“Is it getting better?”

“Is it getting better?” I’m starting to hear this question. More insidiously, I’m starting to ask it of myself. Shouldn’t you be feeling better by now? Shouldn’t you be getting used to this? Isn’t it time to “find closure” and move on?

NO.

It doesn’t work that way.

A family member who was suddenly and tragically widowed many years ago explained it to me this way: You NEVER really get over it. Your loved one with whom you spent so many years has become an indelible part of you — part of the person that you are and will always be for the rest of your life. Will it get better someday? Maybe… I hope. But will it ever become a fact with zero emotional content? NO.

Even when I think about my first husband — it was a short, awful marriage that I knew was never going to work even while I was embroiled in it — there is a part of me that carries a part of him with me. He was a musician. I still listen to recordings that he participated in, and I still feel his music and feel myself being there as it was created. My relationship with him, flawed though it was, forms a core part of the person that I am today.

Is it getting better? NO. I think I’m doing fine but then I cry myself to sleep almost every night. I want to pound walls and scream sometimes, but I don’t. Instead of doing those things I go running. And I am now feeling the physical effects of overtraining.

So I’m gratefully telling myself that I’m now in “pre-race taper” mode, and I really don’t have to do much running between now and the race October 9 in Victoria. I’ve seen the signs of overtraining — my resting pulse is elevated and I need to sleep after I run — but I didn’t realize how over-fatigued I’ve become until I got the news today that the half marathon I’d planned to run on New Year’s Eve has been canceled. This came as a huge relief. I’m now only registered for two half marathons between now and mid-February, not three. My current plans have me doing my running events approximately four months apart over the next year. I think I can handle that. I think it will bring my running back to a level where it is a fun, stress-releasing activity rather than an obsessive attempt to drown out the voices whispering to me, “Shouldn’t you be feeling better by now?”

One step at a time.

I am not a machine; I have real muscles and real joints, and real emotions. My body-mind are inseparable, and both are deeply, actively engaged in the grieving process. I can’t orchestrate this process or be logical about or detached from my experience, even though I wish I could. I need more than five hours sleep a night, which means that I’d better hit the “publish” button now and call it a night.

Thanks to all of you who truly listen and care… you sustain me more than you know.

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Posted on September 27, 2011, in grief, Philosophy, Running and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. HI, Lori, one of my friends and old clients is a loss and grief counselor. I pulled some information from one of the brochures that we worked on together…have been meaning to send to you…

    Grief and the grief process is unique to every person, and there is no one way or time nor expectation that “it gets better.”

    According to Angie Dickson, Ph.D….

    Loss is the natural response to any change we as humans make. Loss can be viewed as the separation from something valued in either tangible or symbolic ways.

    Grief is the normal physical, psychological, behavioral, and social reaction to loss. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. The absence of grief is abnormal in most cases. Whether the loss involves the death of a loved one, the end of a special relationship, or becoming disabled, anyone can experience loss and grief. Individual grief reactions can vary widely, not only from person to person, but also within the same person over time. It is not necessary to have your loss validated by others for you to grieve. At many points after a loss, the grieving person can benefit from the support of others. When someone close to you dies, you feel the loss in your mind, body, spirit and emotions. Your pain can be deep and your emotions may seem overwhelming. Mourning is a continuous development involving changes over time. Gradually, you may notice that the pain is not so great. Healing is taking place. Expressing your grief is important for healing. Everyone is unique and will go through the healing process in their own way and at their own pace.

    One of the books she recommends is: How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies by T. Rando. Bantam Books, New York, 1991. It has a ton of myths about loss and grief…

    Transition represents a turning point that supports growth and orients one on their journey.

    There are different ways to get through loss and grief (probably not at the same time):
    Withdraw from the world for a while.
    Step back and reevaluate your life.
    Make a conscious decision to get through your loss.
    Give yourself permission to be.
    Feel guilt or remorse.
    Be angry or enraged.
    Push the pain away.
    Do nothing.
    Feel numb.
    Get sick.
    Give up faith.
    Cry or not cry.
    Feel confused.
    Think you are crazy.
    Search for meaning.
    Talk about your loss.
    Panic or feel overwhelmed.
    Feel and deal with as much as you can.
    Fix all your energy on something or someone.

    And here are some of her helpful suggestions (many of which you are doing–though don’t suggest you add more cats–tee hee):

    Get sufficient rest. Eat nutritious meals.
    Acknowledge your emotions as they arise; allow yourself to move naturally in and out of your pain.
    Be gentle with yourself. Pamper yourself.
    Give yourself permission to suspend unnecessary activities, to just say NO.
    Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.
    Exercise daily; take walks, jog, bicycle, etc.
    Attend a support group.
    Get a massage or a back rub, a manicure or a pedicure. Soak in a hot bath or take a nap.
    Release your anger. Scream in your car or beat your bed with a tennis racquet.
    Bring something into your life that is alive and care for it (a cat, plant, fish, flowers, etc.).
    Listen to yourself, you know best what is good for you.
    Allow yourself to cry, as often as you need to cry.
    Take a few moments daily to think of what is still beautiful or meaningful to you.

    You are the warrior for all of us, as you started out on your journey first.

    Hugs, Geri

    • Geri,
      Thank you for this very detailed and concrete list. Yes, I am doing many of these things, and I know I can’t speed up or control the process. Sometimes I simply need to express my pain and frustration (just as noted in your list) and that’s what you saw here. Thank you for listening, caring, and being supportive.

      Lori

  2. I so agree with you that it’s never really over. I’m guessing you don’t want it to be ‘over.’ When I was dealing with the breakup with Jack, I wrote in my journal something like ‘I just want life to stop being so bitter.’ Going back and rereading those months, only now can I see the glimmers of when I turned the first corner, then another, etc. But, like you, even after all the decades, I still carry a place that houses Jack, which I most of the time label jackjunk or donjackjunk, but there are positives too that label misses.

    Only you can determine what you need and where you are. As Geri noted and you know, grief is such an individualized process, no one else can say ‘shouldn’t you be over this by now?’ And you can’t rush the process either, however much you may yourself wish to get through it. You are doing so many ‘right’ things. We’re listening.

    Colleen

    • Colleen,
      You are so right; I neither expect nor want it to be “over.” I haven’t actually experienced any emotions that I didn’t somehow “expect” — but the intensity of it all can be overwhelming sometimes, while I’m in the middle of it. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

      Lori

  3. Although you are going through a sad and lonely time, Lori, you have wonderful memories and a lot of friends to draw from. We are all there with you for support, talk and just plain quiet times.We look forward to seeing you again soon.

    Carlene and Bob

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