Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I want a new attitude.

Your heart may stand in the sun...
Originally uploaded by emaho

Today is January 19, 2010. This is the first January 19th I have celebrated since Michael passed away on September 13, 2009. Was there something previously significant about this day? I'll tell you. It was another day that I used to have Michael with me. It was another day that I actively loved him. I suppose it is another day which stands as proof that our relationship existed, and that our love was present. So why do some days get distinguished more? Shouldn't each day be a celebration? Shouldn't each significant prior celebration be mourned just as much?

I ask these questions to myself. This is going to be part of my new challenge. This is going to be my new attitude. Did I love Michael any more on January 18th as oppose to January 19th? No. I probably gave him more notice on the 18th, as that was his birthday. I was probably more willing to look past his flaws on the 18th. I was probably more willing to pick up after him on the 18th than on the 19th. But let me tell you, if he didn't pick up his damn socks by the 20th there was likely going to be hell to pay. Okay. Calm down. I'm only kidding.

But here is my thinking. I have been getting myself so worked up about the big emotional challenges of getting through significant anniversary days, yet each has been much easier once it arrived. And, the ones that have gone the best are when I plan some positive down time to really appreciate what we had. Keeping these days simple, has in turn kept me emotionally together, which means I did better than just survive them. I cherished them.

As for the more difficult times, I want to return to the practice of radical acceptance. This is a concept I continuously get exposed to when reading about grieving mindfully. For those not familiar with some of my early posts, I am trying to bridge my approach to my grief through some of the Buddhist teachings. In Buddhism, radical acceptance is known as the Middle Way. It is a way of not plunging headlong into our feelings, but also not running away from them. It also teaches us that there is an impermanent nature to our experiences, which helps us face our difficult emotions. The challenge then is to stay more centered during these difficult times, knowing that our emotions are not permanent.

For me this is saying that, especially during this Year of Firsts, I need to pace myself. If I am to make it through all of this successfully, then I need to keep returning to the concept of grieving mindfully. In this way grief is seen as a purposeful and meaningful journey. I cannot rush through it, and at the same time I should not purposefully get lost in it either so as to slow it down. There has to be movement. I think for some of us it may tempting to deny our pain, yet for others, we may find ourselves over identifying with our pain.

My daily challenge is to be as fully aware of what is going on for me as possible. If I am feeling sad, or lonely, then I want to be fully aware of this, not try to hide it, yet also careful not to purposefully add to it. This is something I have noticed myself doing at times. If I am having a difficult day of missing Michael, I sometimes find myself wanting to feel it stronger. Somehow I think it helps me to legitimize what I am feeling. Of course in doing this, I have made my day all the more difficult to get through. This in turn, seems counter productive, as my goal is to move forward in my grief, not get stuck in it.

I have to recognize that in moving forward in my grief, I may at times feel like I am choosing to walk further away from Michael. I need to actively dissuade myself from this type of thinking. I did not walk away from Michael. He died. As harsh as this sounds, it is what I need to keep telling myself. His dying has happened. It is a finite occurrence. I had, and have, no choice to make in the matter. It already occurred.

The machine of joy
Originally uploaded by Catch the dream

I want a new attitude. I want to embrace life, and to embrace all that comes with it. I don't want to walk around with this dark cloud over my head all the time. If there are dark clouds, then so be it. But if the sky is full of sunshine, and if I am experiencing a good day, then I want to embrace the sun, and walk with a smile on my face. I know this will not be easy right now. It will be a challenge. But I would rather challenge myself to be happy, then to live in sadness out of defeat.

I'm finding that it is too easy to live in defeat. It takes less work. Grief brought me a sense of defeat, but I don't want to get stuck here. I want more than grief's defeat. I want joy. It's time to ask, "What can grief offer in the way of joy?" And, more importantly, "Will it come in my size?"


  1. i hope this new attitude stays with you and enriches you. your strength and acceptance will be a wonderful example for your children. Michael taught them how to die with grace. you are teaching by example the way to live with grief.

  2. I read this post earlier this morning and wanted to give it some thought before commenting. It seems to me that something positive should emerge from our grief. For each person, the "something" is probably going to be quite different. For myself, after my husband died, I decided to travel alone with our old dog, across North America, because I felt that it would be the best way for me to learn to take care of myself in any and every situation. My husband had a great deal of confidence in my abilities and I know he would have been proud and very pleased to see all that I've done over the past 16 months. I'm proud. Sometimes I'm amazed. I have gone from being the person too shy to ask directions, to someone who is almost at ease in trying anything new, talking to people I have never met before, and so on. I realize how much simpler it would have been to have stayed home at the farm instead, no doubt feeling sad every day for months. This path that I've chosen demands too much of me to spend more than a little time feeling sad each day. It has taken me to places my husband knew and loved, and to others he would have been thrilled to see. His ashes travel with me wherever I go, and I like to think that I am doing all the things he would have wanted us to do together. All of this seems to help me to continue to grow stronger and more able. It seems better than succumbing to sadness. I know Don would have felt terrible if I were sad - so I am trying not to let myself fall into that trap.

  3. be patient Dan (with yourself). You will be able to choose your own attitude in a while. Just not yet. NOT YET. (one of my mantras)

  4. I never realized, until reading this, how hard it is to push yourself to have a good day. You are totally right, it is so easy to get lost in the sadness, that we totally forget about the happiness in a day. It's a lot easier to accept defeat, than it is to push for the success. I hope you can totally embrace, and live this new attitude you hope for. I'm sure you can do it, and I'm even more sure that Michael would love to see you living in the happiness.

  5. Once again, I so appreciate comments from everyone. You each project some aspect of your experience, and help me understand my own.

    I think I am realizing that if it were not for those three kids who keep looking to me to reflect that it is all going to be okay, I would have sunk further, and would now be trying to start something new. I tend to be a bit of an extremist. Just a bit. I have this underlying need to make changes in my life, yet often feel the trappings of responsibilities, as blogged about recently.

    I don't expect that the sadness will change too much for awhile, yet I have to say it is no where near where it was during the first few months. It is during these reprieves that I want to be making progress, growing in new directions.

    I feel as though I am starving for something good. I just cannot seem to find it right now. At least not in a big way. So minimally, I want to try looking at my world a little different, perhaps with more optimism. I want to be willing to enjoy that which can be enjoyed, rather than tell myself "what's the point."

    Also, because of my ever developing Buddhist-Christian philosophy, I don't want to overly cling to my grief, as the wheel of life must turn. Perhaps what it is turning to is a different layer of grief, rather than something new.

    I think I will begin collecting mantras, as I have seen Boo do. If you have mantras to suggest, please share them with me.



  6. I stumbled upon your blog today. One thing you said in particular has stuck with me:

    "I have to recognize that in moving forward in my grief, I may at times feel like I am choosing to walk further away from Michael. I need to actively dissuade myself from this type of thinking. I did not walk away from Michael. He died."

    I struggle with this all the time. If I choose to smile again, if I choose to pack some of this things away, if I choose to love again - am I walking away? These things bring guilt. Guilt that I am here with our children and he is not, guilt that I am "moving on".

    But your right, I am not walking away, he died. I am just trying to find a way to live again.

    Thanks for helping me sort out some of this jumble of thoughts and emotion.

  7. Hi Ansia,

    And thank you for leaving your comment. Sometimes it really helps to know what resonates with those that read what I write.

    This issue of survivors guilt is something that I feel will be an ongoing struggle for me. It does help to know that others struggle with the same.