When I find myself down for days, I know I need a project or something to distract me. A goal, a craft, something to pour my energy into. This can go on for days or weeks, sometimes working through meals and long past the hours when I should be sleeping. The tricky part is this can lead to insomnia, and many in loss of any kind, battle with it.
I talk to others going through this process of living with loss, some years further out than myself, and many threw themselves into work or a huge life change to give them something, anything else to focus on. The difficulty they then found was at some point they had to stop going a 100 mph as the wall of loss hit them like a tsunami wave. Some people are unable to work the same career any longer after a tragedy.
I didn’t understand at first the, “wait two years before changing careers,” advice of loss. At times I have hated everything about the place I work, and I would say 75% of people in my type of grief, also hated their jobs and everything about it. After some serious inner perspective, I realized this really is more about projection, a place to direct the anger of the loss of control of my environment. Sure there were things I didn’t like about my place of work, but another grief mama and dear friend so sweetly pointed out to me, these were the people that understood my good days and my bad days, the people that knew who I was and what I am capable of, they know my leadership skills and why I stepped down from most of my positions, they also knew I would come back to it when I was ready.
In some ways, I had wished I had found the ability to take a long sabbatical, but I think I may have never gone back to work if I had. The other side of the pendulum isolation. I also completely understand this. The truth is it takes so much energy to be social, especially now idle chit chat seems pointless. I have always been someone the would rather just be real with people. It is probably why I tend to hang out with people that are the same way. Even before the loss, I wasn’s someone that would go out of my way to meet people of importance to my career, social status, or my children’s social status. Even growing up I was more of a tomboy, happier to hang and play cards with the guys or have one or two girlfriends I had known since elementary school, sit up all night with me and watch the sun come up over our sleepy town.
Many people struggling with loss just don’t have the energy for any of that anymore, the problem happens when this becomes so much easier. It is similar to depression in that it’s easier to stay in your comfort zones where your cat and dog can snuggle up to you and no one cares if you watch movies all day in your bathrobe. The tricky part is, after a while, getting up and out becomes harder and less appealing. If we are lucky enough, we have friends that come around to drag us up and out, the ones that don’t care how much we talk or what we talk about.
This is called the balancing act of Loss. Too much distraction all the time is unhealthy for us and sooner or later the tidal wave comes at us and we can’t get back up. Too little engagement in the outside world and we can stay incapacitated to the point of also not getting back up. It’s finding the ability to do things that have meaning and putting some energy into those things, while still giving ourselves permission to sit in the quiet spaces.
Recently I took my girls camping. It is something we have done every year since the girls were little. It almost didn’t happen due to sports and other complications. I was determined to go even though It took a lot of energy to make it happen. While we were camping I had the ability to reflect on camping trips past, the games we played, the food we made. As I reached into my daughter who passed favorite game, Bananagrams, a bag of probably 200 letters, I pulled out four squares. They happened to be my daughter’s initials M.M.V. with an A. @MMV is teen lingo for tagging someone. I don’t think it was random and my oldest daughter watched me do it and stated, “I sometimes think you make this stuff up, but I just watched that happen!” Of course, I came home and was physically and mentally exhausted, after all the distraction and effort, I need a day of serious downtime.
The balancing act doesn’t end after 18 months I’ve found. I kept thinking I would hit some magical date and everything would be back to somewhat normal. I have decided to stop looking for the day when something doesn’t make my eyes tear up, this is just who I am. I give myself permission to be sad sometimes, to feel the moment, the memory, to be mindful of it and acknowledge it.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell some of my acquaintances, (maybe they will read this) Don’t stop asking if I would like to do things. I know I said no for over a year to most of the lunches, coffee dates and glass of wine offers. There might be times I am not up for it still, but there might be times that I am. People isolate for many reasons besides loss, keep asking, keep calling, keep coming over with your hard lemonade, ice tea or PBR and sitting on the porch. When the cards are put away, and the tissues have been put back in the cabinet, the casserole dishes have been returned from whatever life event we had, we could still use the company once in a while, hopefully, now we will actually accept it.