“Maybe, someday”: Staying open to possibility

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley


It’s disgusting out today. Yesterday I sat at my window and watched charming white snowflakes fall gently from the sky, today all I see are sloppy wet raindrops pelting the ground and turning everything to slush.

Tensions are running high around the house. No school on Monday and Tuesday means we’ve been cooped up for far too long, yet no one wants to get dressed and go outside in the cold wet muck. I know it’s up to me to set a positive tone for my kids while we ride out the day, but I used up all my enthusiasm yesterday. Frankly, I didn’t have much to begin with.

Winter gets to me every time. My average mood is two standard deviations towards grouchy. My mind and body have gone into partial hibernation and I feel terrible about myself. My husband says I should get some exercise, go to the gym or walk the dog, but I’m not sure where I would find the energy.

You know, it’s just not that easy to get up when you’re feeling down. Even if your plate is relatively empty, the idea of adding a single thing feels unfathomable. The smallest task causes anxiety and the idea of actively trying to feel better is overwhelming. There are so many hurdles between you and doing something constructive, and so many rationalizations and excuses for taking the path of least resistance.

Even if my winter melancholy is a bit hyperbole, I know how this goes. I get feelings of nothingness, of incapacitation, of “what’s the use?”. I’ve experienced them in the context of grief, and I’ve experienced them in several other contexts that will, for now, remain between me my diary.

Many of you are finding this post within months of a loved one’s death and I know that the idea of ever feeling better might seem laughable. I get that you don’t have space in your brain to think about things like self-care and new ways of coping. I get that you need time fully feel the terribleness of your loss.  I understand you need time to just be.

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However, I also know that winter does not last forever and someday, maybe in a few months or maybe in a year, you will feel stronger and more in control. This is why we write posts that we hope will be helpful to you now and posts we hope will be helpful to you in the future. Because what someone needs when they are heavily entrenched in the dark days of acute grief, is very different than what they may need months or years later. Grieving – finding ways to cope, maintaining connection, and making sense of the world in the context of life after a loss – is forever; but as you and your understanding of grief changes, so will your needs.

Sometimes when we write posts with an optimistic slant or which discuss taking deliberate action (for example, posts on nutrition, exercise, posttraumatic growth, and actively shifting negative thinking), we receive pushback from people with responses that range from “you don’t know anything about grief” to “this is stupid” to “this won’t work”.

Now I know that our posts won’t always resonate with everyone, but remember that what’s helpful to one person may not be helpful to another – you know this, I know this, we all know this. Just because you may not like an idea, doesn’t mean other readers won’t. Just because something is not right for you right now, doesn’t mean it never will be.

Something that can feel very frustrating when you’re grieving is that a lot of people offer you advice. People don’t always realize that grieving and coping are unique to the individual, and so they assume recommendations based on what worked for them or their neighbor’s Aunt Suzy will be helpful. Unsolicited and unrealistic advice, thrust upon you when you are not in the right place to receive it, can be off-putting. So I understand if you want to take a defensive stance against it.  However, I caution you from broadly closing yourself off from all ideas that you find challenging or inconsistent with your experience because your grief will evolve and change.

In the end, it is ultimately up to you to sort through what you are told about grief and coping – whether from a friend, support group member, therapist, or a grief website like ours. Some things will really resonate with you, these are often the things that feel the most manageable and comfortable – hold onto these things and take whatever strength you can from them. Other things will never be for you, these are fairly easy to spot – throw these things away and never look back.  And for everything in the middle of ‘yes, absolutely’ and ‘no, never’, just say ‘maybe’.  Even if you never come back to this site, keep yourself open to the possibility of ‘maybe’.

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27 Comments on "“Maybe, someday”: Staying open to possibility"

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  1. Suzy  March 18, 2016 at 2:33 pm Reply

    Terrified of never feeling joy again…my precious son died Jan 22, 2016 drug overdose from heroin…at least I can function now, but I am apathetic to the world…no joy…not sad all the time thankfully, but no joy…HOW do I get my joy back?

    • Suzy  April 25, 2016 at 2:41 pm Reply

      Some time has passed and I feel like I will survive this tragedy…seeing glimpses of joy in my days

  2. Talent  February 24, 2016 at 2:05 am Reply

    hie
    I am planning to embark on a compilation of the people who are living with grief surviving the loss of loved ones in Africa as few people have access to the internet,do you think its a good idea to embark now.

  3. J.  February 23, 2016 at 2:47 am Reply

    I am mourning my husband. The depth of my despair scares me.

    • LR  February 24, 2016 at 1:21 am Reply

      J., It’s important to surround your self with others who care about you when you are to a point that it scares you. So often, as others have stated, people have no idea what to say and say things that are better left unsaid, even though they were trying to be well intentioned. The other message our society tells us is that we are supposed to “grieve” for a week and then go back to work and life will move on. I really believe we have gotten that part wrong somewhere. It has been seven years since we lost three parents within less than three months, all at a very young age. There are days that is seems like seven days and then again, it seems like seven hours. I have no idea what it is like to lose a husband nor would I ever tell you I do. I can tell you my mother has said she was “left behind”, which devastates me every time I hear those words. The struggles and hardships I see her go through are almost unbearable sometimes. For all of us, my in-laws, my parents, and my husband and myself are high school sweethearts and had all grown up together. For her, and only God truly knows, she has found the strength to some how to decide to live for her grandkids. There are so many days that I’m grateful for the long car ride home so that no one can see my melt down. What I do know, as a parent that has lost a child, and a daughter that has lost her biggest hero, each day can and has sometimes been a challenge. Some days just putting pants on was an accomplishment-and that was o.k. Other days were actually better. Through all of this, the support and the depth of my compassion for others has changed drastically. Finding a resource such as this site, a support group, family, church, or what ever may help you is the most important. Also, finding that person or friend that will allow you to just “be with you” can be a comfort as well. I can’t stress the importance of seeking help if you believe you are not safe to be left alone. You are not alone and don’t have to do this by your self. There are many resources available here and in previous posts. If you can’t find what you are looking for, I’m sure someone will have the answer. Sending you a virtual hug.

  4. Jillian  February 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm Reply

    Eleanor and Litsa thank you, thank you, thank you !! for this website. This site has helped me so much. My mom died two years ago from cancer. I never found any REAL help from grief books, other grief websites or grief groups until I found WYG. You don’t use clichés, you don’t speak the usual (useless) grief-speak and you don’t preach that one-size-fits-all. This site allows people to ‘be where they are’. Your site is empathetic, nonjudgmental, open-minded and comes at the world with love. I have no doubt that you have helped many people.

    • Eleanor  February 23, 2016 at 11:37 am Reply

      Ohhh, thank you so much for that feedback Jillian!! 🙂 It’s so reassuring to know we’ve been helpful and that the people who get us, really get us.

  5. Megan R  February 19, 2016 at 11:11 am Reply

    My sister passed away about 3 weeks ago. I lost my best friends over 15 years ago in high school, unfortunately I have some familiarity with this mountain I’m walking around now and hopefully will scale soon.
    Albeit it does feel familiar the intensity of losing my sister so quickly (she died in her sleep at the age of 37) is overwhelming at times. And for some reason, this site helps not only myself but my mother as well.

    What I’m struggling with is taking advice from well meaning people who DO NOT KNOW. I told a friend in a nice way, “Please never say ‘it will get better’ ever again. Love you, but that is a bad very bad thing to say.”
    I think the sheer fact there are people who DO understand helps. Where I struggle is the anger towards those who don’t and think they can help. Subsequently I feel mad at myself for being mad at them, for they don’t know, they’re just doing their best. Yet I want to rip their heads off.

    This is a strange animal and what’s most important for me is to just learn to accept where I am. I also refuse to believe I’ll ever be the same, the cliche of a new normal is true. Normal was having my sister here, in the physical form, this normal just isn’t normal yet.
    I thank you all for this site and podcast.

    • Litsa  February 20, 2016 at 1:06 pm Reply

      Megan, so funny you just left this comment as Eleanor and I were JUST discussing that topic of wanting to scream at people who are well intentioned, but the feeling bad because you know they just don’t know what to do! You may see a post coming soon on this very topic 🙂

      • Suzy  March 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm

        I laughed the other day and someone said ” Glad to see you laugh again, and that you’re starting to realize that’s it’s water under the bridge” (referring to my grief about losing my son on Jan 22 to a drug overdose)
        Had another person say “I’m so glad we kept our son in our home so that he did not die in the bathroom of a Starbucks” as my son did when he was in rehab.

  6. Lou  February 18, 2016 at 2:51 pm Reply

    I lost my husband a year & 1/2 ago, it has been extremely difficult for me. I started to begin to feel more like my old self & then all of a sudden after the holidays I started to cry just about everyday again & sometimes find it difficult to express myself without tearing up. What can I do to help myself begin to feel somewhat less prone to tears?

    • Eleanor  February 23, 2016 at 11:03 am Reply

      Hey Lou,

      Do you have any thoughts on why these holidays have triggered such enduring sadness? I realize it is about grief, but is there something to it that is different than other aspects of your grief that you’ve already processed? Maybe feelings that you had yet to work through or maybe a new realization or concern for the future? It’s so hard for us to know the best way for you to get to a place of feeling less emotional, because grief is so individual. Do you feel like you’re emotional, but fighting off or stifling the tears? If that were the case, I would guess that the avoidance is possibly making it worse and the best thing you can do is let them come. But honestly, that is just a guess. Do you have family, friends, support groups, or a counselor who you talk to?

      Eleanor

  7. Louisa  February 18, 2016 at 10:06 am Reply

    I found your site in the early stages of my grief journey, and you have walked me through some very difficult days. My grief is evolving, and I’m feeling better. Thank you so very much. I continue to read your posts and to pass them on to friends who are involved in grief care. All of us are very blessed by your insight.

    • Eleanor  February 23, 2016 at 10:58 am Reply

      Louisa,

      You have no idea how nice it is to hear that. Thank you so much for taking the time to say something so nice and thank you for continuing to support us and the WYG community 🙂

      Eleanor

  8. Kathy Shaull  February 17, 2016 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Please don’t let negative pushback change what you do here. Your posts are spot on. You’ve inspired me in various ways through various stages of my grief journey. I always look forward to your posts.

  9. Diane  February 17, 2016 at 2:11 pm Reply

    Thank you…this is perfect

  10. Rosieblue  February 17, 2016 at 3:00 am Reply

    Thank you for your emails. I find them very helpful. When my Dad died last month, my feelings overwhelmed me, they were so intense. Your website helped me see a way through that. It also helped me negotiate decisions around when and how to go back to work. I am beginning to feel less like my grief might be the end of me. The world has changed forever, and I am still here. I look forward to more communications as I continue on my journey .

    • Eleanor  February 23, 2016 at 10:51 am Reply

      Hey Rosieblue,

      You’re welcome, truly. I’m so glad we’re helping you to find your way through the pain. Hang in there and good luck returning to work.

      Eleanor

  11. Della Sacco  February 16, 2016 at 4:02 pm Reply

    Your posts get me through my week. I have somebody who actually understands what going through grief is like. Thank you for all your posts.

    • Eleanor  February 23, 2016 at 10:47 am Reply

      Thank you so much Della. I’m so glad to know that our posts are helpful to you. We need to get better on focusing on the positive feedback, because we know we’re not right for everyone and at the end of the day all we truly care about is that we’re making things a little bit easier for the people who we are right for.
      Eleanor

  12. Jackie  February 16, 2016 at 3:47 pm Reply

    Thanks for this post – and every other post you guys have done!

    • M.White  February 16, 2016 at 6:44 pm Reply

      Jackie, I too have history of major depressive disorder and PTSD which was made much worse when I found my dead son. The best advice I can give you, is get the treatment for any disorder you are suffering from. If the treatment doesn’t work try something else. I was so depressed I went through 6 treatments of ECT and it didn’t make any changes. I now have gotten very good relief with TMS for depression, just google it. My PTSD has been helped very much by a counselor who uses EMDR. I wish the best for you as I know when you are in the depths of depression the grief hurts much, much worse.

      • Jackie  February 17, 2016 at 12:56 am

        I will look into those resources in my area. I started looking for support groups after losing my grandpa and aunt passed away (they died 2 1/2 months apart last year) but I haven’t had any luck so far. Honestly I wouldn’t have had the time to go to anyway since I was busy caring for my Granny until last month. I know I’ve read posts about where to look for support and ones about online support groups but my foggy “grief” mind had forgot all about them when I commented earlier.
        Thanks for sharing what has worked for you. I really appriciate it!! 🙂

  13. Jackie  February 16, 2016 at 3:45 pm Reply

    What if there is a history of major depression disorder, PTSD, AND substance abuse? What does that change? I don’t mean to sound negative if that’s how my questions sound. I honestly need a clearer picture of what the added challenges might be – if there are any. Losing three of the people closest to me in the last year – the loss of my best friend and grandmother (we lived with her and I’ve been her caregiver) is hitting me like nothing has before. It’s still new. She passed January 10th, but I doubt I should still be having a hard time just getting out of bed or playing with my son. I do go to therapy so that’s not what I’m looking for- Are there any resources on what’s your grief for people like me?

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