Learning to Become More
Grief can make you feel less but it can also become an opportunity for you to become more.
While our grief is one of the most painful and disorienting times in our lives because we have had all of our certainties and sure of’s thrown to the wind, as we try to rebuild, we also have the opportunity to work on things, to perhaps become better people. We have the opportunity to take more time “working on ourselves” than we have ever been able to do or wanted to do before.
As we begin to turn towards hope, healing and wellness, our grief journeys can also become a time to learn and to grow. In a similar way, we can work to learn to find ways to look at the memories of our loved ones and our lives together without the filter of our grief coloring everything and remember and celebrate our lives as they were (Grief to Gold).
The empty moments, the time we no longer fill being with our spouses or partners can seem to diminish us but it can also be a gift, once we are ready, that we can use to grow in, to learn in, to change in and especially to find ways to honor our loved ones by becoming more.
Let’s look at some possibilities and ways to think about what we can do to grow as we begin the reconstruction process.
Mental, social and spiritual gardening:
A wonderful idea I got from the Carlos Santana autobiography “The Universal Tone” is that of “spiritual gardening”. This is the idea of working on ourselves, of growing spiritually and emotionally as well as intellectually and taking the time to “pull the weeds, to fertilize and water” new ideas, skills and emotions and to find ways to use our bereavement as a tool for improving our lives and ourselves.
So, can our grief journeys also become a time when we decide to open the door to change in our lives and if we want to, a time to examine ourselves and decide what we want to do or be next? We have the time!
In the empty spaces of our grief, while we can’t replace what is no longer there, maybe we can fill those spaces with soil, fertilize them and water them and where the garden of our love grew, we can grow a new garden, a different one, not a replacement but one that is still full of love and honor and memory as well as growth, healing and life.
Can we also pull some weeds from our own garden of self, water and fertilize here too and find new things to grow in our social, mental and emotional life to help make us better people and to help us to grow and live again?
Learning anything helps you focus and grow:
It is very important to keep ourselves mentally healthy and mentally active as we grow older, but unfortunately, grief can add a stagnation to our thinking and our growth. As we’ve talked about before, grief can put our thoughts in a furrow and a circle of repetitive thinking and remembering full of “what if’s” that can get deeper and the ruts can become more difficult to get out of the longer it goes on and the older we become.
In some ways, a time of learning can actually help to make our thinking more clear, possibly more clear than it’s been in a long time. We may actually become more able to learn, and by learning new things, rejuvenate our thinking and our ability to continue to grow and expand our understanding and our lives. It can be a critical part of moving us towards healing and finding ways to create the next part of our lives in ‘the wake of the flood.”
This is a line from a novel but it also applies to our grief journeys: “Once you stop learning, your life becomes so much less than it could be.” (Life long learning)
How might it work within our grief:
Learning anything requires our full focus and attention. Our focus while trying to learn new things helps us to learn to concentrate again, to grow and keep our minds active and it takes us out of our grief for those parts of a day spent in the learning process.
A related idea to consider is that one pointedness, the total focus on a task, is a form of meditation. It is a calming and elevating experience. If you are totally focused, as you are when you are actively learning something, you are also totally present, you are totally in the moment.
We often talk about this idea as mindfulness and especially in a grief situation, our focus on a task puts us in the present and not in the past. During the time we are focusing our minds, hands, eyes and ears on a task, we are not actively grieving, we are totally present and for that time, leave our grief behind.
Of course, grief comes back. We go back to it when we stop focusing, but the relief, the time away from active grief is potentially a time of healing and growth. It is also a very powerful way to keep our minds active, to keep them flexible and not let them atrophy.
Some new things to try: volunteering/helping others, learning a language, learning a new skill, learning how to build a web page, starting a blog, learning an instrument or how to sing, learning to cook, learning a craft or starting a collection, writing, journaling, reading new types of books, taking a class in something, start hiking, kayaking, skiing or swimming, learn some skill that your spouse or partner used to do or be responsible for doing! Others??
Re-finding old hobbies:
Besides finding something new to learn, re-finding old hobbies, skills and abilities is another important learning experience we can explore. Since there is now a huge amount of time in our lives, we need to fill that time with things to do once we begin to overcome our early inertia and actually want to get up and do stuff.
We may have to spend a lot of time soul searching and self-questioning while trying to find things we might like to do, while remembering what we had enjoyed earlier in our lives that we might bring back into it and enjoy doing now.
Spending hours a day focused and one pointed on doing something you enjoy and can get lost in can become a very important part of growing towards hope, healing and wellness.
You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Hope and Healing:
Sometimes it takes years to make these changes, but it is our intent to change, our will to do the work and our willingness to spend the time to bring these changes into being in our lives that makes them important. It is often only in looking back at what we’ve done that we can see the magnitude of our success!
Finding hope and healing and moving to wellness is never going to be easy. It takes time and effort to learn and grow and make something new out of our often shattered lives. If we are kind to ourselves (self compassion) and we help each other and encourage and support each other, we can make the journey at least a little easier by telling our stories, sharing our grief and knowing that we are not alone, others are and have been there too.
- What types of things might we do to become more?
- What things can we focus on or work on that might be places for growth and learning?
- What can you think of that you might do to fill the time you now have available that you might not have been able to do earlier in your life?
- How might you honor your loved one with new or expanded things you do as you build your new life?
- Are there some hobbies or things you stopped doing over the years that might be interesting or fun to reintroduce into your lives?
- What can you think of to learn now that you might not have had the time to do in the past?
- What new or interesting things might you want to explore in the time you have available now, perhaps something you always wanted to do that you never got the chance to try?