Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coming Up Out Of The Cave

When you are in the depths of grief it is very hard to do much more of anything but grieve. At least that has been my personal experience. I am coming out of the cave I have been in as I've tried to deal with the loss of my home. It has not been unlike the grief I had to travel with when my husband and Mom died and then going through the divorce.

The pain and intensity sometimes doesn't hit you until well after the fact. I was so busy cleaning the house and had to concentrate on selling it over the summer. Then there was having to find an apartment, the actual sale, closing and then physical move of my possessions, which turned out to be far more difficult than I'd anticipated. Doing all of these things on my own was another challenge.

I'm not looking for a pity party here - just stating facts. The move ended up being physically and emotionally draining for me and it wasn't until the dust had settled that I could comprehend how much. No doubt, that was some of the reason the idea of having to relocate with Sam to another state just ended up not being feasible right now.

I think that there was much grieving this holiday season about the loss of the house. It was there underneath everything without really being acknowledged. I was terribly depressed. Having to move was the icing on the cake, topping so many losses before it. It was another huge goodbye made even more difficult because the previous ones had depleted and weakened my soul and spirit. It has involved another identity change - from wife to widow to wife to divorcee; from homeowner to renter.

But I have started to take stock again as we all must at some point. A new year and all that comes into play too. When we are grieving people can point their fingers all they want with advice and solutions. But until we are ready, willing and able we won't be able to climb up out of the cave. The same thing goes for our own advice. At some level we all know what we should be doing to cope and function better. But again, until we are able to act accordingly we won't be able to do so. When our grief is that intense we need to stand strong and tall and make no apologies to anyone. Our job is to tend to the grief, pure and simple.

Whether enough time has passed or not, I'm not sure. I just have reached the point for me where I need to move past such active and intense grief. I am focusing on mindfulness, attentiveness, order and reframing.

Mindfulness/Attentiveness - I just need to be more aware of my surroundings and interactions with life and others. I need to be more of an active participant and less of a passive observer.

Order - I have always found and believed that when life is most chaotic, as long as we can exert some bit of control, we will be the better for it. I think that we need to feel we have some control over our destinies, especially when our lives seem particularly out of balance.

Reframing - I need to remember that it is not always what it appears and that there are more options.

This week I made an effort to get a bit organized to start the year out on a good foot. I changed purses, cleaned out my wallet and balanced my checkbook. I felt better just knowing that my purse was tidy. After grocery shopping, I reviewed the receipts for accuracy noticing one had incorrectly run up a purchase. The next day I returned to the store and received a $3.50 refund. I went to the dollar store needing to pick up some baking pans as mine are "lost" from the recent move. I am trying to make do with some cheap replacements knowing I already own decent bake ware, pots and pans. The pans were not marked but the sign underneath said all items not tagged cost $1.00. When I was at the cashier I nicely complained when they charged me $3.00 and was given the pans for $1.00.

At the bookstore I noticed a woman my age sipping a Venti Starbuck's while reading leisurely. My immediate reaction was to feel resentful and bitter. Why does she get to loll away the morning at a bookstore? Why can't I do that? Why is my life so harder...? But then I got off my high horse to reframe. Maybe this was a busy woman just like me and she had planned for this morning and then implemented it. Who says I can't do the same thing in the future? Plan a morning off where I sit and read at Border's. And then someone gazing at me might even have the same reaction as I first did - that I am a privileged, suburban mom with excess time on my hands!

I rented the small storage locker available in our laundry room and moved out the still unpacked boxes from the apartment. Enough is enough. I'll try and get through as many as I can (and the boys can help too) as quickly as I can but in the meantime, all of us deserve to live in an uncluttered and welcoming environment. At the same time, I am going through everything and donating whatever we no longer use or have use for. Eventually I will have to face the real job of emptying out the storage sheds.

These are small attempts I know but are helping me feel as though I am back in the game of life and doing more than just letting it run past me. In addition, I am trying to observe other strategies that work for me such as reading before bed, watching a half-hour of "The Office" everyday because it makes me laugh and devoting 15 minutes to my knitting hobby. I have forced myself to get up early and not hunker back down under the covers because it is winter, cold and I am depressed.

All in all, some progress.

Today I am grateful for:

1. "The Office."
2. Grapefruit in season.
3. Having too many possessions, hence the need for storage backup in the first place.
4. The winter sun making an appearance.
5. Crock pots.


  1. well done, a huge well done for still finding things to be grateful for even when you are overcoming all these losses and hurdles.

    One day, one step at a time xx

  2. Boo - I'm trying to keep focused on the fact that a lot of small steps and accomplishments will eventually pave the way to a bigger end result. As I wrote that I thought of your recent walk and how each individual step had meaning for you.

  3. I am a new reader to your blog and feel a great deal of compassion for your situation. I know I experienced only 2 of these losses in the past 5 years and I am just now starting to climb out of the abyss. I appreciate you sharing yourself the way that you do and the grace you have shown responding to commenters who seem less understanding of your grief. For what it's worth, I think you made a good decision to remain in your own place - I think it shows your boys you listened and are there for them. Also, thanks for the great banana bread recipe - my son absolutely loved it!
    Taking it one day at a time - Seventies Girl

  4. So great to see you starting to climb out of it all ... I can really sense a "shift" in your thinking and I'm sensing that you're feeling stronger and you have increasing clarity of mind. Not to say you won't have challenges ahead, of course, but it now seems you're feeling better prepared to meet them. One step at a time ... good for you!

    I know there have been differing opinions and advice given to you in the last few months, and you've also felt conflicted about your decisions, but I confess that I'm glad you've decided to table the idea of moving yourself and the boys again. As hard as it is to live on your own for the time being, I think the move would have been much more traumatic for everyone right now ... which I think you saw first-hand. Anyway, congratulations on taking charge of the situation and doing what's best for you and the boys.

    Hugs ...

  5. I too am glad you have decided to stay put for awhile. Sam has also helped make this possible with his understanding. I notice a real change in your mind through your writing. I still can't get myself to get up earlier...I need to work on that. If you can raise from your bed and greet the day, I certainly should be able to.

  6. Seventies Girl - It is nice to hear from you, although I am sorry to know that you are also dealing with losses. Part of the reason for my starting this blog in the first place was to portray how messy and complicated grief can be. And that some of us will grieve longer. But that doesn't mean there is something wrong with us or how we are grieving.

    I know what I feel and the extreme depth of my pain. It has never been faked and I have tried to honestly present it. If others don't understand or challenge me that is okay because in the end it all comes down to being true to myself. And I have to say that I appreciate any and all feedback because I gain something from it all.

    I'm thrilled you tried the banana bread recipe and liked it. I thought it was too good to keep to myself.

    CCC - Glad you checked in and I appreciate your comments. The bottom line was that I truly felt and knew deep inside that a move at this time would end up being too traumatic. We did try it out for three weeks so I want to pat us all on the back for giving it a shot. But at the same time, I've come to know that there are times we have to change direction or backtrack and cut our losses before more damage is done. I know my sons feel tremendous relief but there is sadness too knowing that we are still struggling here on the home front when moving would have been easier from an economic position.

    Jude - Hello again. Yes, Sam has been extremely understanding and I am grateful. I am inspired to keep this mindset going full force. Don't be too hard on yourself about sleeping in. I might break down and let myself have some extra sleep tomorrow. I will say that getting up earlier and putting in a full day does result in some darn good sleeping!

  7. I love your ability to reframe your experience. It is what I am also putting effort into. I still quickly go to a resentful place when I perceive people around me with an easier life. I am trying to step back to tell myself how I also have some things in life that are easier than others'.

    I also went out and bought the ingredients for the banana bread. I put a few bananas by the window, and told the kids not to eat them. The store didn't have any ripe ones, and for some reason the kids are suddenly eating all the fruit in the house. Go figure! I hope to bake the bread by tomorrow.

  8. Hey, Dan - We can inspire one another to try and look beyond our situations. But it can still be hard for me to not be envious of others. I have to keep working on this. I'm hoping your family likes the bread once you make it. It is just a nice and simple treat for these winter days.