Why do simple phrases set me off? Often I will hear people speak about what can get under their skin. Anything from certain sounds (fingernails on chalkboards instantly come to mind), smells, or cliche phrases that seem to slip from lips unbidden, to mention just a few.
Thinking back to Rachel's death and the days, weeks and months that followed, I remember certain things and words that would irk me to no end. For me it was - 'be patient' or 'have patience;' - WHAT! my mind would scream. Why do I need to be patient?
Yet now reflecting back on those days (I still do not care much for the phrase, and you will not catch me using it when speaking to someone who is grieving) I think I understand why it bothered me so. I had no patience, I wanted answers and I wanted them now. My own inner turmoil caused so much impatience with myself, why could I not function, why was thinking, and doing and being so difficult. People around me added to the mix, I grew impatient with them for not getting it, for not trying to understand my pain, for not being there. Impatience surrounded me, so when someone said a simple 'be patient' I would lose it internally, luckily only voicing my dislike of the phrase to people who were at least patient with me. There were a host of other phrases, words and expressions that got to me as well, as I am sure you can think of one or two yourselves.
In those dark early days of grief, we are trying to breathe, to get by, to understand, and when we hear, see or are reminded in anyway of our uncertainty and confusion, we feel angered. Angered at the source for the reminder; angered at ourselves for being so befuddled, and angered at the situation we find ourselves in. It is the frustration that causes our reaction and disdain, it reminds us of how vulnerable we are, and how uncertain our lives can be.
In time we find our reactions ease up, we may still not care for this stimulus, but we at least tolerate it, and keep it to ourselves. We begin to understand the underlying meaning of what it represents, and start to find ways of coping and getting through it. For me it was learning to give myself time; time to accept Rachel's death; time to allow myself to grieve at my own pace; time to teach myself to be patient with me and in turn, with others. It was not and has not been easy, there are still occasions when I want to scream; when I want the answers right now; when nothing is making sense. But if grief has taught me anything is that we do have to be 'patient' with ourselves; we do have to give ourselves 'space;' and most importantly, allow ourselves to heal using whatever methods work best for us. Whether it be journaling through our loss, writing our story, or simply helping others; we find ways of making it safely across the abyss that is grief.
When a statement, comment or any other stimulus causes any anxiety; stop! and ask yourself: Why does this get to me so? Where am I right now in the midst of all this confusion? What remains unanswered for me? Is it a personal reflection of how I feel? Sit quietly and reflect on these questions or any other questions you wish to formulate, and allow yourself the luxury of letting go. For me, I would journal with these questions, writing whatever flowed from my thoughts onto the blank pages before me. Often when I was done writing, I would not read what I wrote, I would simply close my journal and not give it another thought. This simple exercise freed me up to move on to something else, it was load-lifting for me; a great way to get rid of all the extra baggage I was carrying.
You may not be a writer and that's okay, just simply reflecting on the questions you formulate, it also a great help. Like anything else in grief, you need to find what works for you, and only YOU know what that is. Remember always to be kind to yourself, to give yourself all the time you need, and to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Also finding others who are willing to listen, who understand the journey you are on, can and is an immense help during difficult times. Reaching out to others helps everyone involved. Grief may leave us feeling lonely but we do not have to be alone.
So the next time you feel frustrated, angered or think the world is out to get you, stop and allow yourself to take a deep breath, and know that you will be okay and that you are not alone - ever!; your loved one is right there beside you guiding you through this journey.
Blessings! and until we meet again.