I lost a very dear person this past weekend and though my mind knew and accepted the loss, it took my heart several days to find the courage to come around.
This avoidance behavior was made easier to carry on with, understandably so.
I was involved as a staff member in a major training event that lasted several days. As a group mentor I was working closely with an assigned group. So I did a self check and decided I could set aside the pain and loss to be present and on the task at hand.
I told myself, correctly so, that I needed to insure the focus remained on the participants- where it belonged. After all, they came for a purpose, paid their money and were paying their dues to be there, to learn, to develop. The time needed to be about them and their experience, not about me, not about my loss.
And I was grateful for their presence. Grateful for the distraction, because frankly, it was so much easier than allowing myself to feel the pain and cry the tears I didn’t know when would stop once started. (at writing they have not yet)
All of this is Okay.
Everyone grieves differently. Each passes through the different stages at different times, this is the basis of Dr. Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief Model and we all find it works. Even the denial portion!
The problem comes when the mind brings the avoidance behavior to your attention and yet you still steadfastly refuse to allow yourself to acknowledge and experience the pain.
Any of us can fall into this trap. Today’s stimuli laden world makes it easy. We have to take care of this, take care of that, and do this first. We might try to grieve in spurts, when no one is looking.
That’s kind of okay right? Grief does come and go in spurts as part of the process.
Yet if we’ve been holding the full impact of the loss at bay, those Temporary Reminders of the Permanent Feelings often hit us when we least expect it. The harder we try to squash down the…. well the Uuck, the more stimuli we need and the harder we fall into it.
Avoidance is unhealthy.
Under those conditions, the unhealthy behaviors tend to escalate and gravitate toward any and all sensations one can focus on instead of the situation. We allow ourselves to turn to any stimuli that helps ward off that pain when it comes creeping.
It might be something seemingly harmless, like excessive joking- it’s said that comedians are the ones who suffer the deepest of pain and use humor to battle the dark. Which is great, but I say seemingly harmless because you may inadvertently hurt the feelings of others as one is not in a position to notice social cues of boundaries. It might even bring your professional skills or leadership into question.
The avoidance behaviors could be more serious like substance misuse. Which has long been an available behavior as noted by Omar Khayyam Of Naishapur in The Rubaiyat
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
TODAY of past Regrets and future Fears—
Tomorrow?—Why, Tomorrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.
When one picks up a substance, a game, a casual relationship, etc to ward off and escape pain or conversely, as an excuse to revel in the pain- a big alarm bell should sound. Really big, like Liberty Bell ring. We will be with ourselves tomorrow come morning, and we might find we need bigger cups to clear today of our addition to the list of our regrets!
As a society, we have promoted the idea of happiness as a norm and preference to avoid pain.
The price we pay is enormous.
Pain is painful.
Yet it is necessary, it has a purpose.
Pain lets us know something is wrong.
But it doesn’t have to last, Pain eases.
Pain goes away.
Pain too has a life span.
In time we must let a pain go as well.
It wouldn’t be healthy to live with pain any more than it would be healthy to live with untreated pneumonia.
Joy is a great painkiller.
Laughter is one of the best medicines.
Music can soothe the soul and help us drift away.
These are just a few of the positive behaviors and wellness tools we can bring into our lives.
If we allow ourselves to be joyful, we not ignore the present pain, we are in fact treating our pain. Loving those around us in healthy ways, showing appreciation for those in our lives who support us and allow us the space to grieve, these are healthy behaviors. It’s important for each of us to have strong supporters in good times, and sad.
When we do these things, we are effectively treating our pain by allowing ourselves to experience the emotions that make us human. Usually this treatment is much more effective than what a physician could do for us but it is hard to do alone.
This post is dedicated in loving rememberance of this magnificent lady lost to this world. Vochita Vintella, aka Kitsy, remains in memory and example. Her grace, wisdom and love lives on in her daughters, grandchildren and those lucky enough to have been graced by her example.