It has taken me some time to write again because I’ve had to do some reflecting. I want to preface this piece by reminding the reader that everyone grieves differently and when I write on the topic of grief, it is my journey through grief I am referencing. My hope is that I may help others understand their grief better as I continue to learn through my own.
I have discovered that there is a healthy way to grieve and then a not so healthy way to grieve. While we all grieve differently, there is still that one commonality. The presence of good and bad energy and our choice of which we will allow into our grieving process. Picture that angel and devil sitting on your shoulders that you often see depicted in cartoon shows. Our angel leads us to grieve with humility, rationally, and our devil leads us to grieve in an irrational, egotistical manner. We need to be very careful how we choose the energy behind our grief. It is easy to fall into misguided judgement due to a disconnect with our own spirituality and by that, allowing the devil to whisper louder in our ear.
I do need to forgive myself for being human in the sense that I sometimes lose touch with my spirituality. Isn’t that interesting about us humans? We can get so caught up in our flesh that we lose sight of truth so easily and quickly. The bright side to that is the patience God shows for us and we can always go back to connecting our spirit with our body. Our entire being is like an instrument that needs tuning. Not one way of tuning is better than others. The way I tune my instrument is through my faith in Christ. Thusly, I have needed to pray often and remind myself of our true purpose here by listening closely to God’s word and trying to practice wholly in my faith. It’s not easy to do, though. That devil sits patiently on my shoulders, awaiting a moment of weakness and sometimes it is difficult to fight him.
What is this weakness? We live in a world where human beings prefer to molly coddle themselves and others through justification of feelings and actions that really aren’t the healthiest. We think, “Well, we aren’t perfect, so it must be OK to think this way or act this way.” I struggle trying to explain this because I want to do it tactfully, but it can be challenging because there is a fine line between proper justification and improper justification. I mean, have you been keeping up with politics these days? The struggle exists because of that fact. So, I will share an example. This is an issue I’ve had with attitude in my grief. I’ve felt angry and annoyed often because I, perhaps, feel an injustice toward the relationship I shared with my husband if I observe other couples taking each other for granted or being upset with each other for what I feel are ridiculous reasons. I’ve noticed that my ego gets the best of me and I judge those people harshly, thinking it’s somehow my right now to stand in-between them and wag my finger saying, “Oh, you haven’t gone through what I have, so you can’t possibly understand the sacrifice my husband and I made and just how lucky you are right now to even be fighting with your spouse.” Doesn’t that sound obnoxious?! I’ve had to really reflect on this one because while it’s obviously not right to do, people are so quick to justify my stupidity with the excuse that I’m just dealing with my grief this way. No, I’m not. I’m just being grumpy and prideful. So there’s that devil sitting on my shoulder saying, “You’ve been through so much and these people can never understand, so you need to make it known that you’re somehow superior.” After some prayers and reflection, I’m learning what my angel would be telling me. Of course these couples can’t understand what I’ve been through because of the simple fact that they didn’t go through what Chris and I went through, but it doesn’t make me superior in any way. What purpose does being an obnoxious brat serve in my grief? There is no growth in that. I once wrote about how my friend shared an incredibly insightful C.S. Lewis quote with me; “The higher does not stand without the lower.” By letting my pride get to me, I am forgetting the true purpose of serving as the lower in this case. My experience alone won’t help the higher stand, it is humility, compassion, and understanding that will help others. Did Chris and I not fight over petty things when he was alive? Oh yes we did! So, as I remind myself to choose positive energy in my grief, I am more capable of showing compassion and understanding toward the people in my life who may need my input. Therefore, I have learned to not allow people, even though I know they mean well, to molly coddle me by justifying my negative actions, chalking it up to my grief. Yes, it’s my grief, but it isn’t healthy grief. Like I said, there’s no growth in that.
Another thing I have struggled with is the feeling of guilt or fear of judgement if I do anything that could make me joyful, confident, or if I need to hide out and be alone for a while. The thing about that is it’s a very egotistical, disconnected way to think. Nobody else shares in my grief because it’s my grief, so I have learned to be a little more accepting with myself and let go of my fears of what others may be thinking. There isn’t a timeline that everyone must live by in this process. If you feel like you need to lay in bed all day and you have the opportunity to do so, then there is nothing wrong with showing yourself patience and giving in to that need. It’s also very important to know that not being consistently sad is OK too. In fact, it’s healthier. If you need to go out to a bar, drink, dance, and forget about your sorrows, then there should be nothing wrong with that either as long as you stay safe. It doesn’t mean I miss Chris less when I seek joy. It doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t ache when I look at photos of Chris, or when I want to roll over in bed and cuddle into his chest though I can’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry when I hold his things and know he won’t ever touch them again. Seeking joy and confidence again is growth and it does not lessen the loss of your spouse. In fact, it honors them. Once you realize your guilt is irrational, you can seek the joy your spouse would want for you. Christopher would be so upset with me if I didn’t find any joy in life again. In fact, he would be pissed. Before he passed, he would continually try to drive that into my mind. It was in part for his peace of mind knowing that he wouldn’t be the cause of a darkened life for me and also his pure love for me. So, don’t let your ego or irrationality drive your grief. I truly believe we have a greater purpose here and that my husband, though I miss him terribly, is safe with Christ now and waiting for me. I’ll be with him again.
Someone wise once told me that freedom is to serve the other. We can seek freedom from unhealthy grief by doing so. Even in our weakest times and greatest heartbreak, we must remember that we share in all of this as the human experience. We should try to not allow ourselves to crawl back into our own being and hide there from the pain, or think ourselves superior in some way given the conflict and pain we’ve faced that many others haven’t. Instead, we need to open up and serve others, use our pain as a driving force, because with all the bad does come wisdom and that is the silver lining. I now strive to live my best life, in honor of my husband, by serving others with the means that I do have, humility, and the wisdom I have gained through this experience. Also, by accepting what cannot be changed and learning to work positively in every aspect of my life.
Listen to your angel.