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Going In and Coming Out

It is a fact that grief is unique to each of us. We go into the process thinking that there are rules, and we emerge knowing there are no rules. Nothing is certain because nothing in life is certain. As much as we may deny it, at the beginning we’re grieving because something happened that was unexpected.

After Jon left this life, I didn’t do anything major for two years. My rule was simply to not make a life-changing decision during the first year of a life crisis, and I extended that to a second year. 

When the severe crying was over, my days were mostly calm, and I was moving into year three when the real changes began. I’d taken over the larger room and turned it into my space for when I would return to work. This meant sorting through things that had to go. They were his, and I didn’t need his stuff in what had to become a new space. This process has taken several years. 

I decided to let things happen in a natural manner. My desire to trash things has gotten the better of me at times, and this time I’ve exercised a great deal of caution.

The big change has been sitting with the space, thinking about what I really want for it, and allowing the thoughts to come as my head let them come. It is also about making decisions that are realistic. Like a person becoming sober and clearing their head, grief—and the journey out of grief—will take us to places where our heads clear up. Think of it as grief sobriety. This doesn’t happen rapidly; it takes distance and hard work. Sometimes clearing the head takes years because we don’t have the ability to ask the correct questions in the beginning. 

Doing a reclaim of the self is about time. Who was I before this relationship? How did this relationship make me a better person? What did the relationship do to me that wasn’t good for me? How is my relationship with myself affected by this event occurring in my life? Each of these questions are questions that we answer as we look long and hard into a mirror. Ultimately, we answer the questions, and this allows us to move forward. 

One of the tiny things that I realized was that I’m living with chipped cups and plates. It began to bother me each time I took a cup or plate out of the cabinet. Last night, the feeling hit a fever pitch when I saw something that I liked, and for a price I loved. The thought entered my mind that I didn’t need to live with what was not pleasing me. I could replace my daily table setting with something that would make me smile. Ordering that blue set was liberating. Ordering the set triggered an insight into what I was doing in the home to make it mine. Now, with my eyes open, I was seeing clearly. I need to let myself enjoy the space I have here. I’m widowed, loving my space, and I can do what I want, when I want to do it. That is the plus side of moving forward.  

The Gift of Grief

There comes a time in the process when we ask ourselves: What do I want my life to look like moving forward? This is the gift of grief, growth, and exploration. 

Creating our future comes our way when we’re able to make peace with the past and move ahead with an understanding that we’ve done the deep work of our past life. We are usually older, wiser, and with the living we’ve done comes a freedom to think it through at a slower pace. 

The healthy side of grief allows us to slow down and to plan an unrushed future. I think of this place as being in a condition of contentment.  

Coming out of grief could mean we’ve been deeply affected by any number of life situations: death, divorce, realizing that we are LGBTQIA+, coping with a disability, experiencing traumatic events, growing up and moving out on our own, or something else. Recognizing that we’ve been in a foggy place, and now the skies are clearing up, is what coming out of grief is all about. Most people quietly leave where they were for where they are. We don’t even think that we’re glad it’s over because it’s a velvet transition. 

While entering the grief space is, for the most part, traumatic, walking into the future is soothing. 

If had been told at four years after the loss that I had to sit down and plan the future, I would have planned a messed-up life. At four years, I was ready to work and to learn again. I was ready to think about what I wanted beyond that point in time. For instance: I wasn’t ready to consider new tableware. I wasn’t ready to make the emotional parting: I needed time to say goodbye. 

Gail’s Learning Since 2016: a Few Tips

Allow the tears to flow and the anger to do what it needs to do within yourself and avoid others who tell you that you’re on a schedule. 

Don’t force something that will happen naturally. Forcing emotions that aren’t ready to surface can be distressing. 

Making life decisions before the end of the first year of whatever it is you are coming out from might not be such a healthy place to go. Take the time to let your head clear. 

With some types of life situations, there are things that have to be done legally, and they are on their own schedule. You might not begin to grieve until the resolution of an estate or other major happenings. You may need to sell the home, move to a new place, or do other things in a rapid manner that will affect your grief process. Cut yourself some slack. Do the essentials and work to calm things so that you can connect with your grief. 

Isolation within a relationship is not healthy. Being so content that you spend time only with a partner can lead to social struggles when the relationship ends. Stay engaged with others! Healthy relationships thrive on variety and a sprinkling of others that we can engage with. 

Your address book will rearrange itself. I can tell you from personal experience that some family couldn’t deal with a suicide, or a faith change, and they distanced themselves. It was the same with people who I thought were friends. Grief shows us who is able to stick around when the life waters get choppy. There are also others who show up in amazing ways. These are people who are living life in a way that allows them to join us where others can’t go.  

I believe the greatest thing I’ve seen and learned as I’ve traveled this path is that rushing into anything that can be slowed down will pay off in a huge way. Rushed relationships can end sadly; rushed life changes can land us in a pickle. Saying we “won’t ever_____” may cause us to need to recant the words. Judgment can come back to bite you, and wanting it to all go away will cause you to miss out on discoveries that will make all the difference. What we think we want at the beginning isn’t what we’ll need at the end of the process. We don’t need a quick fix: it’s a thoughtful journey, this walk in the woods. 

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