Let’s call grief what it really is, PAIN. Pain hurts and our brain wants to protect us from hurt so we start to shut down. Physically, emotionally, socially. There are many downsides to this, the big one being that all of a sudden our life is defined not by the joy, but by the pain. Everything becomes about pain and sadness. No one does this intentionally and if I had not had a lot of training to be super aware of what was happening in my life, I no doubt could jump into that pit of despair and stay there the rest of my life.
I have had so many people say these words, ” I can’t imagine. I would be a wreck. I would be sitting in the corner sucking my thumb. I really don’t know what I would do if I lost one of my children.”
It seems to be a universal fear amongst parents, not only that they would lose someone they love so much, someone who is genetically a part of them, but that they would lose themselves completely in the process of such a devastating loss. After going through it, I can tell you, I felt the same way.
I remember reading about people who had lost their child. People I knew. People who were strong leaders of their families and communities. I knew them BEFORE. I would EXPECT them to shut down. I would watch quietly on the sidelines and think, it would totally be acceptable if they were never the same again. I could understand it. I would even give them permission in my mind. Not that they needed my permission but I wouldn’t attempt to pull them out of it with coaching or pushing too hard. After all, they are in a fragile state and I don’t understand. How could you ever be the same or better after the loss of a child?
I have been in turmoil over the last few months. Not because Phillip died, because I have let myself go, I am starting to lose myself in the process. I had gained a tremendous amount of weight. I quit working out, my diet has completely gone to the wind….adrift with no rudder. My emotions were all over the place and phone calls to friends and vendors who possibly didn’t even know about my loss, went unreturned. I simply did not have the energy. I felt like a pendulum swinging back and forth between sanity and insanity…every time I would get to the middle and start moving to the other side I would pause and think,“YES, this is where I want to live again!” Then I would fall into a heap and cry over a photo, song or thought of Phillip and the pendulum would once again swing the other way.
I have always prided myself on being balanced. Not so much that I WAS balanced at all times, but that I would seek out balance and the tools to achieve it.
I had watched my father slowly build financial wealth and then destroy it with his lack of discipline with money. He did the same with his body, he didn’t take care of himself and all the strong genetics in the world could not keep him alive after the type of abuse he imposed upon himself. Emotionally? Well, he chipped away at his relationships with his jealousy and emotional lack of awareness. None of these were big things in themselves. He could have mastered each of them with focus and work. Yet, he never sought out the tools to do so. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps he didn’t feel worthy.
Don’t get me wrong, my father was highly successful, married 63 years to the same woman, 5 children who adored him and were with him on his death bed, people around the state of Nebraska came to know and love him for who he was….what I am saying is, he suffered. I personally know that suffering is optional. It always is. Suffering is a choice just like joy is a choice.
I have known suffering is optional for some time and I have been working with it for years. Working on training my mind to respond to what I want and not the other way around. My mind is running 24/7 and is constantly telling me to do things that are easy, that require little effort, that are habitual. I have and continue to learn to tame my mind. It is like a lion roaring out of control, doing, going and feeling what it wants. Without the lion tamer, complete wreckage will ensue. I know I can not shut my mind off so I choose to form and tame it. In this situation with Phillip dying, the discipline is to first be aware when I am choosing sadness. Then I shift out of it. I am not saying deny my feelings. I am saying feel them and then switch my mind to another feeling of happiness, joy. I have had people ask me how I do this….the how eludes me. The first step is consciousness. Awareness. Then, I just do it and then I know how. It is different each time. Sometimes I must release the emotions and cry until I am a heap on the floor. Then I get up, brush myself off and shift my thoughts to one of my other children or to my grand daughter. People tend to want the easy, quick fix solution. There isn’t one.Like anything worth having, there is no magic fairy dust, this requires thoughtful, focused work and constant awareness of everything from behaviors to language and the people I choose to hang with and how they support me.
The next time you have something where you feel sad, go ahead, go there….just don’t stay too long. Remember, suffering is optional and so is joy, no one will take away your right to suffer. Shifting is how I will create an amazing life AFTER my son died and if I can do it, you can too!