What does healthy grieving look like? I don’t really have an answer for that. There is such a range of what deep sadness looks like, how people enter into it, and what steps they take to allow themselves to feel. And there are layers to healthiness. Is it possible that something that isn’t physically healthy for you can be emotionally healthy? I’m really not sure.
I’ve been experimenting with this concept the last few days. Not on purpose, but just because of the choices I made. For the last several days I’ve been a little depressed. It started Saturday night, when I suddenly felt a rushing sense of anxiety such as I haven’t felt in a long time. It was as if my emotions were manifesting themselves in physical sensations, to the point that I even felt shaky and weak. I was heading out to a women’s get together in which we had been encouraged to bring a picture of someone we loved and a story to share about them. I picked up Emma’s large photo album and allowed myself to be vulnerable with a group of ladies that I am still getting to know. I needed to be able to cry publicly, to say Emma’s name out loud, to watch other people look at her pictures and smile. And so that is what I did.
It took me a little while to go to sleep later that night because even though my anxiety was not up to panic attack level, it was still noticeable. But in many ways I welcomed it. Most of the time I view anxiety as my enemy. I sigh and wallow through the once a month appearance of it, thankful that most of the time it is not nearly as noticeable or troublesome as it has been in the past. But because this anxiety seemed to be so inexplicably linked to the grief of 10 years, I welcomed it as an old friend.
Over the next few days that anxiety dulled to more of a quiet depression. Not really a darkness, but sort of a cloudiness in my soul. I muddled through my days and I gave in to my compulsive eating habits. This is the part that I am still trying to figure out the healthiness of. I knew that what I was doing was not healthy physically for me. I knew that the aches and pains I was feeling in my body very likely had to do with the amount of unhealthy food I was eating, but at the same time I knew I was consciously making a choice to do what felt good at the time. I’ve been trying to work on allowing myself to make choices, rather than feeling pressured into the “right” thing to do. So, instead of telling myself, “You shouldn’t eat that,” I want to be able to say, “I am going to eat ____.” Obviously my hope is that I would fill in that blank with healthy options, but I also know that sometimes I will fill in that blank with muffins, or cake, or ice cream, or chocolate. And in that case, I need to be able to say, “I am choosing to eat chocolate. It may not be the best choice, but it is a choice I am consciously making and I’m going to live with it right now.” I sort of think that if I consciously realize that I am making an unhealthy choice and free myself from the guilt that goes along with it, then I will find it easier to get back on track when I am ready to make those healthy choices. I’m not sure if this is true or not. I guess I’m hoping it is. I wasn’t completely free of guilt the last couple of days, but I definitely consciously chose the unhealthy options lots of the time. For me it seemed to be all wrapped up in this sadness and depression and that was something I was not fighting against, but allowing myself to feel.
I tried yesterday to get on and blog about how I was feeling. The title of my blog was “Blah.” And all I could think of to say was, “blah.” I decided to spare you that unhelpful and uninteresting post and wait until the words began flowing again. And today they did. I woke this morning feeling a clearness in my thoughts and a lightness to my soul. I was filled with hope and motivation for my day rather than dread for all the things I had to do. And with my better mood came the desire to make healthier choices with my eating and how I spent my time. And in many ways those choices have come pretty easy, because I wanted to make them.
I guess if I were dealing with depression every day for long periods of time, then it would not be good to allow myself to give into the unhealthy. But for a couple days, I don’t think I damaged myself permanently. The couple pounds I put on will come off easily enough and my body and mind will start to feel better as I fill my stomach with good things. So, unhealthy or healthy, this is what 10 years later looked like for me.
Note: The flowers pictured were given to me by a good friend on Emma’s heaven birthday, one day before the anniversary of her own daughter’s passing. Whereas I am 10 years away from that day, she is only 1 year out. I have been incredibly proud of her ability to enter into her grief, the way she has shared it with her family, and how she has allowed it to pour out into comfort for me. Thank you, Melinda.