“We are the walking wounded. Our lives are seemingly normal for those looking at us from the outside, but we know differently – for a broken heart doesn’t show from the outside,” said a participant in my grief support group. It is true that life continues following the death of a loved one. Groceries still need to be bought and clothes laundered. Jobs require our attendance and our attention. Little league games, dance recitals, graduations and weddings still take place. For those grieving, it takes enormous effort to participate in these rituals of life. The daily “got-to-dos” and the occasional “special event” all beckon to us at a time when we would rather just curl up until the world begins to make sense again.
So how can you function when your heart is not in it? How can you find a way to care if you eat a hot meal or just make a bowl of cold cereal do for dinner? The bigger question is – How can you be anything but involved with life? It calls to you each day. It urges you to get up and be a part of it. Not in spite of your grief, but becauseof it. The only way to journey through grief is to get up each day and see what the Universe brings your way.
We are social beings by nature, so staying home hibernating does not help us to feel better. Our emotional pain does not diminish if we become a recluse nor can we sleep our pain away. When we are out in the world doing our “normal” routine that has now become anything but normal, it allows us to reach out to others for help and understanding. It allows us to remember our loved one and how they were a part of this schedule and, how in some ways, still are.
Distraction can be a wonderful tool when mourning a loss. Staying busy can keep you from thinking too much about what has changed in your life and you may even catch yourself having a laugh or two with others. Used skillfully, distraction can bring you into the present moment where healing can take place. So much of grief is looking back with regret or forward with fear. It is only when we are truly present that we can get a bit of relief from the overwhelming emotional pain. Working, shopping, even ironing can help you regroup and realign. However, too much distraction that does not allow you the time and space to grieve is not healthy either. You must find a balance between time to get quiet and remember and time for busy-ness.
This may not be easy, but the world still calls to you. There are things to do and people to meet and somehow you need to find the inner strength to get out and be a part of it all. While others may not understand why you seem distant or sad, for your heart is unseen, being with others is still the best salve for your hidden wound. Remember the immortal words of Robert Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” It does… and so will you.
Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons/kelsey_lovefusionphoto