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On Grieving and Self-Care

self-care Jun 26, 2020

In 2014, my life changed dramatically and unexpectedly. It wasn’t so much that I was blind-sided--my intuition had known something was wrong for quite some time. It was simply that a sequence of events had escalated to the point that I could no longer ignore or deny the truth. And that's when my grieving process began.

Grieving's Ugliness

Grieving is all sorts of ugly. It's messy and unpredictable and irrational, and it makes day-to-day life feel more like carrying a bag of bowling balls up eighteen flights of stairs. It destroys your health. It feeds feelings of worthlessness. And it leaves you wondering if you'll ever be able to feel anything again.

It was through those early stages of my grieving process that I discovered self-care, and later went on to create a framework that I used to rebuild my life, and still use today to help others do the same. I chose self-care over self-numbing because I'd seen the latter strategy destroy the lives of people I care about.  And while that knowledge did give me a deepened sense of compassion for those who struggle with alcohol and substance addictions--both forms of numbing--I simply couldn't handle any more suffering.

I wanted to feel alive again.

If you or someone you love is facing a mental and/or substance use disorder, call the National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit their website.

In addition to self-care and working with a therapist, I found hope through reading. I devoured books that promised healing, and I scoured their pages desperately searching for answers about how I could feel whole again.

I read books on suffering and acceptance, like Byron Katie's Loving What Is* and Thich Nhat Hanh's No Mud, No Lotus* and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning*.

I read books on the human experience, like Bill Plotkin's Nature and the Human Soul* and Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements* and Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection*.

I read books on setting better boundaries, like James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher's The Power of No* and Henry Cloud and John Townsend's Boundaries*.

I read books on meditation and spirituality, like A Course in Miracles* and The Bible and Jon Kabat Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are*.

From each book, I extracted what I needed and nothing more. And with each book, I began to slowly recover my strength and sense of self-worth.

The Other Side of Grief

During that turbulent time in my life, I discovered that I’m much more resilient than I thought. I’m more adventurous. I’m stronger—a lot stronger. I trust my intuition more. I allow myself to experience more joy. I'm healthier. I'm less vulnerable. And I exercise my right to not participate more often—in events, relationships, or experiences that are unhealthy or disrespectful.

The Grief Process Isn’t Linear

But the truth is, some days I’m still angry. I used to believe the grief process was linear, that once I moved through each of the so-called phases, I could put a check mark next that box and move on with my life. I didn’t quite understand that I’d need to re-experience those same emotions—sadness, anger, resentment, guilt, fear—as many times as necessary to grasp the lessons hidden within them.

Grief doesn't operate under a finite timeline. It takes as long as it takes. And it's a private, individual experience that doesn't require explanation or justification. Just because others may not understand your process, doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.

Grieving Isn’t Living

But perhaps my most valuable lesson has been that while grief is often associated with loss, it’s much more than that. It’s an opportunity to press the reset button on life. It’s the process of rediscovering how you want to experience this one precious life you've been given. And, if nothing more, it's a nudge to start living more fully.

Because grieving isn’t living.

It exists only to remind us that beauty will eventually reemerge from the cracks of our brokenness when we’re ready to allow it to grow within us. 

Is it time to design a life with more ease and better health? View LivingUpp's programs HERE.

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