Twelve years have passed since the death of my first husband.
My life now is beautiful. I am remarried to a man who swam next to me through my ocean of sorrow and helped me breathe again. We made a home together. We have three sweet dogs. I have a rewarding job and a "Dr." in front of my name. I have everything I need and everything I want.
How did I emerge from the abyss and learn to flourish again?
It took a long, long time. The grief was so crushing that I was often surprised to be alive. Here is what was an accomplishment in the early days:
Taking my medication
Remembering to eat
We can forget to be kind to ourselves after a loss, yet this is one of the most important things to do.
When we restrict feeling the hardship and going through the emotions, we actually prolong the grief. By pushing it down, we never really allow it to flow through and out.
Self-compassion can mean allowing yourself to not be at your normal level of energy or performance.
As the months went on, my achievements expanded to:
Getting on a bus and getting off at the right stop
Going back to my first out-of-college job, part-time
My general state of being was rageful and despondent. However, with time, I found that I could hold other emotions. I could be mournful, yet still laugh. I could be heartbroken and find ways to soothe the ache. Here is what comforted me:
Time limitations: While I felt sad most of the time, I allotted myself an hour per day of all-out crying. Anything beyond that was debilitating.
Social support: My friends and family cocooned me. I let them.
Caring about something bigger: Sometimes this meant creating something from scratch (cooking, baking, writing), sometimes it meant spending time in nature. Sometimes this meant being there for another in their grief without saying a word. Getting out of my own head cleared room to see a larger world.
Years kept going by. There was more and more space between the sorrow. Contentment became easier to sustain. Small goals turned into larger dreams. Happiness started to surface. Life was waiting.
"Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting." - Cormac McCarthy