The doctor I see every six months or so for my rheumatoid arthritis always fusses at me.
One of the routine questions is, “How’s your pain level?”
I usually say, “About a three.”
And then she looks at my hands and my feet-at the swollen joints and twisted toes-and shakes her head.
But here’s the deal: sure they hurt, sure I can’t do all the things I used to do, sure I have to do many things differently than I did them when my hands and feet were unaffected by this disease-but I’m STILL moving and doing what needs to be done.
I don’t really know how to do anything else.
And that’s how it is with this grief I lug around-it’s heavier some days than others-but I’m STILL moving and doing what needs to be done.
This is not the life I thought I would be living, but it’s the life I have.
So I make accommodations for my sorrow just like I make accommodations for my hurting hands and crooked toes.
- I try not to over-schedule my days. If I have an appointment I mark it on the calendar and refuse to pile other commitments on top of it. That way if I’m wiped out I have some built in down time.
- I prioritize what needs to be done. Whether it is for a week or a day, I jot down a list (still using paper-but a phone would work) and then decide what are the two or three MOST important tasks that must be done in that time frame. If I find myself running behind because it’s a hard grief day (or week), I can quickly make choices that ensure the needful things are done and the others laid aside for when I have more energy to do them. I’m less anxious about what I don’t get finished because I know I did the most important things first.
- I build rest into my days. When I’m overtired, I’m more susceptible to grief attacks. I pause every now and then to sit or take a quick walk outside or simply change my work from detail-oriented to broad strokes. I have more flexibility because I work at home but even in an office it’s possible. My husband walks every day on his lunch hour-sunshine and physical activity make his afternoons easier to bear.
- I ask for help. When I’m drowning in grief, I reach out for a lifeline. There’s no shame in asking for help. I have a good friend that I can text or call anytime I need to and ask for prayer or a listening ear. I belong to a couple of online grief groups and they are full of people who understand my pain and will lift me up in prayer and encourage my heart when it feels especially broken.
- I accept my limitations. My toes don’t allow me to wear beautiful shoes anymore so I’ve learned to wear what fits instead of what’s in fashion. I am not the same person I was before I buried a child so I’m learning to live with the new me. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like unexpected change. I feel anxious in unfamiliar places and around strangers. I make choices that limit my exposure to those things when possible.
- I shake off the really awful day. I can’t help that some days take a nosedive into terrible as soon as I leave the bed. I admit that grieving is hard, that it will continue to be hard. But I won’t let my worst days be my only days.
I am not in control of everything, but I can control some things.
I would not have chosen this life for myself, but I can make choices that help make it bearable.