THE BLOG

Bereavement Boot Camp Week #7: It's YOUR Turn

09/23/2013 08:04 am ET | Updated Nov 23, 2013

Welcome to Week Seven of Bereavement Boot Camp. With only one week left to go, you will find this week to be a "companion" to last week's Boot Camp Challenge ("Get Up...Get Moving...Get OUT!")

Let's start with a really big word:

INITIATIVE

Why is "initiative" such a huge word? Because initiative means taking action. Initiative takes intent. Initiative takes formulation. Initiative takes follow-up and follow-through. Initiative comes from within yourself.

Initiative is also likely the last thing on your mind when you are dealing with loss or life-challenge. I completely get that -- after my late husband died, I didn't have much initiative (or energy) for anything other than brushing my teeth... and on some days, I'm not sure I even accomplished that much before 6:00 p.m.

We all have our "have-to's" of course -- going to work, taking care of a household and so forth and I suppose that the initiative there is already built-in -- we like to eat, have roofs over our collective heads and be able to pay bills.

But what about taking initiative in other areas of our lives -- areas that aren't on a have-to list someplace?

Many people who have or are experiencing difficult situations complain that their phone is not ringing off the hook with invitations to go out, stay in, get together, etc. They feel forgotten, they feel isolated and worst of all, they feel horribly lonely. My question to those who complain is, "Have you made any phone calls? Have you extended any invitations?" I am generally met with a startled look (as if to say, "You mean I should pick up a phone?") accompanied by a response to the effect of, "Why should I be the one who has to make a call / issue an invitation / instigate a get-together / make the first move...after all, I am the one who is suffering".

No argument there. You are indeed the one who is suffering. Yet, here is the problem with that sort of attitude. While you are certainly justified, the fact is that many people (including those who know and love you) do not always reach out when they should for the simple reason that they are not quite sure what to do with or about you right now. They are afraid of saying the "wrong thing" -- so they say nothing. They are afraid of doing the "wrong thing" -- so they do nothing. They are afraid of calling too early in the day and they are afraid of calling too late in the day. They are afraid of calling too soon after your loss or life-challenge event and they are afraid of what you will think if time has passed without a phone call (not realizing that allowing even more time to pass is not the solution). They are afraid of disturbing you. They are afraid that if they mention your loss / life-challenge event, you will spontaneously combust (or a reaction similar thereto) and yet they know said event to be the elephant in the room.

In short -- they are afraid. Of you. Period.

I spend a lot of time trying to educate the world at large on how to handle loss and challenge and how to best help someone who may be going through a life-altering situation. However, until the world collectively gets the message, the reality is that it will occasionally be up to you to put the people around you at ease.

This is where the word "initiative" comes in.

Even though in principle, you should not have to worry about putting others at ease during a time of loss or trial, the fact remains that it may be up to you to do just that. Someone you know may be dying to spend time with you, but is allowing their fear to stop them from making that call or sending that email. Meanwhile, you are on the other end of these relationships; staring at a silent phone or at an empty email inbox and thinking that everyone has "forgotten" about what it is that you are suffering through and that no one cares any longer.

Initiative is indeed a huge word.

It is also a word that you need to put into practice.

Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, it is now time for you to take the initiative. Quit waiting around for everyone else to do the inviting. Let people know that while you have been knocked down, you have no intention of staying down and that you would like to spend a little time with them in whatever pursuit would be comfortable for you -- it can be anything from a quiet lunch to a few sets of tennis.

Who is it in your life right now with whom you would like to spend a little time? Who would serve as the best kind of company for you? Who haven't you heard from that you know with absolute certainty is concerned about you all the same? Why not get that person or people onto your calendar and back into your life right now.

Initiative.

Take it.

Reach out.

Stop waiting and start doing.

Pick up the telephone.

Send the email.

Make the plans.

It's your turn now.

Here is your seventh Boot Camp Affirmation. Keep it with you all week:

"Recognizing that relationships are a two-way street even during times of loss or challenge and acknowledging that I am becoming more and more proactive on my Healing Journey, I commit to being willing to initiate invitations for quietly social activities with those who contribute to my life in a positive way. I will no longer simply wait for others to do the inviting. I also understand that people may be hesitating to call or invite me out because they are afraid of bothering me or otherwise intruding and I will reassure those people that I am receptive to calls and invitations.

BOOT CAMP CHALLENGE: Contact one person this week and invite them to do something that fits into your comfort zone. As with last week's challenge, it can be quietly social (a movie, dinner or lunch) or if you are feeling ready, you might perhaps consider having a few friends over to your house for drinks and appetizers or coffee and dessert. Whatever you feel comfortable doing is fine...but it all starts with a phone call or email that originates with you.

Next Monday: Bereavement Boot Camp Week #8: Past, Present and Future: You CAN Have All Three

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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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