It was a morning just like any other. I sat drinking coffee at my kitchen table, watching my neighborhood come to life outside my window. The tall slender man across the street was taking his two dogs out for their morning walk; the neighborhood biking couple outfitted with helmets, biking shorts and shirts, pedaled down the street; my next door neighbor sleepily stepped out her front door, coffee cup in hand, wrapped in her bath robe, to retrieve her morning newspaper. Yep, just another usual day in the neighborhood. But, nothing was usual on the inside of my window.
Kim left five months ago and apparently I left that day too. Most days I have no idea where to put my foot next. When I look in the mirror I don’t even recognize myself. Never mind trying to remember anything. What remains is a body without a soul, a hole where my heart used to be, chaos where my thoughts and emotions used to provide order. This must be what crazy feels like.
If you can relate to these feelings then know that “crazy” is exactly the right feeling. Of course not in the clinical sense but certainly in the figurative. In fact in the world of grief crazy is what keeps you from going insane. Come take a closer look with me.
When we choose to love someone we “bond” with them. To bond means to become one. That bonding begins a process of assimilating that person (or place or thing) into our overall sense of self – our identity. This process of identity geniuses takes place over many months and years. We become comfortable and familiar with the actions, activities and dynamics that make up a relationship. It stands to reason that when that relationship is altered, we are altered. When that relationship dies – we die with it or our sense of self does. Leaving us feeling empty, lost, naked, vulnerable, ashamed, guilty, fearful and sad. This is the source of grief.
Grief is often referred to as the emotions released upon a loss. In reality, the emotions are the by products of grief. Much like exercise. The by products of exercise are shortness of breathe, perspiration, and muscle fatigue. The actual source of these by products are the stretching and tearing of muscle tissue as it changes. So it is with grief. The tears, sadness, fear, anxiety, confusion, disorganization are all by products of the stretching and tearing of our sense of who we were. Knowing this is useful in creating realistic expectation for ourselves and setting up some concrete tools to work with your grief.
For example, if it takes months and years to create an identity expect the same in letting go of the former one and setting up a new one following your divorce. This will allow yourself to be patient with yourself knowing you will be working with your losses and gains for many months. Finally, how do you work with grief?
Here are three simple questions to journal. Spend 15 minutes a day thinking these questions over.
- What have I gained or lost?
- How do I feel about his gain or loss?
- Who am I now because of this gain or loss? By doing this small exercise, daily, you are helping yourself reorganize and make meaning out of the craziness.
A long time ago a college professor of mine once said to me, “ When you are most uncomfortable you are about to learn something”. So it is with grief. As uncomfortable as it is to feel the loss of self know that you are learning about yourself; perhaps for the first time in your life. By taking the time to learn who you are now you will be better equipped to know what and who you will need as you establish a new life for yourself.
You are changing, be patient…stay strong.
By: Brenda J. DeMotte, MSW, LICSW
Professional Counseling & Grief Services, Inc.
13027 Garvin Brook Lane
Apple Valley, MN 55124