How to say no, i.e. I’ll take a raincheck on that hug.
Throughout the stages of grief, in whatever time order that is for you, the level of emotional tolerance is continuously changing. However, even further on in the process it is still surprising when an onslaught of tears appears unexpectedly. Everyone says “cry it out” so that you can heal. Yet I realized after crying a river of tears that I should start having a little more respect for my nervous system and health. Learning to find balance in my emotions has been key to my sense of well-being. Not that I’ve done a great job, but I’m trying.
Recognizing situations that may trigger high emotions and have a lingering effect on my mental and physical condition helps me to make wiser decisions on my course. Realizing that people really do want to help, it is a good idea to let them know how to do that. The important part is to communicate what is truly helpful. It seems that many of us are hyper vigilant about not saying the wrong things these days, yet the guidance on how to accomplish that is confusing to say the least.
Likewise with grief, I’ve learned that letting others know what IS helpful is appreciated. A simple hug when you are just cruising along and feeling steady can crumble you to the ground. So maybe “I’ll take a raincheck on that hug” can communicate that the effort is appreciated but the timing could be better. Go ahead and SAY IT. Take some control of your circumstances. Let people know what you need. If you are uncomfortable to go to a gathering or to work because of the “I’m so sorry” comments that will come your way, then ask a friend to let everyone know what reaction to your presence would be helpful or send a note letting friends know what you need. And if you don’t feel comfortable going somewhere, then don’t go until you are ready.
Next: say NO to your own poorly planned ideas! I had the crazy idea that going alone to the movie theater (that we frequented together) and watching a documentary about Anthony Bourdaine (who we watched for years and who recently passed away) was NOT a good idea! Living alone, there is no one to stop me in these foolish plans, so I must take responsibility for my well-being on all levels and that includes not collecting a pile of triggers and jumping into it! OK, take a deep breath, look at yourself as your dearest friend, and create a path of compassion and wisdom as you traverse this rocky road of grief. Any ideas on how to say no?
Today marks one year since John Reimer’s passing. It is unclear what should be done on the one-year anniversary of losing your loved one. The word anniversary has always depicted images of celebration for me, yet this celebration takes on new meaning. Our would-be anniversary of 8 years together would have taken place in July. In these past years, we shared lots of love, family life, friends, studies of yoga, growing of the Lotus Pond, traveling, and certainly lots of laughs. Sometimes I just laugh out loud thinking of his “dry humor” remarks.
I have stacks of sympathy cards and they are all filled with heartfelt remarks about John. They recall him showing them something beautiful on the Lotus Pond grounds or remembering how he made them feel so welcomed at the Pond. He was actually shy by nature and would have been so surprised to see all of these wonderful comments. I feel sure that he has received all of this love and that his response is seen in the flourishing flower garden that was planted in his honor at the Pond.
Even considering all the pain that is endured, life never ceases to reveal the simple beauties of love and support. John and I were like two trees with branches and roots intertwined, sharing the sunshine and nutrients, holding space for all the birds, and weathering a fair number of storms. On this day I choose to celebrate that simplicity of love and support. I hope you’ll join me in opening your eyes to the beauty of life and it's passing, appreciating all that is physically present and all that continues to exist in our hearts.
Val Spies, Lotus Pond Yoga Studio owner and Yoga Teacher training director.