I know these days so many of us are spending more time at home, more time alone.
For introverts or wounded hearts not having to turn down invitations can seem like a gift.
But it’s easy to slide from solitude (healthy, restorative alone time) into isolation (unhealthy, depleting separation). So I ask myself a few questions to help sort it out.
If you are feeling increasingly alone and forgotten, full of despair and abandoned, you might want to use this checklist too.
Even in this era of social (physical) distancing a heart can and absolutely should seek out community.
It’s what we were made for.
I’ve always loved my alone time.
As an introvert (who can, if pressed pretend not to be!) my energy is restored when I interact with one or two folks or no one at all. A dream afternoon is writing while listening to nothing louder than the wind chimes outside my door.
I treasure solitude.
Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I find I need even more alone time than before.
That quiet place is where I do my most effective grief work, undisturbed by interruptions and distractions.
But I need to be careful that solitude doesn’t shift into isolation.
For some of us, along with societal angst, fear, illness and loss (of income, dreams, opportunities), we are heavy laden with grief.
That makes everything harder when it’s most certainly already hard enough.
So while there may be fewer gatherings, parties, school activities and community events due to Covid19 you are probably already feeling some pressure to show up and be part of something, somewhere.
I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.
You have to do it.
I know, I know-where to fit it in between all the other responsibilities!
If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.
So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?
Start each day (whenever possible) with a few minutes of alone time. Let those moments be the buffer between you and the day ahead. Don’t allow your mind to wander to your “to do” list. Sit. Sip the hot beverage of your choice and let silence soothe your soul.
Don’t overschedule your days (or nights!). Exercise the option of saying, “no” to things that are not really important or necessary. Just because you have done it every other year doesn’t obligate you to do it this year. Exhaustion always magnifies despair.
Try to balance busy days with not so busy days. The surest path to meltdown is traveling in the fast lane.
Let other people take on responsibilities-especially if they offer- and even if they don’t. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
Keep a pad and pen on your nightstand and jot down any random thoughts that you don’t want to forget before bedtime. There is no sense worrying about something you can’t address until morning and writing it down means you won’t forget it.
Make use of online everything. Have gifts sent directly to recipients. Order groceries for pick up. There are many ways to make life less hectic and more enjoyable. If you don’t know what’s available in your area, ask friends and family.
Plan for at least one recovery day for every large gathering/party/meal you have to attend. Some of us need two.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you are used to having matching everything, perfect centerpieces and gourmet meals it may be hard to lower your standards. But if there is one thing I have learned since Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it’s that the companionship of those we love trumps anything else. People rarely remember how you set your table but they will remember who sat around your table.
And if your heart is too tender to do anything but hold on and hope this month passes quickly, then do that. You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Sometimes that’t the best we can do and that is OK.
I first shared this post three years ago when our family was in the midst of hard circumstances and we all had frayed nerves.
This year is a different kind of hard because some of the plans we thought were coming together are falling apart. I imagine many folks probably feel the same way with the pandemic forcing changes to longstanding traditions. So I’m sharing again.
You’d think that writing something down would ink it in my brain but I forget too. I need this reminder to take a breath, take a sip of my favorite flavored whatever and savor the beauty of this season.
Here they come round the bend like a pack of dogs chasing that rabbit on a racetrack.
No way to slow them down, no way to step to the side and ward off the relentless message that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming soon-so, so soon.
Internet ads scream, “You’ve got to buy it NOW! You’re running out of time!”
If you’ve ever been in any kind of counseling or recovery group , you have probably seen or heard this acronym and advice: HALTbefore you speak.
It’s a great reminder that I should take a moment to consider my frame of mind before I blurt out something that might damage a relationship or wound someone else’s heart.
I had never thought about it until recently, but it is also a great reminder to us who grieve that what we interpret solely as grief (which we cannot control) might be compounded greatlyby other things (some of which we can control).
So I am learning to apply the HALT acronym to a grief spiral in my own life.
I’ve never understood the *wisdom* in refusing appropriate treatment for what ails you.
Sure, no one wants to take a handful of pills every morning and every night but for some the magic of medicine has given us more years than we’d have otherwise.
But pharmaceuticals aren’t the only kind of medicine out there and if we availed ourselves more often of easy-to-access lifestyle choices and built in better habits we might all be happier and healthier!
It’s so easy to focus on the miles left to travel and forget how far I’ve come.
Life has a habit of reminding me that there are hills yet to climb, emotional hurdles still to come and (the ever looming threat) gray hair, wrinkles and an aging body with which to tackle them.
But every now and then I remember to take stock of just how many miles I’ve already traveled.
I pause, sometimes with pad and paper, and recount the bends, twists, devastating events and challenging circumstances I’ve already navigated (some by the skin of my teeth and ALL by the grace of God!).
Doing that helps my heart hold on to hope.
It helps me take one more step, one more breath, last one more sunrise to sunset. It’s a way of speaking courage to myself when I’m afraid I won’t be able to endure and might give up before I complete my course.
So if you are, like me on some days, feeling undone by long years stretching ahead or a particularly hard season already upon you, may I ask you to think back, to take stock, to answer a few basic questions?
Are you getting up each morning and caring for yourself and/or others?
Are you fulfilling job obligations (if you’re employed outside your home)?
Have you lost a job, changed jobs, found a job, retired or relocated?
Are you sending birthday greetings to friends, family and children or grandchildren (even if they are belated!)?
Have you celebrated important milestones with those you love (even if you cried before, during or after)?
Have you planned a wedding, baby shower, birthday party or other public event?
Do you pay your bills?
Have you resisted the urge to turn to food, alcohol, drugs or any other destructive habit or behavior in an attempt to numb your pain?
Do you take the garbage out?
Have you taken a shower recently?
Are you connected to a faith community/bereaved parent group/small group of some kind?
Are you still married or with a long term partner even though grief may have strained the relationship?
Have you or are you caring for an ailing family member?
Are you buying groceries/preparing meals/or otherwise feeding yourself and others in your household?
Do you practice self-care (exercise, journaling, prayer/meditation, rest and proper nutrition)?
Has your home life shifted significantly (empty nest, boomerang kids, elderly parents moving in)?
Do you/have you addressed health concerns and are you following recommended and prescribed treatments?
Do you maintain contact with those you care about (even with coronavirus limitations)?
Is there at least one thing you pursue that feels like a break from responsibility (reading, a hobby, pets, watching old movies…)?
Then you’ve covered miles, my friend.
You are making progress.
No matter how much is left to travel, you have it in you to make it! ❤