Grief is complicated, guys. I mean, duh. Right? So I lost my dad TWENTY ONE years ago. To complications from cancer. A cancer where they gave him 6 months to live and he lived for 6 more years, I might add. (People wonder where I get my mental toughness from?! Haha!)
Anyways…Today is his birthday. He would have been 68 years old. At this point, I have been alive more years without him than with him. So. Weird. I usually get all reflective around his birthday or the anniversary of his death. Here is what has been running through my mind:
1.) Grief has NO. EXPIRATION. DATE. Repeat after me, “Grief has no expiration date.” Just because (fill in the blank) amount of time has passed, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel sad anymore! Do not feel guilty or ashamed about not “getting over it” or “working through it” in a certain amount of time.
2.) Find your people. Or person. The one(s) you can always go to for support, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen. If you don’t have this in your life, consider therapy. Therapy can offer a safe space for all of this, including working through the complexities of your grief.
3.) Grief doesn’t ever go away. It just becomes less in the center of your world with time and healing. Of course, the first year is SUPER. HARD. Yes. And the “firsts” without your loved one: first Thanksgiving, first vacation, first birthday. But also? Sometimes you can be brought back to your grief even as time gets farther and farther away from the loss. Like, every year, it makes me sad that I have the same pictures of my dad. And, MAN. The fashion back then? AWFUL. But seriously, it makes me realize how long it’s been without him, to see the same REAL PICTURES (picture of a picture on social media) year after year.
4.) You are allowed to be OKAY without the person you lost. You are allowed to move FORWARD in your life (notice I didn’t say move ON?). You are allowed to heal. You are allowed to laugh. You are allowed to love. You are allowed to have great days.
5.) Share the good memories with people who never knew your loved one. My kids never knew him. I became a parent long after he died (11 years later!). There are studies that show that sharing nostalgic stories of your childhood with your children can be associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety in them! I am NOT. KIDDING! I didn’t make this up. So even if your loved one wasn’t the St. Teresa, recount stories that you are fond of, with your offspring. You are helping their mental health in the long run!
6.) And finally. A loss is a loss. Whether it's the death of a family member, a pet, the loss of a friendship, transitioning in stages of life. Grief is valid when it feels like grief TO. YOU. No one can tell you what it should feel like for YOU. You do you, boo. And get support. No matter WHAT the circumstances.
WOW! So This came up in a session a couple of weeks ago, and it has run rampant throughout other sessions with many of my clients! When I say the word “EXPECTATION(S)”…what comes up for you?
What are your expectations of self?
What are your expectations of others? Your spouse/partner?
What are your expectations for your KIDS?!
If you’re like me, you have or have had expectations at some point that are probably a little (or a lot) too high or rigid. Maybe you expect your postpartum body to “bounce back” in a couple months. Or perhaps you expect your husband to read your mind and “empty the freaking dishwasher without me asking all the time!!”. Or here’s one…maybe you expect your children to remain ANGELS in the checkout line at Target or while out to dinner after a long day at school.
Any of these sound familiar? ;-) If you find yourself feeling frustrated, let down, or down right PISSED some (or a lot) of the time…I’m going to ask you to look inside. If the same thing keeps happening over and over, and we don’t try and do anything different….that’s the definition of???Riiiiight….INSANITY.
Think about it like this: if we expect too much of ourselves, won’t we continuously feel let down? As an example: “I have to get all (58) things done on my list, or I won’t feel good or accomplished” WHO CAN GET 58 THINGS DONE IN A DAY?! Look at your expectations. Being too harsh? Too aggressive? Too perfectionistic? Take a deep breath. Know you are human, not Super Woman. Know you are allowed to make mistakes, have a bad day, have a day where you don’t feel like folding 58 loads of laundry…for the umpteenth day in a row. Be kind to yourself. Adjust those expectations to be a little bit more realistic. K?
The same can be said with our expectations of our offspring (or others’ ;-)) Do you ever LOSE IT because your child isn’t doing EVERYTHING you SAY?! And even worse – if they have a meltdown?! Kids aren’t allowed to melt down!! Oh…but we can? HaHa! I personally have adult temper tantrums all the time! Take a step back. Look at all the stimuli that could have assaulted your little human’s world previously during the day, and then ask yourself “Would I be losing it too?”. Exactly. Again, take a deep breath, lean in, and love on that little booger. Expecting them to not have a reaction is why we feel frustrated, but if we can come to expect kids to be human beings with feelings and opinions TOO, then we aren’t going to feel let down…it’s our own expectations, that are possibly too high or rigid, that create the frustration. Not the kiddo’s behavior. Make sense?
OK and lastly, our PARTNER. To keep is simple, take a good honest look at what you expect of your partner. Maybe it’s a lot, maybe it’s not enough! Next, HEAR MY WORDS…(or read, whatever…)…DOES HE OR SHE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED OR EXPECT FROM THEM?? Like, clearly spelled out. Consistently discussed or re-negotiated. Written DOWN if needed? Because here’s the thing that we (*cough*) women tend to do…(myself included, mmmkay?): we EXPECT our partner to READ OUR MINDS. Or we EXPECT our partner to KNOW how or when to do all the things you typically do in the EXACT. RIGHT. WAY. It won’t resolve until you ask for what you need. I know…asking for help is a whole other blog post. So stay tuned, friends!