I am reading a book that is having a very positive influence on where I am right now in my grief process - "How to Mend a Broken Heart - Letting Go and Moving On - Coping with Breakup - Separation, Divorce, Custody Disputes - Understanding the Stages of Loss - Stabilizing Your Life," by Aleta Koman, M.Ed., published in 1997.
This author writes in a very clear, concise, matter-of-fact, non-judgmental style that is soothing. Her observations make sense to me. I feel validated and as though everything I have been doing the past few years in regard to my grieving has been right - I haven't done anything wrong, and in the end, I have intuitively moved along the path of healing that is right for me.
For one, Koman believes that the grieving process can take from a minimum of a year to several years for some. In our society there are still many that think a couple months to a year at the most is all the time we'll need. She also encourages that we process and feel all of our emotions, which is pretty standard grief advice. But she adds that we owe no explanations to anyone as to how or what we are feeling. She says that people are quick to want us to get on with our lives and move past our grief because of the discomfort it brings them and their unresolved "stuff." Reading that gives me the courage to keep facing the ugly emotions that still crop up. I also feel less guilty for the feelings of depression I was experiencing a few months after having had to sell and move from my home (that dark and dismal period in January). For heaven's sakes! If ever there was a reason for me to feel down and out it was warranted - the loss of my home following a pretty horrific divorce (but I guess most divorces are horrific)! I was entitled to grieve that loss because it was a major life change for me.
One of Koman's observations about the grief process is that we can go for months in a seemingly calm state, only to plunge back into despair. That provided great comfort for me because I think that many of us are criticized when we regress big time. Koman also talks a lot about how a loss can trigger feelings about prior losses, especially related to our childhoods. So many of us are actually grieving multiple losses, although others may only be able to see the recent event and not understand the depth of our pain.
Most interesting to me are Koman's suggestion for healing in her Step Two, "Focusing on the Self." Koman reasons that many of us grieving are suffering from severe low self-esteem. Again, issues from childhood may impact this. Low self-esteem includes feelings of victimization, deprivation and physical malaise. She claims it is very difficult to "get on with our lives," and "move past our grief," etc. when we are lacking sufficient self-esteem to motivate ourselves.
I can totally relate to this. For me, the image I held of myself plummeted when my second husband divorced me and then I lost the house. And my self-esteem was further damaged by the financial stress and then my relationship conflicts with Sam. The entire concept of self- esteem being wrapped up with grief makes sense to me but I haven't heard of it before. Koman's solution for restoring/rebuilding self-esteem is to focus on the self. And that is exactly where I have been headed in wanting to take a break from all this grief processing.
I've been planning to try and focus as much as I can on me for a short while - to be selfish and to have a little fun. To try and laugh more and concentrate on activities that bring me joy. It was very empowering to come across this strategy in a book on grief and to recognize that I am headed in the right direction! And there is nothing wrong with me going off for a while (even if only mentally) to a quiet place where I can nurse my wounds.
I was so relieved to read Koman's words about forcing our recovery. She says that we can't make ourselves recover though we might try to do so by hurrying the pace. I think I have been trying to force myself to become more positive in an effort to get on with things, move my life along. But there isn't a magical solution. I am breathing a sigh of relief because I have struggled to be more positive and have gotten upset with myself for falling short. I am trusting myself that by focusing on my needs and taking a breather from all this emphasis on grief, that in the end, hope will be restored. Being positive isn't going to bring me back to a more hopeful state. Rather, it will be the process of focusing on my needs and making an effort to bring more joy into my life. It will be the culmination of those little steps that will lead me further down this path!
I will close with these inspiring words of Koman's:
"Whatever else, stabilizing your life means realizing that life as you knew it will never be the same. The relationship you had, the person you loved, or the job your enjoyed are now gone. Those relationships, people, and activities organized your life in certain ways. Now that organization has changed. To live in a new reality-based life, you must create a new vision based on how your loss has transformed you - how the experience of loss has changed you as a person, as a partner, as a worker, and so on. Only by accepting the loss and its consequences can you reach understanding, insight, and the potential to move on to the rest of your life. And as you stabilize your life, you will once again experience the pleasures of living in ways that may have diminished during the grieving process."