Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From the Archives at at Chronicles of a Family at Home - Mar. 20, 2008: The secret of successfully struggling through grief

My friend Tim always has the most interesting and thought provoking things to say.  And he's always doing something interesting, active, or outrageous -- or all three.  "Doing" is something I really respect in life.  Not to mention, if you get a wild hair and just really need to do something spur of the moment like snow skiing or boating (you know, a TRUE emergency!), he's always game.  In short, he's the most reliable friend I have when action is required, along with his fabulously energetic and thoughtful wife, Adele. 

In his latest blog, he mentions an acquaintance going through a particular set of difficulties.  It really took me back.  And not necessarily to a place I wanted to go.  But no, I've never suffered from domestic abuse.  I've been uncommonly blessed in the domestic department -- on all fronts.  My parents are the best parents on the planet earth, for starters.  My husband is somewhere up there in the top percentile of everything a girl could ever dream of.  But still, aside from these permanent fixtures in my life, I've had some disappointments and some periods of deep, dark grief.  I was transported by what Tim said. 

I've often thought I should write a book about overcoming grief, but the way I accomplished it in my life when it became necessary sounds soooo shallow and stupid and ridiculous and 3,000 other things that do not add up to a New York Times Best Seller.  So I'm going to post my response to Tim's blog here and ask you to help me articulate it better.  I've thought of it so many times, I'm no longer objective enough to know how to say it.  I do know that it works:
"I have watched a similar cycle unfold for people near to me. It is so painful to see. And having been in a place a couple of times in my life where it is nearly impossible to get out of bed for sheer grief, I can feel your friend’s pain. 
An approach that has worked for me in the past sounds so silly now, but I’ll put it out there anyway: Set attainable goals. If necessary, choose something you can’t possibly lose at. I kid you not, my “attainable goal” was to get a tan. Noone on earth can avoid getting a tan if they sit outside enough, so it’s a good example of an extreme baby step. I lived in California at the time, so it was a given. Nothing salves the soul like accomplishment, no matter how fish-in-a-barrel-esque. But there are other things one can set out to do that are difficult to fail at: Whenever they ask you at Krogers to give one dollar for Muscular Dystrophy research, give a dollar. I bet you can think of a million attainable goals. And that, I believe, is the secret to overcoming grief."
So, can you help me restate that in a way that makes sense?  Do you have any questions about it, like "gee, what did you do when you WEREN'T laying out in the sun and skipping classes in college?"  And most of all, when you have experienced the sort of grief that makes waking up in the morning a nightmare worthy of the movie"Groundhog Day," how have you worked your way through it?

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