There comes a time in the grief journey when grieving becomes almost comfortable. It's familiar, it's daily, it's a loyal companion. For some, it may be a subtle way of getting desired attention, extra space, kindnesses or pity. Grief seems to take on a personality of it's own and becomes jealous and greedy of your healing - so much so that it threatens to become your identity instead of just your process. In a strange turn of events, grief can become a deceptive, clingy, over-friendly enemy. Recognizing and confronting this comfortableness at the time that is right for you is crucial to ongoing healing.
While everyone's grief experience is unique, for me I started to become aware of this certain comfortableness through two feelings I had not had for a very long time: occasional boredom and restlessness. Subtle tensions began to arise between the desire to protect myself from any external energy drainers outside of grief and some actual thoughts of wanting to do more. Because of my flexible work, my overwhelmingly understanding co-workers and a little bit of prior experience with grief, I gave myself a lot of permission to grieve. I am still in process but I can honestly say that I have been proactive with the counsel given to me. So when these prickings of the heart and mind began to come, they were strange and not entirely welcome.
I began to have a series of thoughts in certain opposition to each other like:
"Have I been giving myself too much permission to grieve?" "What if I start doing more and it is too anxiety-producing?" "What if I don't have the capacity for more?" "How much is just right?" "What have I been doing with my life?!" "I don't want to do the wrong things before who I know who I'm supposed to be!" "Who AM I supposed to be?" "Does this mean I am forgetting her?"
It wasn't until I started paying more attention to the significance of these things and seeing the guilt and confusion for what it was: growing pains - that I could begin to move forward again. I am beginning to acknowledge that I feel out of practice at being busy & productive and am not at all sure I want to go back there. I long to do things from a deeper place and this whole experience has changed some of my priorities. Some days I feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of all the catching up I have to do - relationally, professionally, physically, personally. So many things have been put on hold since Jenna´s illness and death. There are so many things I have not done - let alone done well - in these last 2 years. How will I ever catch up?
Like all fears that immobilize us, how will I know if I don´t try? I sense it´s time to step out on some things, to begin to experiment with my energy level and capacity for people, activity & work. The work I have done on a limited basis has sometimes been exhausting but for the most part I'm happy that they have been almost all successful even if they were short-term.
I don´t regret the choices I've made thus far. It has had to be this way in order for me to do my most important jobs: grieve and help my family. I have a friend who also lost a daughter unexpectedly in her early 20´s who says, ¨Grieving is a full-time job; everything else you do is overtime!¨ Who knows where I would be if I hadn´t fully given myself to the task? I could be ahead in a lot of other things and a mess inside.
Committing to long term projects is scary...there are many what ifs in my mind taunting me. What if I fall back into a dark time and lose my strength? What if I fall apart at some important presentation? What if I commit to a trip and then find myself miserable? What if I commit to something six months away and my kids are in crisis? Then again, don't we all face what ifs in life? Are mine really that different?
These growing pains have got my attention. I know this for sure: I do NOT want to hold onto grief just because it is familiar! It must be in its proper place and serve its rightful task. I pray for discernment and strength as I walk forward into the future that looks so very different now...