Welcome to Week Six of Bereavement Boot Camp. Have you noticed any changes in your Healing Journey at this point? I hope so, because I am now about to push you out of your house.
Did I just give you a big headache?
I wouldn't be surprised if your answer is "Yes"... because I know that at one time, the thought of leaving the house, socializing or being in public in any way at all made me want to crawl under the covers with a large order of fried-something from a drive-thru.
We have spent the last couple of weeks talking about Energy Drainers and how they do not have a place on your Healing Journey -- and they don't. However, it is now time to turn attention to your Energy Givers; the people in your life without whom you would feel lost. These wonderful Energy Givers have a very strong need; that of putting their collective arms around you to show their love and support in any and all ways possible -- and you need to permit them to give you this love and support in the ways that they are able.
In other words -- it's time to let people in.
I know -- at a time of loss or life challenge, rather than even thinking about socializing, many of us would rather just disappear from public view and turn inward. I completely get that because it all seems an exhaustive effort -- getting ready to go someplace, actually going to that someplace and then feeling like you have to be on your game... when you may very well be feeling like you have no game to be "on" in the first place.
Many of you may already be familiar with this story. Almost immediately after Mike's death, I was scheduled to attend a business conference in Dallas, which involves roughly 10,000 attendees. I had just finished with Mike's funeral (not to mention the over-three-year journey that was his diagnostic process and illness), so as you can likely imagine, a conference of this (or any) magnitude was obviously the very last thing in which I wanted to participate. Truthfully, even though I loved my work and my colleagues with whom I shared that work, the thought of traveling halfway across the country and having to paste on that "face" that we all paste on at one time or another just made my head hurt. To be honest, I do not think that I was even out of my pajamas at that point in time.
I was firm in my decision to stay home when I received a call from a colleague** who was not only an amazing mentor to me; she was also very much a part of our family's journey throughout Mike's illness. She called me in an effort to convince me to attend the conference -- now keep in mind that several others had attempted to exercise their powers of persuasion and had already failed. Amazing mentor or otherwise, I was not about to be dissuaded from my very stubborn decision to stay at home, in my pajamas, with the blinds shut.
After listening to my various protestations, this beautiful woman said, "Carole, there are so many people who couldn't get to the funeral and want to put their arms around you and share in your sorrow. Please come and let us lift you."
At that moment, I realized that those who cared for me and who were such an integral part of my journey to that point, now needed to be able to express their love and support through my grieving process and at the beginnings of my Healing Journey. It would have been otherwise selfish to deny this opportunity to those who truly cared so much.
(..and anyway, I never won many arguments with her).
I did go to that conference and although I was obviously subdued and there was more crying than laughing on my part, I am so very grateful that I chose to allow my own wonderful Energy Givers to be a part of my Healing Journey infancy, when left to my own devices, I would have stayed away. I thereafter began accepting invitations -- a quiet dinner with friends, a movie with a girlfriend, a glass of wine and appetizers at a friend's house, occasional events at my synagogue. These were all activities that were well within my comfort zone and that not only made me feel better, but also allowed our Energy Givers to be a part of a healing process in which they needed to participate -- after all, they had suffered a loss too.
You must be willing to allow people the opportunity to lift you and be proactive and useful participants in your Healing Journey. That allowance obviously doesn't have to be at a conference with thousands of people or at a huge party or a club, which can definitely be overwhelming. However, a lunch or coffee with a close friend isn't at all difficult. Or how about a movie -- an afternoon matinee or a late showing is when crowds are at a minimum and you can enjoy a couple of hours of light entertainment (and movie-theater popcorn) with someone who wants oh-so-much to help you feel better... even if only for a little while.
Many complain that people are not "there" for them during difficult times - but are you actually allowing people to be there for you? Be honest - how many invitations to dinner or shopping or coffee have you turned down? Have you declined offers of help, either at work or at home and instead told people that you are "fine"? When someone volunteers to bring dinner over or run the kids or get you out of the house for a walk, have you once accepted?
I acknowledge and agree that you absolutely have every right to be quiet and introspective right now. However, you also need the support and the reinforcement of the people who truly love you and want nothing more for you than your healthy recovery. These same people need to be able to be a part of that recovery process. Do not push that support -- or these fantastic people -- away.
In attempting to educate the public away from saying things like "Call me if you need anything" (because we all know that doesn't happen), I always instead suggest what people can do for someone who is in the throes of sorrow or difficulty. The suggestions always include taking proactive measures; however, in this case, proactivity takes two parties -- and your Energy Givers' proactivity is not going to help at all if you choose not to accept it. It's kind of like a forward pass in a football game -- all the quarterback talent and throwing accuracy in the world does not mean a thing if the receivers are not catching the ball.
In other words... be a receiver. It's time for you to catch the ball.
Here is your sixth Boot Camp Affirmation. Keep it with you all week:
I recognize that my Healing Journey is not simply about my grief or my needs alone. There are those around me who are willing and eager to help me. Therefore, even though I may not necessarily be feeling social or even feel like leaving the house for anything other than work and other obligations, I will strive to begin accepting invitations for quietly social activities. I will also accept practical offers of help that fit into my comfort zone; understanding that letting others help me is also part of their healing process.
BOOT CAMP CHALLENGE: Whether it is to go out for a couple of hours to enjoy a meal or movie or to someone's home for a cup of coffee, accept just one invitation. That's it. Say "Yes" to just one of those invitations -- and then actually go. If you find that you are up to accepting more than one invitation, by all means do so, but if you feel that this might be overwhelming, go back to choosing just one invitation. In the alternative, accept just one offer of help that you have received -- offers to help with errands, with housekeeping, with children, with meals or any other kind offers of help that come your way. Pick just one of those offers and accept it.
Next Monday: Bereavement Boot Camp Week #7: It's YOUR Turn
**In loving memory of Rena Tarbet, 3/29/43 -- 8/14/13. Your spirit and your lessons live on.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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