I've been plugging along at therapy. Up until last week, I felt like it was neither hurting nor helping me. I would go, we'd talk, I'd leave, and I'd forget about it for a week. I always meant to think of things I wanted or needed to discuss, but I never really did. In all honesty, there were some weeks when we'd start to get into some pretty emotional waters and I'd deliberately hold back because I didn't want to end up all weepy and tearstained and volatile before heading back to the office (my appointments are at lunch). There were times when I wondered if it was worth my time and money to keep going, but based on what I'd heard from therapy veterans, I figured I'd continue and see if things came together over time.
Well, let me tell you, THINGS CAME TOGETHER. As I mentioned in my post on my readiness to date, most of my conversation last week at therapy was about my time in the Peace Corps. At the time that I had the session, it seemed like a nice conversation that had no bearing in my current mental state. I was wrong. For starters, that conversation led to my identification of my feelings of loneliness, which led me to test the waters of dating. By extension, identifying my feelings of loneliness led me to realize that not all of the negative feelings I have stem directly from my grief. Since John's death, I've automatically attributed any feelings of sadness, anger, fear, bitterness, or whatever other negative emotions I've had to the grief process. As such, I've felt somewhat powerless to try to overcome them. One of the things that's been driven home for me relative to grief is that it's unpredictable and needs to be taken at face value. So I've done my best to try to just feel the emotions as they have happened and I've tried to resist the urge to fix them. I have found this hard to do as (a) I'm a fixer and (b) these feelings are not pleasant, experiencing them is not fun, and I'd rather just make them go away. But I've tried to feel them, learn from them, and make my peace with them.
The thing is, grief is only one part of my current emotional experience. Granted, it's a disproportionally large part. But it's not the only part. It was revelatory to think, "Hey! If some of these emotions are just coming from my day-to-day experience—not specifically from grief—then I have some power to change the way I feel." I hate to use a clichéd word, but I found this idea really empowering. I have felt like I have so little control over my life. I've felt like a slave to my grief. Now I feel like I can look at what besides grief is causing these feelings and try to make changes that will improve the situation.
I've felt lighter in the past week. I've been more energized regarding neglected projects around my house (well, when I wasn't watching the Olympics and now when I'm not watching the DNC). I changed my hairstyle. I am thinking about doing some redecorating. I've been more patient with the kids and more grateful that I have them. I feel . . . happier, or if not happier, more hopeful.
This week at therapy, I talked a lot about how I can honor and remember John without constant physical reminders of him. Lately, my house has felt leaden to me, weighty and depressing. The place is a shrine to the life I had with John. It's filled with photos of us. The main wall in our living room is our Wedding Wall: our wedding certificate flanked by two pieces of wedding-related art. I have two shelves in the playroom filled with John's books. Our kitchen, the place we spent the most time, is bursting with gadgets and goodies that we purchased together.
It used to give me a lot of joy to see these things every day. It was like having John at home. I liked pretending that he would be home from work in the afternoon or that he'd just run out to the store. Now those things are starting to be painful. The wedding certificate reminds me not of the beauty of our special day, but of the marriage I didn't get to have. The books are reminders of all of the things John never got to read. The air in the house seems filled with bitterness. I feel like I'm living in the past when I'm ready to look at the future. I'm not going to get rid of these things—oh no, no, no—but maybe I don't need to look at them every. single. day.
I cried a lot at therapy today, tears for the life I wanted and will not get to have. But the tears and the ensuing conversation felt productive and meaningful. I don't have all the answers yet, not by a long shot, but I feel like there is a way for me to remember John and move forward, that those goals are not mutually exclusive. More important, I feel like I want to move forward.
I know this is a peak and that there will be more valleys. I know this is not a tidy, wrapped up move forward. It's bittersweet. But I'll take it.