Journey Through Illness

January 30, 2014

Grief Cleanse

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — FrancesC @ 4:57 am

I took about a week or so away from the computer, but wanted to write tonight, because I am reading, “Second Firsts” by Christina Rasmussen; and am really resonating with this book.  I am doing the exercises too.  In a nutshell, the book is about life after loss; In it, she gives you a good map for making small shifts toward moving out of grief, and into your new life.  After loss, your life is not the same.  This new life doesn’t have anything to do with your old life.

I feel comforted by her words, and the book really validates my own experience.   After I lost my mother to ovarian cancer, nothing was the same.  Our family split apart.  I had 3 miscarriages, my husband and I both lost our jobs, and found new ones.  I had 3 heart attacks, 9 stents, and heart bypass surgery.  With each loss, or heart event,  I thought, “Ok, this is bottom.  This is the worst.” , then another trap door would open.

She describes the “silence” of grief, and the “heaviness”; as well as how loss ages you- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  One line in the first chapter, the author states, “Even the water running in the shower is painful”, after her husband’s death.  That is it, exactly!  I have always been pretty meticulous regarding my own personal hygiene, but quite honestly, the thought of the energy it takes to go through the process of showering in the morning is prohibitive.  Being cold, the noise and force of the water, it all feels like too much most days.  But I digress… anyhow, the book is good; I believe the author knows what she is talking about, and is honest in her accounting of her own story of loss, and learning to live again.

So, the first technique mentioned is called, “The Grief Cleanse”.  For a whole week, you are asked to block out 30 minutes to give your grief the attention it wants, so that you can begin to move through it.

You ask your grief to come out and speak.  You notice your resistance to this request, and to the notion of letting your grief free.  When you notice resistance, you are asked to remind yourself why you need to do this exercise, and give your own meaningful reasons for wanting to move through this.  Ask the question again, if needed.  Write for 30 minutes stream of consciousness writing, becoming aware of body sensations, patterns of words and feelings that repeat themselves, noticing any surprises about the writing.

And then at the end of the time, you ask yourself, “What is the one thing today that I wish people would acknowledge about my loss (es)?

In doing this, you take charge of your grieving and properly acknowledge it, and experience it so that you can make room for yourself to imagine a “time after loss”.

It’s taken me some time to do this, I’ve felt much resistance.  I had to keep working, and paying bills, and doing, doing, doing after each thing that knocked the wind out of me.  I started to go through the process of healing on all levels for a couple months, right after the final heart surgery.  I felt great, and had a bit of consolidated time to recover, rehab, journal, and rest, but once those few weeks were up, after years of devastating setbacks, I had to get “back in the saddle again”, and deal with all the “stuff”–the part of life that doesn’t stop to wait until you feel better.

I’ve been exhausted on all levels trying to do this..this living duality, of fully functioning woman who is carrying a backpack of grief, sadness, fear, etc..For the past two years, I’ve been living in the “gap between two lives”.  The life I had before all the losses, and the life “after loss”.  According to the book, Second Firsts, there is a name for this place, called “The Waiting Room”.  I’ve stayed here long enough.  I have to say that I’ve done this because I am afraid.  I am afraid of risking more loss, getting sick again, something or someone else being taken from me.

So, Part I:  Ok Grief, Will you come out to speak?

Grief:  For so long you have kept me locked up inside that I’ve had no where to go, no space to breath so I’ve had to find times when you were overwhelmed, vulnerable, irritated, tired, to leak out; making your emotional responses to things feel out of control at times.  Like for example when you lose your shit, if someone cuts you off in traffic, isn’t moving fast enough; or you dissolve into tears if someone asks you to do something, and you can’t answer the phone because making excuses is too much to bear.  When you blow up at your husband for commenting on your appearance when he is meaning to compliment you but you automatically assume it is a criticism…”Don’t look at me”, “Don’t judge me!”  When you have others walking on egg shells around you because they know you look like a ticking time bomb so they keep their distance, and step lightly.  Then you get pissed off at people for not having balls enough to be more direct, if something is bothering them.  Yes, all the times your have been such a joy to live with, that was me, Grief, leaking out, getting you flustered, panicked, but mostly irritated at the least little thing.  LIke, Glenn Close, in fatal attraction, “I won’t be ignored”.  I don’t want to make things miserable for you but you have to validate and acknowledge me.  Make some room for me, stop pushing yourself so much.  If you don’t, I’m afraid you will get sick again.  Self care is not an option, it has to be mandatory or you will die.  It’s ok to acknowledge me, if you let  me out, the intensity level of resistance and stress will decrease.  No one else is going to to care for you but you.  I could repeat this, but I think you have got the message.  Most people won’t get it.  The people in your life today weren’t there for all the heartbreak.  They don’t know what you’ve gone through.  After all, you do clean up pretty well, and no one would guess that you had been critically ill, that you’ve been devastated by loss and not being able to have children, that you’ve lost your mom, and that your dad is dying.  That is a lot to deal with.  That is a lot to deal with.  You have done the best you could.  And now it is time to get ready to leave the waiting room, and prepare for your life after loss.  You can’t keep falling into old routines of just getting through your days, staying up too late, spending time distracting with the stupid computer or mindless t.v.  Although I do like your choices of shows lately..and Downton Abbey is a good one.  You can’t keep isolating, and picking up old clothes from the floor each day, throwing up your hair in a knot at the last minute, and adding more stress to your life…hurrying, driving too fast, multi-tasking; You can’t keep over compensating at work for fear of being laid off, or trying to figure out the politics, driving yourself nuts with idiotic people pleasing behaviors to try and hide the fact that you are seething with resentment that you need more time to yourself.  These are some of the things you can’t afford to do anymore.  And here’s what you can do.. cultivate silence and stillness; meditate, get some light, sun on your face, take breaks; do what you’re expected to and no more.  Set healthy boundaries, get to bed at a regular time.  That’s enough for now.  Thank you for allowing me to speak tonight.  You have lost a lot.  You lost a big part of the life you had intended for yourself.  But, you have demonstrated great courage, tenacity, resilience, and have genuine desire to make the most out of the life you’ve been given.  If you take care of your breath, then the breath will take care of everything else.  Breathe, deeper, slower, consistently, fully.

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