28 August 2008

On Therapy

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 clich├ęd 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.

31 comments:

Whitney said...

:)
Life. Evolvng every moment. Hope and joy always yours... waiting in the wings for your notice.
:)

Lisa said...

wow. so deep. Sad to hear what you loved together; books, pics, memories are making you so sad. I think you are so strong for going on and surviving. Keep working at it! You inspire me greatly.

tropicalg77 said...

You may not be living the life that you imagined, but it is the one that for whatever reason and purpose you are chosen to live.

YOu have the ability to rewrite and steer your future, even though all you ever imagined was having john in it happily ever after, and dammit to H-E-L-L that it didn't go the way you planned, it sucks, and your entitled to be a sobbing mess curled up on the floor.

You still have a life to live, much MUCH to be fullfilled, and memories to be made.

Good for you to go within and realize that sometimes too many reminders make living without John more painful. He will always be in your heart, and he should be!!

your babes are a constant reminder of the love that you two shared. That says a lot in itself!

BethanyWD said...

Wow, what a post...thanks for sharing your journey.

Terri said...

That was simply beautiful. And that you were able -- and willing -- to express so eloquently what is in your heart ... well, that's grace. And courage.

Hang in there. And thank you so much for sharing what is so close to your heart.

Anonymous said...

YES. Way to go. I know John would be proud of you.

Shelley

Victoria said...

Snick, you give me hope for a future free of the crushing grief monster. I hope someday to reach the place where you are today, and I feel ready to move past being my husband's wife in mourning, and forward to a place where I'm simply Victoria. Thanks for being so inspiring.

http://www.thefellows.blogspot.com

GrannyFrani said...

Awesome work! I can only hope that I get to the places you are getting to

abernier said...

This, your writing, is one of the best, most lucid pieces of writing I've ever read on the benefits of therapy and about the way the human spirit moves through grief. I applaud you!

And, as a mom of twins, I'm so happy your future date has had the pleasure of experiencing TwinWorld!

Silver said...

You are an amazing woman. It sounds like you are on the right track, good luck with your healing

Crash Course Widow said...

I infrequently have private appts with my grief counselor, the one who runs my young widowed support group. Mostly I just go when I was/am facing a big hurdle (first wedding anniversary, returning to work the first time, selling & moving out of our house, other particularly bad grief patches), so I could be totally honest about how awful I felt. Mostly I pay her the $80 so I can just sit and cry through the whole thing, because I don't really allow myself to do it otherwise. I don't go regularly because it seemed to cheapen the experience somehow, made it something ordinary (or onerous, tedious, or just plain boring some days) instead of something cathartic. But I've made a lot of amazing revelations at those sessions. I often wish I went regularly, either weekly or every two weeks, but I can't really afford it and it's a long drive away.

I understand your feelings about the possessions around you. Been there, felt that. Moving at 16 mos. out made a big difference; some things I never put back out after moving because it just seemed weird to, some things I put out same as before, and other changed or were revamped. The bike he died on was one HUGE loaded possession that obsessively I held onto for 3 years, but I finally got rid of it this summer because it just pissed me off to trip over it all the time in my garage.

Hang in there!
Candice

buddha_girl said...

I am so very proud of you.

Astrogirl426 said...

I'm so happy you had this experience in therapy. Personally, I was in therapy for a few months earlier this year, but I let the appointments slide lately (variety of reasons - my therapist is out for surgery, we're having trouble with the insurance - but primarily because I've been avoiding). I felt the same way, that I wasn't really getting much out of it, or at least not as much as I expected. So you've inspired me to restart my appointments when the Boy goes back to school next week.

Quinn said...

Congrats. After losing my wife in a car accident late last year, its been pretty much the same for me. It does get better - keep putting one foot in front of the other and dont stop. You have 2 small kids that look up to you, and you're a tough bird.

Tiffi33 said...

Therapy is sneaky like that..you think you are talking about one thing then POOF, it is something else entirely, and you have an epiphany..

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I can identify with your post in so many ways. For me, leaving the Peace Corps felt like a death-- a death of my potential, a dramatic severing of relationships that I would never revisit, an overwhelming feeling of grief and incapacitation. Upon my return to the US, I spent five years in therapy. Once I realized that my PC experience didn't have to determine how I lived my life, it made a HUGE difference. I packed up everything and moved on. Now I can think of the whole thing with generally happy feelings and it is so liberating. My wish is that you'll start feeling the same way about the life you had with John.

BrooklynGirl said...

I wish there was something I could do to make this all easier.

Giovanna Diaries said...

Perfect post Snick!
You sound ready.

Melissa said...

Snick, it really sounds like you're starting to feel better. Yes, your healing won't be tidy, and you'll certainly have difficult moments ahead. But it sounds like things are changing and shifting for you, in ways that are both small and profound at the same time. I'm sure John is proud of you as you make your way. Congrats and hugs........... ~Melissa

Watercolor said...

hugs. :)

Nancy said...

You kick ass.

Not just because you're able to realize many things about yourself, but because you help So.Many.Others by being so honest.

bg's Little Sis said...

good for you Snick, good for you. Hard hugs.

-lil'sis

Lori said...

It sounds like a life changing moment. I'm so happy for you.

tousquireste said...

I late to this, having been away, but wanted to chime in with thanks for sharing this most recent development in your journey. I'm sure you'll make the decisions you're ready to make regarding the house, the stuff, and that they'll be right for you.

Anonymous said...

I know I always never post comments and just read your blog from a distance, but I felt I had to post this time. Your writing was so beautiful and thoughtful and introspective. I'm so impressed with you and your strength. I just wanted to give you my support and hope for better things to come. You deserve it.
liz

OTRgirl said...

I'm SO glad that you're sticking with the therapy and that you were willing to give it time. I know for me it was just important to have a place where I could be sad without being apologetic or turn and hear how that person was doing. A place where it was OK to be all about Me. Sounds like a really powerful session.

I can imagine that you might feel lighter with a 'cleaned' house. Another level of being able to control something in the midst of so much that's uncontrollable?

Aimee said...

I love the "aha" moments in therapy. They seem to come when I/you least expect it. Good for you that you experienced what you did in your last session.

Have you read "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion? I'd be happy to send you my copy. Think about it and let me know at wvgurl at yahoo dot com.

Wolf said...

i'm a new reader...and i just want to say, keep at it, it gets better, and it gets better in your time.

i didn't lose my husband, but i lost my father to cancer three months to the day he was diagnosed. i took care of him every single day and even though it was four years ago, it can still crush me. BUT, even though i fell apart the first few years afterwards, i finally picked myself up and said, time to live again. isn't that what those who love us would have wanted? (of course they don't realize how hard it is to keep going when they aren't here).

i'm probably rambling. but really, i just wanted to say good luck.

STE said...

Delurking to applaud you as you work through you grief and raise your children. I had a similar epiphany through tears rece tly, grieving the life I wanted with my sons but didn't get to have. Boy, that hurt.

I'll be reading...

django's mommy said...

I don't mean to sound stalker-y, truly I don't, but MAN do I wish I lived in Arlington and we could have coffee. I am feeling much of what you describe. Hopeful and bittersweet, for sure.

Sara said...

Beautifully written. Wishing you lots of hugs.