Structure to help us return to functionality:
Routines and Rituals: establishing structure with linear patterns and when to become less structured and more non-linear in the day to day parts of life.
Using guide words, making lists and/or putting tasks on a calendar are good ways to began to create routines and rituals and having learned to use them to help me navigate the early part of my bereavement, I still live off my calendar every day to make sure things get done and get done when they need to.
A routine is something you do the same way, in the same order time after time to accomplish the same outcome. I started by making french toast every Sunday morning. Then I created a linear pattern for my mornings in general of getting up, taking a shower, doing a little yoga, getting dressed and having breakfast each day that was very locked in. I did the same things in the same order and the same way day after day partly to make sure I did each part of it but also the linearity and repetition made sure that I had a pattern that allowed me to include all I needed to do to get through that part of my day. From there, I built my life back to functionality one task at a time, one routine at a time until I was able to function through the entire day.
A ritual is the mental/spiritual equivalent of a routine. It’s the thoughts and feelings you repeat in the same way each day or every time the same situation occurs. Every night, the last thing I do is to stand in front of Andi’s picture and talk to her before I go to bed and then I send good energy and thoughts to all our family and friends.
Once I made a ritual or routine happen once, I remember trying to use the same thoughts, actions and energy on each thing that came up that I didn’t want to do or was doing badly and once I began to move with purpose again, I began to establish routines and rituals to guide me through every part of my days and replace my inertia and the patterns of my old life that no longer applied with new patterns; the rituals and routines that became my way of getting through each day and each task that came before me.
After about three and a half years, (again, different for each of us) I slowly began to start relaxing some of those tightly held routines and allowing myself to become more non-linear in my actions. I began to be able to trust that I was thinking clearly enough that I could get things done no matter what order I put them in and began to see that as long as stuff got done, I could start to do it in any order and not be so rigid in my actions. I’ve begun to trust that I will intuitively (and with the help of my calendar) come to do all I need to do and don’t have to so carefully and completely lay out every detail of the path first. I can be more “improvisational” about my life now that I know I have mostly mastered the ability to function most of the time and mostly don’t slip back into inertia and debilitating grief. Some days I’m still a “space cadet” but I now have learned to trust that tomorrow will be different and when I need them, the habits of my routines will kick in and see me through.
Using guide words or phrases to help build routines or rituals:
Using specific words or phrases that you can repeat over and over can help you to focus on things you want to accomplish and to build the habit patterns of routines and rituals in your mind and your actions. Some simple example are: I will…, I won’t…, ie. I will make breakfast, I will clean the house. I won’t sit on the couch all day and eat junk food. I won’t have just one more drink. Can you think of more complex examples?
An example from my own journey was when early in the journey, I was kind of not being very careful what I was doing and I was moving way too fast through the tasks that I was able to do. I was bumping into things, dropping things and came close to hurting myself with a knife or tool a number of times. I developed the phrase, Move slowly and gently through your life and each time I found myself moving too fast, I would recite that phrase until it reminded me to slow down and pay attention to what I was doing. After a time, I made paying attention and moving slowly a routine in my actions as well and was able to slowly stop using the guide words as often.
Once you make a portion of a ritual or routine happen once, you can use the same underlying structure of thoughts, actions and energy on each thing that comes up and eventually, if you need to, establish routines and rituals to guide you through every part of your days and replace your inertia and the old patterns of your life that may no longer be working or applicable with new patterns; the rituals and routines that become your way of getting through each day and each task that comes before you.
After time passes, (again, it’s different for each of us) it is possible to slowly begin to start relaxing some of those tightly held routines and allow yourself to become more non-linear. When you begin to be able to trust that you are thinking clearly enough to get things done no matter what order you put them in and began to see that as long as stuff gets done, you can do them in any order, you do not have to be so rigid in your actions. At some point you won’t have to so carefully and completely lay out every detail of the path first. You can be more “improvisational” about your life if you want to be once you know you wont slip back into inertia and a debilitating level of grief.