Though grief is a universal experience, each person’s grief is unique. You have to find your own way through grief. This path will lead you to grief work and things that you tell yourself. Four of my family members died in 2007. “You will get through this,” a relative assured me. Her confidence in me boosted my confidence in me.
Still, I had to give myself one-sentence pep talks. For example, I told myself I had experienced grief before and this experience could work for me. I also knew I had good coping skills. Some days, however, when life was unbearably bleak, I lied to myself and said, “You’re always strong.”
I am a strong person, but coping with four deaths was the greatest challenge of my life. In truth, I feared I might not survive it. Author Cheryl Strayed wasn’t sure she would survive a life-changing hike. She describes the challenges she faced along the way in her book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail.
When I ordered her book online I thought it was about hiking. It is about hiking, but it’s more of a book about the grief recovery process. Lost and despondent after the death of her mother, Strayed decided to hike the Pacific Coast Trail in hopes of finding herself. The trip was lonely, grueling, and dangerous for a woman alone. “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves,” she writes, “so I told myself a different story from the one women are told.”
Strayed told herself she was safe. She told herself she was strong. And she told herself she was brave. In short, she refused to let herself become afraid.
After I read this passage I thought of my grief recovery journey. My husband and I were guardians of our 15-year-old twin grandchildren and we didn’t have time to be afraid or worry about ourselves. Yes, we mourned our daughter and the other family members who died, but we spent our energy on our grandkids. We kept them safe and encouraged them and loved them.
As days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became years, I gave myself many pep talks. Some examples:
My child development training is helping me.
I can still laugh though I’m grieving.
Each day, I will savor the time I spend with my grandkids.
Gentle guidance is my caregiving approach.
When the twins get angry, I will remember that it is grief that is talking.
I will enjoy all of the gymnastics meets, choir, and band concerts.
Fixing the twin’s favorite meals brings me joy.
Tomorrow will be a better day.
“When a Loved One Dies,” an article published on the Cigna Behavioral Health website, contains a section about mending the heart. To mend a grief-stricken heart the article suggests setting “small realistic” goals, contacting supportive people, and taking care of yourself. “Celebrate your good memories of the person who died,” the article advises.
That is what I have done. I have also made new memories with my grandkids and the husband who loves me so. Pep talks helped me create the new and happy life I’m living today. You may benefit from one-sentence pep talks, starting with “I will be happy again.”
Copyright 2013 by Harriet Hodgson