“Can you?” ” Would you?” “We need you to… Help!”
You’d be surprised how soon people start expecting a bereaved parent to jump right back into the responsibilities and activities they shouldered or enjoyed before burying a child.
I know the rest of the world didn’t stop when mine did, but I was truly amazed that some people in my circle seemed unaware mine had stopped at all.
As I’ve written before here the funeral is not the end of grief’s journey, it’s quite near the beginning. It took a year for me to just convince my heart Dominic wasn’t coming back. It took longer to begin to understand how very different I am now and to embrace those changes.
I simply cannot do some things I once did.
And some of the things I can still do, I do differently or not as well. So I have to say, “no” more often than I used to-even when others don’t understand why.
But there’s a fine line between self-preservation and complete withdrawal.
I try to walk it each time someone asks me to take on a new responsibility, join a new project or agree to a new commitment.
I am honest about the fact that while I may say “yes” I might have to back out.
I’m also realistic about my new limitations-lower noise tolerance, greater anxiety when things change unexpectedly, inability to sustain small talk for more than a couple of minutes. So if the request means I am likely to hit my personal wall before I can meet expectations, I decline.
I’m also learning that I can use my grief as an excuse to get out of things I just don’t like.
And I don’t want to do that.
I can play the “child loss” card and push others away when it isn’t healthy. I can dig a hole and hide and then whine when no one comes to look down my pit to check on me.
So instead of rejecting every request out of hand, I respond-honestly-that I will think about it. And I do.
By slowly choosing thoughtful engagement I’m expanding my social circle again. I’m learning that if I push myself just a little bit, I get stronger and better able to handle the next thing.
I’m learning who this new “me” really is and what her limits are. I’m also learning that she has new strengths.
I’m still not as involved in anything as I once was. I don’t expect that I ever will be again. But I’m not a hermit.
It’s a balancing act-I’m slowly learning to walk this line.