I know that I have absolutely no choice about the path I must walk in grief. I also understand that I do have a choice in how I cope with my grief, and how I adapt to the loss. Many cope by being “loss-oriented” in their style of grief. The loss defines them. It took me a while in my mourning process to select the good style of grief, which is “restoration-oriented.” This type of grief focuses on the loss of Peter, but allows me to rebuild my life. I continue to have moments of sadness and “grief bursts,” but I am working hard at establishing new habits to reduce the power of sadness, so that it no longer overwhelms me. I am choosing to take charge of my life, integrate my lost love into my heart, and move forward to find my new restored existence.
I decided to put this theory into practice. I set up a sheet listing the loss-oriented items on the left side of my paper, and the restoration-oriented ones on the right. On the left, I listed my yearning for Peter, my sadness at looking at his picture, my memories of our life together, my sorrow at not having a partner with whom to laugh, my loneliness, my lack of a husband to help when my meniscus is torn (damn!), and my empty and slightly hamstrung heart. This is the part of grief work that I call the heavy-lifting.
Then on the right side of the paper, I listed the restoration-oriented ideas that help me to move on with my life. and distract me until I can fully cope with my loss. My writing is my savior and a total boost forward in my process. Setting up a website to invite other widows and widowers to talk is a great distractor. My grandkids, period! Cooking a dinner for friends; watching a funny movie (yes, even Bridget Jones Baby made me laugh a little); watching the Acorn TV series A Place to Call Home; walking with a girlfriend; talking to my pals who keep me buoyed with their friendship; popcorn and chocolate ice cream; and finding strength in the fact that I can take care of the finances by myself!
I am sure that a new life will start for me when:
· I will develop new skills, interests, and abilities; as long as it is NOT playing Mah Jongg!
· I will learn to cook beautiful dinners for me, myself, and I.
· I realize that grief is individual and I can choose to go on this journey on my own time table, in my own style, and with the use of humor as a tool. A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says “why the long face?”
· I give myself permission to heal my wounds of grief in a positive fashion. I will try to be positive and cheerlead myself to get through grief.
· I will believe that failure is a form of learning and not get down on myself for “grief bursts.” Self-compassion, Laurie, self-compassion!
· I will be grateful for the love I had, even though I am mourning it deeply. I will try to imagine nostalgia as sweet, and focus not on my deprivation, but on how good it was when our love was alive.
· I will laud my anger for the temporary insanity it brings.
· I will be thankful for the grief that won’t go away, and my fear that it will, and the void that might swallow me up.
· I will appreciate the legacy of kindness that Peter instilled in Nick and now my grandchildren.
· I will celebrate small successes as if they were grand successes.
· I will value living in the now as a precious gift.
· I will refuse to see myself as a victim.
· I will finally fully fathom that Peter would insist that I enjoy the rest of my life.
If I think of the word widow as one letter shy of window, I can look outward through the window of my widow’s soul and move forward into the light again.