Oh, my loves. The grief just keeps coming. With every change, big and small, something bubbles up that needs to be honoured before it can resolve, and dissolve.
As you cycle through grief, the place that feels the “best” is when you get to acceptance – of what is, of what happened, of a loss, of a change, of something unexpected, of heartbreak, of the need to let go, of the new normal, of things never being the same again. “Best” may not be the best way to describe a grief stage, but acceptance seems to be the most manageable and perhaps the most acceptable. Denial can be pretty good too until we realise its denial and not an absence of sorrow or reality. Bargaining can seem like taking action until we realise, we’re trading off for a better/different outcome. Sadness can be overwhelming, but also a place to self-comfort. And if we can get comfortable enough to do anger, it can be momentarily satisfying, but long-term destructive.
At first, it helps to know you’re in the grief process. That the big feelings and endless cycling are part of a process that everyone goes through (in different ways, at different times and at different speeds). To know WTF is going on can be enough. To know: this is grief, it feels like all of these things and it is OK and one day it will be better or different. But the second we get a sweet taste of acceptance we just want to leave the rest behind and stay there. Solid and sure that all is as it should be. Which is true. But if you haven’t honoured all the parts fully, they will come back in unexpected moments, and often misdirected, and they can only be held by pushing them down – with numbness or alcohol or some other distraction or substance that momentarily makes things feel better, but long-term destructive.
Until you are ready to truly grieve what was, you can never accept what is. And until you accept ‘what is’ life is a constant struggle against what was and what can be. Running away from or running towards or both at the same time, without any traction.
Mostly I ran away from what hurt me. I didn’t have clarity about what I wanted; I just knew a lot of what I didn’t want. I wasn’t prepared to look at what was, because then I’d have to take some responsibility for the creation of that and because it didn’t match what I thought it should be it felt impossible to align. And so, on I struggled. But everything always begins with a reality check. Awareness. Acknowledgement. Acceptance. Action.
Here’s a real-life example. After a big change in the world (let’s say a pandemic) a woman constantly finds herself doing all the housework and much of the child-rearing. She doesn’t always feel valued for this but cannot seem to stop doing it. She has a job she’s amazing at and valued for doing, but she cannot seem to make enough time to do both well, so she does the house/wife/mother role the most because she’s sure she can do this and for some reason, she can’t stop. She values love and family so much that this feels like the right thing to do except she’s angry and resentful about it and wants time to do the other incredible stuff she’s good at, but she finds herself getting distracted cooking banana bread and vacuuming. Because this ‘new normal’ was preceded by a major change she skipped much of what she felt about the change and charged happily to acceptance – this is what must happen, this is how it is now, this works for everyone else in my family and some things are better and thus we must move on from what was before as that is done and here we are. However, major (and minor) change usually means there’s some letting go required. And there’s grief. And if she doesn’t honour those parts they will bubble up. At first, she tried to deny there was a problem. She focussed on all the thing that were better/good – the house is cleaner, and it’s beautiful around here, the kids are really enjoying me around more, the pressure is off with work and I can be a more loving wife, maybe I never needed any more support than this. Then the bargaining began – if I get more organised earlier in the week then I won’t get so stressed about all the dinners to make, if I’m relaxed and happy all the time everyone else will always be relaxed and happy, back and forward in and out of denial that there is any problem here. And then anger mostly. She does that the best, anger and resentment and constant questioning of why if it’s so much better for everyone else does she feel so pissed off? If she wasn’t so angry, she’d be sad, but she doesn’t like sad that much, because it would be selfish and needy. So, she keeps it at bay, until it’s 3pm and she has to do another school run and she wonders why she has to stop writing to pick up kids from two blocks away when it’s a beautiful day and they can walk. And she remembers that she did this and she set this up and first she feels angry at her family for the way they take her for granted and don’t value what she does, and then she feels angry at herself for finding herself here again. And then, when she sits with and acknowledges all of that, she can find her power again and work out what to do.
Familiar story? I feel like I’ve told this story before. I’d like to write a social media post that says:
How do you not do all the housework and child-rearing duties before you begin?
*asking for a friend
And I’d hear from all the powerful women who (even in a pandemic) have not lost their way. And they would say….
What would they say?
I feel like I would get lots of strategies from women about how they cope. How they manage. How they make it work.
I know there is a system at play here, but I also know that I perpetuate it. And until I work out how and why I do that I cannot stop doing it. And until I let go of the ‘perfect wife, mother and woman’ this system sold me and stop denying I’m the one who keeps bringing her home, I cannot be the woman I was put here to be.
Good grief woman, can you just not settle down?
No. The answer is no.
Big loves xx
From the Vault – Other stories of mine you may be interested in