Taking Control of our (new) Lives..
For many of us, the beginning of our grief journey happens in a fog. The early days, weeks and months especially, are times when our grief is in control of our lives and we are just being pushed from moment to moment and thing to thing with little or no thought or control of our own. For some, its the whole first year that is a blur but no matter how long that lasts, as time passes, and our grief begins to become less demanding, we are eventually faced with the equally daunting task of taking control of our lives back into our hands, making (good) decisions and charting new directions.
Picking up the pieces, taking on the tasks:
Finding continuity is often a problem but within our grief fogged brains, it sometimes seems or becomes almost impossible. The same is true for beginning to do the normal tasks that define our lives. At some point, which is different for each of us, we will have to start putting a life together that includes all these everyday things. We need to find food and bathe, we need to keep our personal space at least relatively clean, do laundry, we may need to take care of a pet or a child. Picking up these pieces of our lives takes concentration at a time when we have so little of it to devote to these things and when even their importance can be very questionable.
What was shared is now yours to find a way to do without the help and support of your spouse:
Not only do we have to do the tasks we usually did during our marriage but we now have the (seemingly) impossible task of doing all the things our spouse or parter did as well. What was once a two person life still contains most of the same things, needs and responsibilities but now it’s all on us to not just do it all but in many cases to have to start from scratch and learn how to do the task in the first place.
One thing I have learned is to find good help when you are up against things you don’t know or know how to do. If it’s possible to get help or recommendations from friends and neighbors or if your neighborhood maintains a list of qualified and vetted service people, it is always good to check those resources and at least the first time, you may need to hire someone and then watch and pay attention and ask questions so you can duplicate the task in the future especially if it’s a normal routine task like starting the lawnmower or turning on the sprinklers or cooking a turkey or doing the taxes… There seems like an endless list of things we shared during our relationships, that we tasked out between us and now we are left to do them all. It can seem and actually be quite daunting looking at it through grief blurred eyes and minds.
What to leave in, what to leave out:
At some point we all need to make decisions about what we want to retain and what we need to let go of from our old lives as we build our new ones. The tendency for many, including myself, is to hoard every little thing that reminds us of our loved ones and keep them pretty much exactly as they had always been. This goes for both material items and the way our living spaces are arranged to how we navigate through our lives and the things we do, the way we do them and sometimes even the order we do them in. These can become “sacred practices” that we do to hold and retain as much as we can of our loved ones. Any deviation seems like a betrayal and a letting go that early on is close to impossible.
But there may be and usually will be a need at some point to let some of it go, to “clean house” and change some things to lighten the load, to emotionally and physically down size so the actual daily burden of things gradually or sometimes abruptly is reduced so it becomes more accessible to us and we can find ways to do the things we are responsible for alone now that there is only one person available to take on all the tasks. Remember, it always needs to be your decision what to do and when to do it. No one else knows your emotional needs and so they are your choices to make only when you are comfortable making them.