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Grief is…frustration

October 30, 20235 min read

Grief is…frustration

About four months after Ben died I started to get frustrated. Really, really frustrated. I was out of survival mode, barely, I could do more than get myself from the bed to the couch, but there was so much I still couldn’t do. So many things that used to be easy or joyful were now impossible. And it was a wide variety of thing: grocery shopping and cooking, remembering directions when driving in a city I know well, any task that took multiple steps, reading anything besides light fiction, listening to podcasts and following the conversation. And it made me so angry.

That frustration lasted months. I felt it for a long time as I longed for the life I had and the person I was. I want to fix it. I want to push myself and have it change. And I know I can’t. It’s part of the journey of grief. The brain fog is real. Most of what I still struggle with is things that take multiple steps that have to be done in a certain order. I’ve never used my GPS so much but I know there is no point to struggling. Nothing is gained by feeling frustrated. I can’t remember the names of streets I’ve known for years or how to get somewhere new that takes more than a few turns. There are tools to make that easy and so I use them. With no blame or shame. With only acceptance. And what does it matter? If I use Maps for the rest of my life to get places, I’m still me. I used to think it was important to be able to do it myself, to hold the steps in my head and now I see it doesn’t matter. There are so many more important things to do with my energy than feel frustrated about things that don’t really matter.

I love cooking and I’m slowly getting back to it. I have a membership in a great group that has new recipes every month. I didn’t cooked anything from a recipe for over a year and a half. I’ve still barely cooked anything. I looked at the recipes the other day. They look great. The thought of writing a list of groceries to buy, getting to the store, finding them, getting them home, chopping, stirring and cooking a new recipe is still too much. And that makes me sad. But it just is. I’m so grateful to my supporters who’ve cooked for me. I send them the recipes and the food shows up like magic. I’m vegan so that makes me doubly appreciative as I know they are scouring as yet unvisited parts of the grocery store for ingredients they’ve never heard of…nutritional yeast anyone! I used to spend one day most weekends batch cooking up a storm to fill the freezer with portions for the weeks ahead. A rotating pile of freezer bags ready to heat up. The first attempt at something like that was  a batch of pantry chili which was edible. I couldn’t remember what spices I usually put in and couldn’t find the energy to find the recipe that would tell me. The mix of beans and tomatoes wasn’t quite right. But it was edible. It felt kind of good. About half way through I was exhausted but I finished.  I fed myself with what I had on hand. Then I cooked a batch of a recipe I’ve cooked many times. I didn’t get it quite right but the next time was better. Slowly but slowly capacities come back on line and I can manage more. And I don’t have to do it alone.

I’m gently touching more complicated books. Losing my joy of reading is a tough one. I’ve learned so much and experienced so many things through the wonder of books. I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned how. Now I struggle with long articles. I’ve read lots of fluff. I don’t need to remember it to enjoy it but I miss learning through reading. I’m getting closer. I can imagine doing it again and have read parts of a few non-fiction books. I can do a chapter or two before my brain gets tired. I remember some of it. Each time I try there is more capacity. It’s not what it was and that’s ok. I’m not who I was either.

I could go on and on but here’s the important bit. When you are grieving your brain is busy. It is cushioning you from shock, protecting you from despair as best it can and rewiring itself. Things are a bit foggy. If you are like me, you like to feel capable. There’s more to capable than doing it yourself. Sometimes capable looks like accepting help. Sometimes capable is accepting limitations and finding ways to work around them. Sometimes capable is allowing what is to be enough. In many ways, it took that intense frustration to get me to being ok with what is. I don’t want to live with intense frustration. I want to accept where I am with love and grace.

If you are grieving, I hope if you are feeling frustrated by changes in your abilities and capacities you can give yourself grace. Grief is hard work. It changes us and it changes over time. The more we can be open to emotions and name them as we let them flow through the more we can embrace grief and move towards integration. None of the emotions will last forever except love. Love is forever.

If you are supporting someone who is grieving increasing your own comfort with emotions helps you feel more comfortable showing up to support someone who is feeling big emotions. If you can sit with your person as they feel it all, that is a huge gift. Grievers need permission to feel it all. You can provide that.

If you are a business leader supporting a griever in the workplace, how you model emotions at work has a big impact on your company culture. Understand grievers may have overwhelming emotions of all sorts. A quiet place to go when they feel overwhelmed or the ability to take a short walk is an amazing way to support someone.

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Through her insightful teachings and thoughtfully designed programs, Suzanne offers a path guided by emotional intelligence and real life experience to address the full spectrum of the complex emotions and consequences of grief while expanding the capacity to engage fully with life post loss. Her heartfelt approach also honours the depth of loss through the invaluable practice of cherishing and expressing love for what has been lost and experienced.

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In a recent peer meeting, I shared the statistics you provided regarding the number of co-workers that are dealing with grief at any given time. We committed to not only acknowledging the grief but also to providing sustained support.

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