Friday, December 24, 2010

Grief: Some Ideas That MIght Help

My sleeping and eating are way off.  My dreams aren't so great.  When Artie was alive and I had a bad dream he would always wake me up and hold me - or let me wake him up.  He never minded.  He had bad dreams too and I would comfort him.  The worst thing about his death is that it's not a dream I can wake up from.

But - I have seen posts and heard from people who are grieving and having a merry and joyous holiday anyway - so it is possible.  Here are some ideas that might help.

I have said in a couple of other posts that the brain reacts to questions better than statements.  There is also something called an anchor.  Things are just things.  Artie's Yankee jacket that I wear constantly because to me it feels like he is hugging me is only a piece of material.  I have invested it with meaning.  While you are asking your questions have something small that you can carry with you that will be an anchor for you.  It can be a small picutre of you and your loved one that has died or a ring or a coin or even something you do.  For example touching your thumb to your middle finger can be an anchor.  Whenever you succeed in feeling something that feels good hold on to or create your anchor. When you touch or recreate your anchor later it will help put you back in the good memories and feelings you have gotten by asking your questions.

If you don't have real experiences - you have an imagination.  You can make it up.  Here are an example of some questions to ask before you go to a holiday event - if you are going to be alone - or any time.  What holiday memory made me happy?  Why did it make me happy?  How did I feel?  What holiday time made me laugh?  Why did it make me laugh?  How did I feel?  What holiday memory made me feel love?  Why did it make me feel love?  How did I feel?  Use anything - it doesn't have to be my words.  Make it specific to the person who has died if you want.  When Artie and I were dating he told me he hated holidays and we weren't going to celebrate Christmas. When I got to his condo he had a tree decorated, had made me a handmade card, bought me a VHS tape (yeah - it was a long time ago) of It's a Wonderful Life.   I was surprised and happy and felt that he had taken all these actions just because he loved me.  It made me feel very cared for and loved and happy.  I can let that memory surround me while I am holding a small picture of him and think how good I felt that day.  Then when I start to feel sad or alone I can touch the picutre and feel the happiness and the love.  It is like putting on a superhero cloak before you go out - or if you stay in.  Grief warriors are superheroes!  Be as specific as you can in the memory.  What were the sounds; the smells, what did you hear and see and feel?  It doesn't need to be one memory - it can be many.

We have an imagination.  I had a mother who was very critical.  For her I would have to make up a memory - I think.  I haven't tried.  It's also okay to imagine what it would feel like to have a perfect holiday this year.  What would be a perfect holiday this year?  Why would it be perfect?  How would I feel?  A perfect holiday this year for me would be be simply if Artie walked in the door and said, "I'm back.  I knew how much you missed me so here I am."  That would make it perfect because I wouldn't miss him any more or feel so definitely alone.  I would feel safety and comfort and incredible joy.  I can bathe in - surrround myself with - put on like a suit - whatever works for you - those feelings. The situation might be imaginary but the feelings it creates are real. Then I touch my anchor and get those feelings back.  Practice haviing those feelings the way you would practice playing a musical instrument.  You might have a gift and this will be your gift but it might be a package you have to open carefully and more than once before you get the full joy of it.  You don't have to believe in it.  You don't have think it will work.  You only have to try it as an experiment. 

If you are somewhere and feeling sad - you can look around for things that make you smile. That's the changing the focus thing.  I'm focusing on how miserable I am.  Look - there's a beautiful store window.  What's in it? Look at that and that and that.  I'm sad I can't share it with Artie.  Look - there's someone wearing a funny hat - whatever made them pick it?  Feel the feeling - don't hold on to it - look around to see what other things you see.

A Buddhist technique that works is to look around the room or at people outside and without speaking say to each person specifically, "May you be peaceful.  May you be happy." You can look at yourself in the mirror and say "May I be peacful.  May I be happy."

Where - you might ask - is the Stop Thief: Don't Steal My Grief desperately lonely sad banging her drum for feeling your feelings lady ?  Right here.  I don't want to feel any of this unless it is real.  I don't want to put on a brave face or pretend. Sometimes no matter what technique I am using - up comes sadness - up comes despair - up comes a feeling of total aloneness.  I feel it.  I honor it.  It is a testament to how much I loved and love.  There is another technique.  That is setting aside grieving time.  Every day from 10-11 pm or 5-6 am or whatever time works in your life you will spend that time grieving and remembering and thinking of nothing but the person (or people) you love who have moved on to wherever they are now.  Then at other times during the day when grief strikes you can say - I'm going to save this feeling and feel it during the time I've allotted for it in my life.

Do I do all this stuff?  Sometimes. Does it work?  I think it would work better if I did it more. Sometimes maybe the grief will be so strong it won't work at all. But if it works even a little then I can be more me.  I used to curl up under the quilt we slept under and say to Artie, "It doesn't matter that I looked happy today.  I still want you to take me with you.  I want to die and be with you."  When I started this work I said to him, "Is it okay for me to be happy while I have to wait to join you?"  I wanted to ask his permission.  I don't really honor him by being completely miserable.  We used to joke that if he died I should throw myself on his funeral pyre but crematoriums don't offer a two for one policy  - especially when one person is still alive!   I think he would want me to remember him, and love him and maybe be a tiny bit miserable!   But I also know that it causes his spirit pain to see how much pain I am in all the time.  He didn't want me to suffer when he was alive - why would he want me to suffer when he is dead?

All of this is part of my figuring out how to weave my grief into my life instead of letting it dominate my life.  I don't know if I'll be on the computer tomorrow.  Christmas Day this year for me is a day of listening to hypnosis tapes that were made for me or that have names like Ferocious Resolve, Hurdling Hesitation, Softening, Comfort. It is a day to ask and answer good questions.  It is a day for me to spend with Artie.  Home for me was never a place.  It was a person.  It's not time for me to come home to him yet. I don't get to decide when that time is.  I have a daughter and friends who I would destroy if I killed myself.  My work here would be unfinished.  I have to figure out how to come home to myself.  I have a large picture of him on my desk with a note he wrote that says "You're my everything."  We were each other's everything.  I'm still stuck down here on earth - I don't know if he's waiting for me - and with me - but I believe he is.  Why not believe it?  He can't be my everything right now or I will continue to drown in my own tears.  I will be with him soon enough (I hope I hope I hope) - 10 or 20 earth years seems like forever - in terms of the eternity we can tumble through together it is the snap of a finger.

What I wish for you this holiday season is what I have wished before - that you accept and love yourself where you are and that others do the same.  I also wish for you - and for me - that we find ways to honor and remember those we love who have died by letting them hear the sound of our laughter that comes from our heart because their love gives us joy big enough and strong enough to overcome our despair.  I wish for you that when you take the time to cry it is cleansing and freeing.  On the other hand, if all you can do is stay in bed and stare at the wall - that is where you are.  Each of us has our own burden and our own way of coping.  It's not for me - or anyone who doesn't get it - to judge.  Put on your invisible superhero cloaks and be grief warriors.  You all are very brave with each breath you take.  I love you Artie.  I wish you could come back.  I know you can't - but your love is still holding me - and I promise to work on that malcontent thing you always said I had.  xo

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