Grief is fluid. You can’t summon it, it happens to you. You can’t control it.
Trust me, I’ve been trying.
A big part of why I write is to hold myself accountable. If I pose a challenge to others then I am much more apt to rise to the challenge myself. One of the main reasons I’m writing about grief during Covid-19 is so I will commit to grieving myself.
I have been allowing myself to be in denial, to feel angry and even feel a little depressed. I haven’t been trying to suppress my feelings. But the last several days I have found, as soon as I start feeling those big feelings, I respond with judgement. I feel the big feelings.I know what they are. I name them and claim them.
Then I judge them. I judge myself.
It’s as if somewhere along the way I decided it was okay to feel the feelings, but only for a few minutes. After that, they are no longer acceptable.
Let me give you an example. One of my struggles over the last several weeks has been the noise level in my house. I am an extrovert and I receive all of my energy from being around people – but I’m actually not super chatty. When I’m home I love being around people, but I am content sitting in silence. That is not the case for Bryan & Piper. They both have to have music on ALL the time. Piper is extremely loud and Bryan loves to tell me every detail about his day every time he gets a break from work. Bryan has set up his office in our bedroom and we have someone living with us in the basement, so I have nowhere to escape to. Yesterday I was in the middle of writing and all of a sudden everyone decided to take a break from work and school and came down to have lunch. I had just sat down, I had just settled into a moment of silence. All of a sudden it felt like everyone was yelling. Bryan’s stirring felt loud. I could hear Cole’s chewing across the room. Every word Piper said felt like she was screaming it in my ear. I freaked out and started going on and on about how loud everyone was and I just needed a space to myself. I started to cry and ran up to my room (which was free only because Bryan was eating lunch).
I overreacted. I had a big response to a small problem. I responded that way because my anger stemmed from a place of grief. Within moments of ascending into my bedroom, I was mad at myself – I was mad at myself for reacting the way I did. “You know better.” I told myself.
As I spoke those words to myself, I heaped judgement upon my grief.
As I shared this with a friend yesterday, she challenged me to try to respond to my grief and emotions in a different way.
What if you responded to your grief and emotions with curiosity and compassion, not with judgement and shame?
Would that change anything?
Let’s look at the same situation. When I started to feel frustrated, instead of allowing my anger to overcome me and propel me to overact, what if I took a pause instead. What if instead of blowing up – I stepped back and asked myself gently “What’s going on? Why am I feeling this way?” Your tone as you speak to yourself is key here. Just a simple change in your voice inflection can change everything. What if I asked myself those same questions from a place of curiosity and compassion instead of judgement?
I had an opportunity to test it out today.
After lunch today I found myself sinking quickly into funk. I paused and gently asked myself what I needed. I was feeling suffocated, I needed to go for a walk. So before I could begin to spiral downwards, I put my shoes and left for my walk. I listened to a podcast, breathed the fresh air in deeply and when I got home I was ready to move on with my day.
You see the more we try to control grief, the more it will take control of us. It is something that happens TO US and we need to learn how to ride it’s waves with curiosity and compassion – not judgement.
Not only do we need to respond with curiosity and compassion to our grief, we need to embrace its fluid nature. As our grief changes, we need to recognize our need to change our response.
One thing I have realized over the last few days is that in different phases of grief, I need different things. The first couple weeks of staying at home I really needed a schedule. I needed to feel productive. I needed to set goals for myself to meet. But as I enter into the next phases of grief I am realizing that I need different things. I am feeling depressed about our current situation. Because of that, instead of a schedule bringing me joy and purpose, when I have something on the schedule – it is actually really stressful for me. If I make a list of people to contact in the morning, the list looms over me all day and causes anxiety. Last week, if I didn’t have a walk or a call on my schedule, I felt lost and fell apart. But as I move on with my grief journey, my needs are changing – scheduling a call feels completely overwhelming to me right now.
And as I recognize that, I need to respond to those needs with compassion – not judgement. It’s not the time to muster up all the strength I have and gut it out. It’s the time to not only ask myself questions with curiosity and compassion, but respond to myself in kind.
Friends, grief is like the waves on the ocean. As much as we would love to control their current and movement, that is not our job. Our job is to simply ride the waves. Sometimes we will be able to stand and graciously surf the waves. Sometimes we will have to sit, close our eyes and cling to dear life as the waves crash upon the shore. But however we get there, however we land, our job is to pause, wipe ourselves off with compassion and grace and prepare for the next wave to come.
Because there is more,