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July 15, 2019

Returning to normality from grief


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As we came to the six-week mark of James’ passing, it seemed that life is returning to normal.

I am grateful that people still ask how are you doing? While I recognise that sometimes I am not doing well, I’m grateful to be able to say, that most of the time I am doing ok. I often answer, “The time between the clouds is increasing. The periods of sunshine are longer but there are still some showers. One moment it’s fine but then, without warning, the clouds burst. After, the sun shines again.”

On Mondays, I set aside time to ponder how I am doing, to reflect on my emotional wellbeing, and then refocus and replenish. I noted that it has been taking longer to fill the tank. What is it that fills your tank?

A restorative niche

During recovery from burnout, I discovered that woodworking helps my tank fill, and so allocated a couple of afternoons in my workshop. Tackling some rough sawn spotted gum from a house renovation and red gum I had in storage from a building was so good for my soul. Buckets of sawdust resulted from dressing the timber. There was dust everywhere but internally and externally I began to smile as the cheese boards emerged. What satisfaction I felt as the oil was applied, and the colours emerged. Placing varieties of cheese on the board gave much gratification. Sharing the cheese platter that afternoon with Adrienne was a great time. I’m feeling happy. I’m flourishing. The simple winning principle here is the alignment of expectations, gifts, and outcomes. In grief, expectations are shattered and outcomes are beyond our intervention. What restores your soul?

I am discovering that grief is a journey, not an event.

Waves come in sets that break on the shore. Then there is a lull. The waves of tiredness I experience are still big. I learnt in burnout to listen to tiredness and respond by resting, so, we have been sleeping longer and sometimes take a rest in the middle of the day.
In 2017 my father-in-law passed away. A few weeks afterwards, Mum told us the story that as a young wife, her own father had died. She had visited her mother about 6 weeks after and found her in bed in middle of the day, too tired to get up. Mum remembered that this 6-week tiredness is a normal part of the grief cycle, when the adrenalin that keeps one going after a death has subsided. It has been a helpful insight for helping me see the need for more rest at this time. Thanks, Mum, for sharing that insight.

A new normal

Do things return to normal? No. Life will be different, and new normal emerges. Is there hope? Yes! Will my energy return? Yes!

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