Monday, January 2, 2023

New Year Resolutions for The Bereaved

Nothing relieves and ventilates the mind like a resolution. ~ John Burroughs

A reader writes: It has been 10 weeks now since my husband died, and I’m noticing that I cannot concentrate on things like I used to. I just daydream so much about him – good things and bad. Also my memory is not so good lately which surprises me. I just write down a to-do list for myself often so that my life won’t completely fall apart. I can’t seem to decide on what to do a lot of the time, and I change my mind so much that I don’t want to promise people anything.

For instance sometimes I fell I need a new apartment immediately, then I think that is not so urgent at all. Since his death I hurried up and got my driver’s license and told everyone that I was getting a car; now I feel like I should wait because taking the train isn’t so bad. My concern now is whether or not I’m really ready to go back to school next term. I love taking college classes but I need to be able to concentrate and focus in order to do well. If I haven’t gotten it together by then, I may have to postpone classes again until the following term. I guess I’m worried what my coworkers will say – because they feel like I spend too much time at home anyway. They have been advising me to go back to school now and if I don’t go I don’t want to see that disapproving look on their faces. I know that the truth is that I gotta do what is best for me right now—even if that means doing nothing.

My response: It seems to me that in the last sentence of your message you’ve answered your own question: The truth is, you must do whatever is best for you right now. There simply is no right or wrong way to do the work of grieving, and there is no timetable for it. 

Your message reminded me of the following piece that I’d like to share with you (and with anyone else who may be reading this) as I think it could have been written just for you:

I Hereby Resolve:

•That I will grieve as much and for as long as I feel like grieving and that I will not let others put a time-table on my grief.

•That I will grieve in whatever way I feel like grieving, and I will ignore those who try to tell me what I should or should not be feeling and how I should or should not be behaving.

•That I will cry whenever I feel like crying, and that I will not hold back my tears just because someone else feels I should be “brave” or “getting better” or “healing” by now.

•That I will talk about my loved one as often as I want to, and that I will not let others turn me off just because they can’t deal with their own feelings.

•That I will not be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help if I feel it is necessary.

•That I will try to eat, sleep and exercise every day in order to give my body strength it will need to help me cope with my grief.

•To know that I am not losing my mind and I will remind myself that loss of memory, feelings of disorientation, lack of energy, and a sense of vulnerability are normal parts of the grief process.

•To know that I will heal, even though it takes a long time.

•To let myself heal and not feel guilty about feeling better.

•To remind myself that the grief process is circuitous – that is, I will not make steady upward progress. And when I find myself slipping back into the old moods of despair and depression, I will tell myself that “slipping backward” is also a normal part of the grief process and these moods, too, will pass.

•To try to be happy about something for some part of every day, knowing that at first, I may have to force myself to think cheerful thoughts so eventually they can become a habit.

•That I will reach out at times and try to help someone else, knowing that helping others will help me to get over my depression.

•That even though my loved one is dead, I will opt for life, knowing that is what my loved one would want me to do.

– by Nancy A. Mower, in Bereaved Parents Share, January 1998, PO Box 460, Colton OR 97017

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