Sunday, February 21, 2010

Faking It

Fake it
Originally uploaded by
Mariss Balodis

My thought today is this, how do we create joy in the midst of grieving?

This morning I awoke to rain and dark skies. And while I tend to love the rain, the change in weather has mirrored my mood. I have not fallen into despair, but my mood has come down from where it has been these past few days. It is always very telling when the kids are putting in so much effort to engage me in conversations, or activities, with only minimal success. I'm sure they see it, and without thinking, begin preventive measures to save me from sliding downward.

I sometimes feel like my grieving is similar to what a manic-depressive person goes through. Without much cause, my mood can shift dramatically, or subtly. Today has been more subtle. My voice has a monotone quality to it. My movement in minimal. I have a calmness about me that walks a fine line with numbness.

When I am like this I tend to make choices that don't necessarily help me counter my downward shift. Earlier I was searching for a movie to watch. I saw that there was a Patrick Swayze film on, City of Joy, that I have never really completely watched. I selected it, then settled onto the couch. The kids were in and out, but eventually settled into the living room as well, watching the film with me. Of course they were not aware that this film choice, or actually it's lead actor, was not going to help my mood.

Patrick Swayze died the day after Michael did. During the past couple of years I have been very aware of some of the stars who were battling cancer, such as Patrick, or Farrah Fawcett. Somehow seeing their pictures in all the magazines these past couple of years were an ongoing reminder of my reality with Michael. Every time I went into the grocery store, every time I turned on the television, there might be something about the stars conditions. It was a reminder of how frail we all are, no matter our position in life. Even watching a favorite sit-com on television reminded me of our reality. One of our favorites was Ugly Betty. Last year the character Daniel fell in love with Molly, who ended up with cancer, and who died at the end of the season. In the middle of the season, the storyline got too close to home, and I stopped watching.

Now I look back over the past year, and all those that I was following, be it actors in the news, characters on t.v., people in my previous brain tumor support group, or my Michael, have all died. Now I no longer view the world through the eyes of hope. Now my vision is clouded by grief. On a more clearer day, I no longer can see forever. I feel like there was once an innocence of life that is no longer.

I would like to think that I had more power, or persuasion, in creating joy in my life. Sometimes I wish I was better at faking it. I used to do a bit of acting when I was a kid. I enjoyed it. These days it is part of my survival. I act everyday. When I step outside my home each morning I begin playing a character. The role is that of an optimistic widower. I try to wear a smile, and to look upbeat. It can help me get through the day, creating the illusion of joy. Maybe it's not exactly joy that I am projecting, but at least it is a bit of optimism.

I don't really want to be faking my emotions, but sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. And as far as feeling joyful, I would like to feel it more than I currently do. I look out my window, the rain has stopped. The air is very still, not one leaf on the tree is moving. Darkness is setting in.

My youngest just walked into the room. "What's wrong Dad, you look tired, or, something."


  1. Hi Dan,

    Fake it 'til you make it. Interesting idea. I used to hate the idea of projecting false emotion. But now, somedays, it is my survival tool. And strangely enough, I often end up feeling better when I fake it for a while. My problem somedays is to remember to shut off the faking, so I can allow myself to feel the other stuff too, when I'm in the safety of my own home. Too much faking makes me feel worse in the end, but sometimes a little faking helps lift my mood. It's a fine line. But it's something that I'm getting better at doing. Now there's a skill to put on my resume. Hope the rain and clouds lift and you get a little sunshine tomorrow.


  2. as parents we often fake that things are better than they are; that we are better than we feel. i loved the Italian film "Life is Beautiful" for this.

    i lived a lie for almost 20 years. not because of grief but for other reasons. but faking it, pulling it off for your children that everything is going to be alright is what we do no matter what the catalyst for the lie is.

    but there are times when you have to be a little bit honest so that you are human to your children and they can see coping skills. you seem to do this very well. we are our worst critics. be kind to yourself. i'm preaching to the choir though. sorry. i hope you find some peace of mind tonight.

  3. One up minute, down a half hour later--depression closing in. I have lived most of my life faking my feelings--not wanting those around me to know I am depressed. "They" want us to be happy so they don't have to worry, so...faking it seems okay. Then when we get in our private room...then we can be real.

  4. Some months after my husband died I became very tired of the faking and just presented myself as I honestly was, especially in public. When people asked how I was I replied, "Terrible..." I remember discussing this topic with my therapist. I was extremely depressed because of my divorce and was as deep inside my cave as I could be. I told my therapist it would be dishonest if I ventured out of the cave to interact with the world. She advised me that it is impossible to remain in the cave. That I would have to come out and face the world and live. She told me it would be okay to make time for retreating into the cave - but I couldn't stay there. So I guess in my opinion it is a balance. There are times I need to honor the grief and times I need to force a smile and hit the high school for the band concert.

    I have been reading my Law of Attraction books which state that smiling when you're down is a way to shift negativity. But what none of these books seem to discuss, however, is how to cope with profound and legitimate grief when that is experienced. I think we need to be true to our grieving spirits. But at the same time we have to live in the present and be there for kids and a job. So it is always a balance and shift between two worlds.

  5. While caring for Don, I found myself faking it a lot of the time. I think he and I both did quite a bit of that for each other's benefit as it was such an incredibly difficult and often depressing time for both of us. We both tried to be upbeat when we were at the cancer center. I think a lot of the other people going there did the same - as well as the medical and support staff. It's just what we all do to keep ourselves going.
    Now that I'm alone, I don't really have to fake it anymore. Most of the time, it's just me and the dogs. I wouldn't say that I go around feeling depressed, sad and frowning most of the time, but I don't smile too much or too easily anymore, except when I'm out visiting at someone's place. Then, yes, I fake it at least some of the time. Being a loner, maybe my life is easy in many ways. I can be how I feel most of the time. My dogs don't seem to notice, or if they do, they don't say anything. (-:

  6. Just want to thank Bev for her comment and insight. I have forgotten a lot of those endless days in the hospitals and clinics. But her observation about how the people there were "faking it" really hit a chord for me. The whole three-year ordeal with caring for my husband was very much like this. And it is exhausting and draining in its own right - to constantly be hopeful, optimistic and in a way, putting on a front. After my husband died, I was very upset with myself that I allowed this attitude to go on and that I wasn't more honest about our situation. It brings me some peace now to know that this seems to be a reaction others fall into.