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Inertia: An object at rest tends to remain at rest!  

Someone I spoke with recently told me they didn’t like the word healing to describe what they were going through and seeking. The word functionality came up in the conversation and the person I was speaking to told me they were much more comfortable using that word, they thought it expressed how they felt much more clearly than healing did. I found myself using that word as well and it has made its way into this discussion as an action word, as something we can use to describe what we are trying to do in our lives.

waves of grief

Conversely, Inertia has been my way of talking about being unable to find the energy to do things, from getting up off the couch or getting dressed or even getting out of bed.  Especially in the early days, weeks and months of our grief, the weight of our grief can be so heavy we are often immobilized by it and find ourselves just sitting and staring or crying or remembering or not thinking at all and any ambition to move seems absent and unavailable to us. With time, I believe we need to make the effort and then learn the skills it takes to overcome the inertia and “get moving” once again as we begin the journey back to living in our new world.

I think maybe retired people, or people who have not been working outside the home for whatever reason may have some greater struggles with this and find it more prevalent in their lives than those who have to go to work the next day but I’m not sure.  I know we all feel it in some way and to some extent, but it seems like when we have the time and “luxury” to stay home especially during our early bereavement, inertia can often get the better of us and staying in a robe all day, not eating, not doing anything but sitting and feeling bad, shitty actually, can become almost a way of life if we let it and don’t have some external reason to get moving and doing.

I’m sure that the restrictions of the new COVID world we are living in have had an impact as well. For months we have often been unable to really go outside our homes very much or gather together in our usual places and if we did get together it was usually very occasional and just with family and close friends. What little incentive we had to get up, get dressed and function as normally as we could was probably reduced or put on hold and in a way, many people were given the time and situation to grieve at home (unfortunately, much of the time alone) but inertia was also there with us to possibly gain a foothold in our lives or even take over or reestablish itself.

Another conversation I had recently that seems to illustrate a fairly extreme version of this concept was with a person who told me they had done essentially nothing for a number of years. They were so weighted down in their grief that they didn’t go anywhere and didn’t do much of anything, just sat and stared in a kind of shocked silence, lost in memory, immobilized by their grief. I met the person at the beginning of their journey out of their “inertia” and the beginning of their journey to be able to want and to start to find functionality again.

The level of inertia we experience is, as with most things, individual. Personality, circumstances, needs, work, available help and many other things seem to affect us each differently. The constant seems to be at least at some level, our grief tends to hold us still and one of the things we need to learn is to overcome that feeling of not wanting to do anything and learn to move forward towards functionality again. Hard or easy, slow or fast, it’s another part of the healing process and the return to functionality that seems to be fairly common across the community of the bereaved.

In my own life, I’m not really sure why but it became one of the most important things I worked on and tried to build during my own early grief times. It became very important for me to find some way to overcome the inertia and gain the energy to take care of myself and the material world things and responsibilities that needed to be done regardless of my not wanting to do them. 

waves of grief

Maybe it was because Andi was such a fighter, she never let her illness or her treatments stop her or even really slow her down much. I think how she behaved was an example of how to get through hard times that I felt I had to and wanted to live up to. See her quote in the image here… Another possibility was that I was alone here in Colorado with no family or even friends available to help me so essentially, it was all on me, all the time.

I ended up first spending hours and days telling myself I needed to get up and do something. Then I spent hours and days, weeks and even months focusing on “get up and do it”. And gradually, things started to happen. My first big step forward was actually making that french toast breakfast I’ve talked about. Not sure exactly how it happened but I know it began by my thinking, “you need to get off your butt and make breakfast. You need to make French Toast just because you need to do it (and not only because it’s good for you and because you like it)”. It was a beginning!

Overcoming the inertia:

Thinkers, Doers and Feelers – Actions and reactions to our grief – starting the return to living.

There seem to be three basic ways to deal with finding the energy and the will to continue to function in the material parts of our lives. Thinkers generally work on problems in their heads. They try to analyze the situation and reason their way to a solution. Doers are generally people who let activity and actions create the structure they need to “get stuff done”. Feelers tend to be tied more to emotions and feelings and letting their intuitive-self guide their way to the same ends. 

And of course, most people are some combination of the three and use all of these ways of moving through the world to help them find the energy and strength to “keep on keepin’ on”. Which are you? Think of some examples of each of them or all of them in your life and of ways to use them to help you overcome your own level of inertia and move forward towards functionality.