a job, a dream, a loved one – can trigger grief.
To truly LIVE, one must accept GRIEF as a part of LIFE.
I prefer the ocean wave analogy - I’m on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Sometimes it’s calm, other times the raft rocks gently with the ripples on the water, and occasionally, a storm tosses my raft to and fro, as I hang on for balance. Once in a great while, a fifty-footer plows through and I’m turned upside down. During my grief recovery journey, I’ve learned how to ride the waves.
Isn’t this an important lesson for navigating life in general? Aren’t there always ups and downs? Losing a loved one is an extreme example, but learning to ride the waves of life, coming up for air, without drowning, is essential for all humans. Otherwise, we REACT to everything and get knocked off balance A LOT, until our psyches, our adrenals and our souls are taxed to the point of dis-ease.
Survive vs Thrive
Even though I feel I am living my life more in the present moment now, I still get tossed willy nilly by the waves. Learning to accept grief, and allow the feelings to be felt when they arise, is the greatest lesson of my grief recovery journey. I feel this will continue as long as I live, and I have the tools to help myself weather the storms.
My intention for Year 4 of my grief journey is to figure out how I can go from surviving to thriving, how I can put JOY back in my life, on my own, without my husband and our shared life together. Being able to experience JOY on my own will be a triumph.
Each griever’s grief process is unique and personal. There is no set timeline. It is based on so many factors – previous life experiences (our baggage or our story), our beliefs, the degree of attachment to the cause of the grief, and so on. Added to that, if the grief is deep enough, we may not ever recover completely, or we recover the best we can, allowing us to live as healthy and peaceful a life as possible. For example, I was talking to my neighbor the other day. She shared that her husband took his own life 45 years ago and she still sometimes picks up the phone to call him!
Grief is personal. Period.
So, getting back to the folks who want to roll right over it with platitudes like “you’ll find someone else” or “just stay busy, before you know it, you’ll be over it”, all I can say is…
YOU’RE NOT HELPING!
I learned long ago to avoid these folks. I know they mean well, but in my experience, these are people who:
a) have never experienced the loss of a dearly beloved (yet),
b) have experienced loss but didn’t allow themselves to feel it,
c) listened to all the bad advice about grieving and followed it themselves.
Eventually, not processing our grief will come back to bite us in the patootie.
I still yearn for, miss, and love my husband. Yes, the pain is less, and I am able to function better now, but to say that I am “OVER IT”? No. And, I don’t believe I ever will be, over it, that is. For me, it feels more like I am holding a place for my beloved husband in my heart as I continue to MOVE FORWARD reinventing myself in my NEW NORMAL.
I DO feel that moving forward is of utmost importance, otherwise I may get stuck in the grief, and I don’t want to live in that place. Riding the waves when they come is exactly HOW I move forward. I can experience the grief when it comes up and allow the feelings to be felt. I believe this is exactly how I will move from surviving to thriving. It’s definitely a process and has required a lot of healing and spiritual growth. I feel this will continue until I transition off the planet myself.
Living – A Place Between Surviving and Thriving
What does LIVING feel like? Well, it definitely doesn’t feel like walking around as a zombie, which I did a lot for the first couple of years. I may have been present, but I wasn’t accounted for. I simply had no desire to participate in life, so everything I did felt like I was in some kind of surreal play. I vacillated between zombie AND an Academy Award winning actress. Even though I knew from grief counseling that grievers are the best actors, I still became one, as I tried interacting with the outside world.
At the same time, I was learning how to take care of myself and find solace within, so there was a balance. By the end of Year 3, I was starting to feel a little more in the flow, and my mental and physical health was improving greatly. Unfortunately, my mom became ill and died right at this time which created a trigger and threw me backwards in my grief process. (My little raft on the ocean got flipped by a storm!) Gratefully, I had my grief recovery tools in my back pocket, so I knew exactly how to begin to heal…again.
Then COVID hit. With this pandemic there is grief – the loss of life as we know it. I recognized it immediately and used all my grief recovery tools: sitting with my feelings, Qigong, Yoga, eating healthy, sleeping well, walks in nature, long baths, etc. My previous articles describe these tools. I continued my healing sessions with my grief counselor by phone, which was super important at that time because my mom had just died. I wasn’t able to have any of my other healing sessions though. I was scared at first, but then I realized that it was a good opportunity for me to go deeper within and trust my own healing process.
So, here I am now…contemplating what’s next. What can I do to feel JOY? To THRIVE?
What I’ve come to realize is that there is a place between surviving and thriving. It’s called LIVING. First, I have to participate in LIFE. It can take a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. Honestly, it was a struggle getting to the end of Year 3, when I started to feel like I was a part of the world again. I have written articles about these years which are all available on my blog.
Very recently, I'm beginning to feel that I’m experiencing life in the present moment. I’m noticing things, like sprigs on trees and birdsong and grass under my bare feet and how my body feels when I move it and the color of people’s eyes and new flavors and the smell of dog poop on the trail. (It’s not only pleasant things when you’re living in the moment!)
I guess this is what people refer to when they say, “I feel ALIVE!”
Feeling ALIVE means I’m engaging with the world and the people in it, for REALS. Not just acting. It’s rather a strange place to be during a global pandemic, but there are still opportunities to engage, even if it’s just a quick smile while passing someone on the trail. I’m noticing people AND all the beauty everywhere. Being present in every moment is LIVING.
Finding Joy and Thriving
THRIVE - Dictionary.com definition #2: “to grow or develop vigorously; to flourish.”
That sounds good to me!
JOY - Dictionary.com definition #1: "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.”
I’ll take that too, please!
So, what is joy? Is it happiness? Is it contentment? Is it peacefulness? For me joy is that feeling of completeness when I am so passionate and involved in something that I lose track of time. I’ve heard that joy can be found in the simplest pleasures – for example: gardening, cooking, hiking. It seems then that joy is more of an inner state of being, rather than searching for something outside ourselves to complete us. It’s more about going within and finding what brings us joy, contentment, or peace.
Many people find joy in creativity, and conversely, creativity brings joy. I have found throughout my grieving process it’s been difficult to feel creative. It’s like creativity springs from the inner well of contentment and peace, and since I’ve had none of that, I can’t tap into my creative juices. Now that I’m able to live in the present moment more often, I’m beginning to bring in feelings of peace and contentment. I hope this will lead to my inner well filling up and I'll be able to plunge into the depths of great delight that is JOY. I will flourish. I will THRIVE.
Joy is a special emotion. Along with gratitude, joy has an extremely high vibrational frequency. If we could walk around feeling joy and gratitude 24/7, we would be very healthy indeed! The high vibration of these emotions can chase away all dis-ease. Here are 3 articles about vibrational frequencies:
Fortunately, I have felt gratitude for quite a long time now. While my husband was sick, I started a Facebook page in his honor called GratitudeAttitude where I post gratitude quotes. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/expressionsofgratitudeandlove
I feel like achieving the state of THRIVING will naturally lead to higher emotional frequencies. It may be incremental at first, but staying in the present moment and participating in life will naturally lead to being in a higher vibration.
I’ve heard it said that finding one’s true purpose in life also leads to JOY. Prayer and meditation can help guide us to our life's true purpose. Sometimes our purpose is not what we think it might be. For example, I was recently talking with a young woman who had the dream of being a singer. She loves music and spent 10 years in the music industry without her dream being realized. Finally, feeling hopeless, she turned within. What came to her was that she is supposed to help people as a healer or therapist. There is grief in letting go of her dream, but the eventual outcome will bring more joy because she has found her true purpose in life.
When my husband and I were together, doing healing work and other projects, I always felt like I had a purpose. Now, I am on the raft in the ocean, bobbing around with no direction. Survival has been my modus operandi. I pray to my Light Being Team daily to show me my new purpose. I know I want to give and receive love and continue to help others. It can be painful to have no direction after years of feeling safe and secure, but I also understand that safety is an illusion and we are the captains of our own ships. There is power in taking control of one’s own life choices. My prayer is that my new purpose will be revealed soon, and I will be living joyfully - thriving!