27 Oct This Journey Was Not My Choice
What happened? You have moved from having a physical relationship with your loved one to one of memory. It’s normal to think, “What happened to my loved one?” “What is happening to me?” “What happens next?” “How do I make the pain go away?” “Will I ever feel Normal again?” Yes, you are on a journey—one that was not your choice. Even though this journey was not your choice, you do have one important choice to make. A choice that only you can make. The choice is to choose Healing—and to keep choosing Healing.
Many of us have found it helpful to visualize the grief process and healing process as one of walking down a long and winding path. As we walk this winding path we are tasked with the job of navigating and transitioning through many painful grief emotions—emotions that are filled with many twists, turns, bumps, pitfalls and potholes. And these painful grief emotions produce normal grief responses.
What else is happening? Your mind, brain, and heart are in the process, and it is a process, of rewiring to an environment which no longer includes your loved one. Neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf explains in her book, Who Switched Off My Brain: “Love has a massive chemical influence on the brain that impacts us on a physical level. Because of this the death of a spouse (or other close loved one) is especially traumatic and painful because of the neurochemical bonds deep in the brain… When these neurological bonds are broken they produce physical pain in both the brain and the body as a result of the massive amounts of bonding chemicals that accompany… a loving relationship.
It takes time for these chemicals to dissolve. (Dissolving does not mean forgetting. It is not possible to forget someone that we love.) The deep limbic system of the brain (the emotional center of the brain) misses the person’s voice, touch and smell… Meditating on good memories and sharing your good memories with others helps with the healing process because of the chemicals that are re-activated.”
This journey is none stop and exhausting. It’s exhausting because you are doing the work of grief. Grief work refers to the tasks and processes and transitions that you must successfully complete in order to resolve your grief. It is the mental and emotional process of working through painful grief emotions, unwanted role and responsibility changes, and all of the secondary loss and unwanted change brought about by the death.
So, how long is this going to take? This path, just like any other path in life, has a destination. The destination in this case is a return to your normal emotional set point. Said another way, returning to the level of mental and emotional functioning that you were functioning at before the death occurred. We each arrive at this destination on our own personal healing timetable. Why? Because each of us is a unique individual with a different life experience and a different, yet many times similar, death experience. We each have our own unique way of perceiving events, problem solving and we each have our own individual style, healthy and productive or not, of dealing with stress. What all this means is that you will arrive when you get there. It might take a month, months, a year or a couple of years because you are on your own personal healing journey.
This journey is going to test your resilience and possibly your faith. Talking with your Pastor, Priest or Rabbi may be helpful. And if, by chance, you find yourself so stuck in emotional muck that you can’t move forward in your healing—find professional help.
Hugs, Linda P.