Anger, guilt or shame can become lingering emotions felt when losses were troubled by difficult circumstances.
We want a quick fix – one we don’t have to work with. Understanding our emotions can help us find a different response.
In my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, there are two appendixes. In Appendix A, “Complex Grief Emotions,” I offer additional information on how to work through anger, guilt, shame and fear. Here is a quick overview of the first three.
No matter where we are in our grief journey, or how long ago our loved one died, when holidays come, we are reminded of how special they were in our lives.
How can we possibly celebrate the holidays without them?
To help understand what it means to celebrate our loved ones, let me share a personal story.
When my husband and I moved to Washington, it was because we wanted to spend our retirement years enjoying boating in the San Juan Islands. We moved into a community where others also loved cruising, joined their yacht club and spent many happy hours with people who became good friends.
When my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, without a moment’s hesitation, a friend started a list of people who would be willing to take him to his radiation treatments 5 days a week.
We live in an age when information is available 24/7. Just install the right app and push the right button and you have anything and everything you want.
But do we?
We sign up for interesting and exciting courses online thinking when we have completed them, we will be able to bake a cake, take apart a car engine or know the best ways to travel. While all of this is wonderful and exciting, there is one step missing. Application.
Throughout this year, my blog posts have offered information, tools and strategies to meet the everyday challenges of life. But that information is just that – information – until it is used. Until we personally apply the information that can help us, it will simply remain good ideas.
Important people from our childhood have a huge influence on who we become. We are part of a family and culture and we don’t want to lose that.
Sometimes, however, we are faced with tough decisions that go outside those early expectations. Sometimes we feel we cannot follow our own dream or develop the talents we were given without hurting someone.
It is never easy to become the director of your life story.
Yet we need to be truthful and honest with who we are. To do that we need to know and accept ourselves, know what we want and why it is important so we can live honest and meaningful lives.
It isn’t just enough to know what we want and why, but what it will take to achieve that. Anything worthwhile takes time, careful consideration, planning, effort and persistence.
Everything was going wrong that could go wrong that morning.
First, I dropped a contact lens and spent 10 minutes looking for it. Then I received a warning about an unpaid cell phone bill. After my attempt to pay online failed, I hurried into town to pay in person. But the office was closed. I returned home and tried again to pay online and finally after a lot of resets the bill was paid. The morning had been spent frantically trying to resolve problems that seemed to come out of nowhere.
As I fixed myself a late breakfast, I found myself in a funk, frustrated for not being more careful putting in my contacts, angry with technology that seemed to make the simplest things more difficult and at myself for forgetting to pay my bills on time. I had planned on completing some writing projects that morning and instead my time was spent taking care of unexpected emergencies.
We collect a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful “stuff” over time – old habits, old lifestyles and ways of doing things that are counterproductive.
To explore new options and look for new opportunities, you need to let go of what isn’t working and open yourself up to new ideas and discoveries.
For us, it involved ways to travel and meet new people and make new friendships within our time frame and financial budget. It meant being willing to sacrifice when necessary to capture some of those moments.
Within all our travels and opportunities, we met new people, made new friends and experienced the history and cultures of the world. We gained a wealth of experiences that enriched our lives in so many ways.
What situation do you find intolerable or unbearable – job, marriage, family concerns, health, etc.?
Perhaps you are trying to become more flexible as you age, adjusting to life as it is today instead of what used to be.
I listen to the poignant stories of people who are struggling to make ends meet, or overcome the loss of a loved one, or are re-fitting life to meet new health concerns. I include myself in many of these stories. And I tell myself as I tell others:
Nothing will change or get better until we first accept.
People’s first response when I say let go and accept is, “You must be kidding. Accept that my life is falling apart – accept that I have run into another setback?”
Life is going great when bam! The earth quakes and a landslide comes tumbling down, burying everything you had worked so hard on.
And without warning, as if on some internal cue, you are assaulted with doubts and misgivings. Buried under an avalanche, hidden from view, out of sight are all the things you have accomplished. You no longer consider and appreciate all the things you have done and are capable of doing. The rubble is not just life happening, it is a reminder of the bad choices you made and how inadequate you are.
In the blink of an eye, an old and unwanted visitor has just returned.
The voice is loud and clear. “You just won’t learn – you will never amount to anything, no matter how hard you try.”