You Do Have Control Over Some Things

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While managing grief, you can feel totally out of control. That’s why it is important to take control of the few things available to you.

Being sad when something is gone just means it was great while it was there quote from the Supernova film on a starry background
“Being sad when something is gone just means it was great while it was there” quote from the Supernova film (2020)

Grief is hard. Whether it’s grief over losing a loved one, grief over losing a relationship, or grief over losing something you truly thought you could have had, grief is a process. A long and winding process. 

There are different levels of grief for different kinds of losses. I would never presume to compare one with another, but we know it when we feel it. Losing a job feels worse than losing a bid on a house you were hoping to rent or buy. Losing a pet feels worse than losing out on a trip you’d been planning for months. It is all loss, but the sliding scale of grief stops at different points – from disappointment to devastation. 

We have no control over many of the things that happen to us. We can put ourselves in the best positions possible, but people still pass away, life still serves us bad news, and as we age, our health still declines. We can mitigate the possible damages by working hard to the contrary, but we will encounter grief no matter what we do. It is inevitable. 

There are some things that we do have control over, however. There are huge choices that might make all the difference in our healing. 

Pay Attention To Your Attitude

The biggest thing that you have control over is your attitude. Your attitude about the loss, your attitude about the people and world around you, and your attitude about yourself. 

You are going to cry, you are going to despair, and you are going to feel (at least) a little confused. Those are normal reactions to loss. But there are moments where you will have choices about how you view the loss. Are you angry? Are you grateful? Are you unable to process it?

When the incident first happens, all of the confusion and emotions are real and all-encompassing. You are deep in it and you have to get used to looking at your life in a new way. This is an incredibly tough process that doesn’t end but lessens as time goes on. 

After those initial days or months, there will be times when you recognize yourself a little bit more. You will have more choices and more control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Think about how you exist with yourself and how you are coming off to others. Are you someone that you’d want to spend time with? How do you feel about yourself – not your emotions, but yourself – when you are alone? Paying attention to the energy you bring to each day can truly make every one a little bit easier over time.  

Thank-Yous And Sorrys Go A Long Way

Listen, grief is not a simple process and you will make mistakes – with others and with yourself. An apology goes a really long way. 

Your words and actions affect other people, whether you intended them to or not – whether you were in full control of yourself or not. While you may or may not remember exactly what you did or said, anyone you exposed that part of yourself to will. For better and worse. 

If you know that you lashed out at someone in a state of grief, say you’re sorry when you are able to manage it. Tell the person that you know what you did and own it. Mean it. And then don’t do it again. 

Everyone understands that we are human, but part of being an adult is having accountability for all of our actions, even while managing our sorrow. Thank those around you for being a support system and keep moving forward. 

Give Yourself Grace

On the flip side of that same coin is to have some grace with yourself. Sometimes we say things that we don’t mean or get insensitive with those around us because they are the ones we trust the most.

You are human and you will make mistakes. Take a deep breath and try to do better in the future. That’s all you need to do. You are a work-in-process. We all are. 

Keep On Trying

In my own experience, intense grief had me stuck for several months. I would watch 20 minutes of 6 different television shows or movies because I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think of simple words to communicate and I had almost no ability to be with more than one person (outside of my immediate family) at a time. 

But I kept trying and I keep trying today. I am only a few steps outside of that state as I sit here now, and if you’re like me, I encourage you to keep trying. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits. If all you can do today is take a shower, take that shower. 

If today is a day that you can do the dishes, do a load of laundry, and organize the mail while watching a movie, do that. Just keep trying. 

If you allow yourself to get seriously stuck, it will be that much more difficult to dig yourself out. You need to mourn and you need to be true to yourself, but understand that there is life after today. I know that that thought alone is painful, but it is true – and at the end of the day – it is a good thing.

There is more in your future and it is your responsibility to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if the steps are so tiny that the movement is almost negligible for a little while. 

Accept That It’s A Bumpy Road

This is not a success-only journey. You will see, smell, taste, and think of things that bring tears to your eyes. You will have days that are significantly worse than others. You may have days where staying in bed is the only option. One step forward and two steps back is a real thing. 

This is all part of the process of grieving. After spending that day in bed, get up and eat something. Call someone or look for a support group. You are not the only person going through this, although I know it may feel like no one could possibly understand your pain. Talking to someone who has been where you are can be a great help. Try taking another step forward tomorrow. 

Don’t Get Left Behind

While we are going through a terrible grief process, the world continues to turn. People get married, friends get sick, babies are born, and the rent has to be paid. None of it is going to stop and wait for us. 

It isn’t easy to re-engage with people and things while grieving, but it is important to your therapeutic process. You have to engage with the world in order to live in it. If you don’t, you will have to deal with the consequences of living in the past. 

This doesn’t mean that you have to forget about the person or situation you are mourning. I talk out loud to my father fairly regularly these days. I choose to believe that he can hear me and I hope that I’m right. And in this way, I believe that he experiences things with me. New things, funny conversations, excellent movies. It is part of my healing process. 

But the truth is that our lives are our responsibility. No one will do the work for us. Look to your support system and let them be there for you. If you don’t have a healthy support system, it’s time to look for one. Therapy and support groups are excellent places to start.

Take control of the things that you truly have control over – most of which is yourself. And be grateful for what you’ve had. How lucky are you that your love and investment were so great that you wish you could have had it forever? That in and of itself is a gift.  

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