Mixing Grief and Gratitude? Really?

 

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After a loss, being thankful might not be at the forefront of your mind – but it should.

How do you focus on gratitude in the midst of grieving? Start by thanking your loved ones, all those who have been your support system during this difficult time – family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances. The act of sharing your gratitude will initiate positive feelings.

Be thankful for the love you had. That’s a gift for a lifetime; it’s never lost.

And be thankful because it’s healthy. An article in The New York Times on 11/21/15 notes:  “…gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).  It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things.”

Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, be grateful for your strength and resolve in moving forward. You provide comfort and guidance to those around you. Inevitably, they are just as grateful for having you in their lives.

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Sharing Privately

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Some followers here at Widow 2.0 who lost their spouse to alcoholism mentioned in their comments the need to share with family, but in the form of a journal — and to share privately. One way to do that is to create a private Facebook group just for your loved ones, where only invited members can see your posts, as well as respond. It’s a helpful way to disseminate your thoughts, but only with those you choose.

Whatever you decide to do, keeping a journal is worthwhile. It’s chilling when I read my notes years later. But it’s the only way to capture how you’re feeling in the moment. Writing helps to heal and make sense of all that you’ve gone through.

Besides sharing with loved ones, there is something very comforting in sharing with the widowed community. For those who are survivors of an alcoholic, there seems an even stronger need for solidarity. Feeling guilty? Angry? Responsible? Thoughts unthinkable, unspeakable? For all of you who have watched a loved one drink themselves to death, it’s important to reach out to our very specific community of widows. May you find peace and comfort. You deserve a good life.

 

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Love After Death? Scary Stuff!

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A new romance after a long term relationship can feel a little strange, but a new romance after the death of a loved one can feel beyond bizarre and completely surreal. A good friend and fellow widow met a wonderful guy – yes, not only is it possible, it happens all the time…don’t believe the naysayers out there!  When their Saturday night date ended Sunday afternoon, their relationship segued into the next phase.

She texted me: “This was a huge step for me, first time with someone new, hard to explain the emotions…it’s just…different.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I texted back:  It’s weird and exciting, scary and happy, strange and yet strangely comfortable, thrilling with just a dash of terrifying.

“I knew you of all people would understand the feelings!” she typed back.

When you’re in your teens and twenties, starting new relationships happens more often. But for Baby Boomers fresh out of a decades-long love life, a new relationship can be scary, triggering dozens of excuses to avoid dating at all costs:  Can’t compare. It’s not the same. There’s no one out there.  It’s impossible to meet someone.  I’m too old. I’m too tired. I’m too…[fill in the blank with your favorite excuse].

It’s tempting to do nothing. Nothing can be good. Nothing’s comfy.  And comfort is something you have been striving for through the mourning, the grieving and all the upheaval since the loss.

But (and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming), nothing won’t be comfortable forever. Nothing will eventually nudge you out of your comfort zone. When you get there – and we all get there at our own pace, in our own time – don’t be scared, when it inevitably gets scary.  That’s normal. The new normal. And in the new normal you may soon feel like your old self, or some wonderful new version of your old self.

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