June 24th, 2011
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There’s a lot to be said for following an “information is power” philosophy when dealing with a life crisis.

When you are grieving the loss of a loved one or facing a serious tragedy that life has thrown you, it feels as though you are playing 52 pick-up.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this child’s game, it’s when someone takes a deck of cards and tosses all of them in the air.  The cards come flying down, willy nilly, landing wherever they want.  The player then has to put the cards back in order, similiar to what you are trying to do with your life; picking up the pieces and making it into some new.

Dealing with a loss is definitely a crazy and vulnerable time that no one can prepare you for…..really.

For me, every day after my husband died, and I do mean every day, I wondered if I would always feel this awful.  And for many, many months, I did.  I soon find out there’s no road map to rebuilding your life and finding a road that can take you to a better place.  I found you are pretty much left to your own devices to figure it out and draw up your own plan.  I knew I wasn’t the only person who has ever had to handle a husband’s death or raising a child by myself, so I needed to find out what was in store for me and my son.  I went searching for as much information as I could on both subjects; some were written by people with first-hand knowledge and some were written by people trained in those areas.

I felt very alone and tried to read as much as I could to find some kind of formula that would help me heal.  I found articles and books written by those who have “been there, done that” to be authentic, insightful and helpful in offering tried and true ways for me to adapt to my new reality.  Discovering that someone else got to the other side of a problem that is worse than yours and how they got there affirms that you too can carry on and rebuild your life.  Their problem is so much worse than mine and yet they found a way to deal with it.  Maybe I can too! 

The process of sifting through facts and first-person thoughts from lots of sources continues to help me untangle ongoing dilemmas.  I’m not the only one who feels this way.  This has happened to someone else and look what they did to deal with it.  I try to take the approach that I can’t change the fact that stressful events will occur but I can change how I respond to these events.  When I start to feel overwhelmed, I follow some advice one of my aunts used to give out:  think about things in increments such as think about a situation that may be stressful for the next 10 minutes.  Then when you get through those 10 minutes, think about the next 10 minutes and so on.  I have found this to be useful and calming.

Part of this problem solving and introspection process is sometimes called “grief work” as in “if you don’t do your grief work then you will never really get yourself healed.”  Simply put, it’s a dose of plain ole introspection which can be painful because you are remembering and trying to let go at the same time.  There were plenty of times when I cried in public places – grocery stores, restaurants, church, the car — and rambled on about things not making much sense.  Sleep was hit or miss.  But no matter how bad I felt, I tried to maintain a hopeful outlook.  Slowly, I learned how to integrate my loss into my life.

The passage of time has helped me gain more confidence and control over my emotions and my new life.  But the underlying emotions of grief still have to be acknowledged and addressed.

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