As I sit in my living room, enjoying the feel of my comfy sofa, the lingering smell of quinoa and coconut milk waffles... the girls playing peacefully for a few minutes in Roya's bedroom (which for the sake of my sanity, I will imagine as neat and tidy, with perfect little angels, giving dainty little dolls a dainty little tea party...), I am aware of my many blessings, of the beauty around me, of a watchful Savior keeping tabs over our lives...
But underneath, there's an inexplicable torment, a choking sense of fear, anxiety bubbling up like an erupting volcano... My resources call this an emotional ambush, when simple triggers take you from feeling fine and almost normal to feeling like a complete wreck, unable to cope, like you're losing your mind.*
Therese A. Rando, in How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, writes:
Grief spasms, or grief attacks, as they are also known, have contributed to automobile accidents, occupational injuries, and countless other mishaps. Small or surprising things can trigger these [grief spasms] off... This can cause a temporary, acute upsurge in grief with intense emotional reactions.
She says, You must stop your activities and deal with your feelings until you are in control again, or else you risk possible injury to yourself and others.
I recognize this to be very true. Triggers happen quite frequently, even on PEI. I often feel the danger of these emotional ambushes especially when I'm driving, like I'm in great danger of suddenly losing control and killing us all (a bit extreme, but the anxiety is there). But in the midst of these upsurges, I can't seem to avoid the need to go and get groceries...! The need to make a deposit at the bank! The need to drive into Cornwall to pick up my mail because it could be up to a year before the national post office has processed the specific factors surrounding my property in light of their regulations to decide if I need to have a mailbox or a community box...!! How does a young widow with young children stop activity amidst these frequent ambushes/grief spasms???
I find it to be an impossible feat, this awkward rhythm of living life as the bereaved... On the one hand, I'm battling against the immobilizing facet of grief, having to force myself forward, one thing at a time, one day at a time, recant to myself the mantra - do the next thing*. But then, I have to force myself to stop, find a way to halt activity, be still and listen to my emotions so I can lean into my grief... The problem is, I often can't find a way to stop. But if I don't, the grief spasm continues and worsens... It won't calm down until I've given into it and dealt with it... no matter how painful.
Perhaps, practically speaking, this is the hardest thing I face being a young widow. How do I cope amidst these frequent upsurges of emotion while also being the mother of young children, sole care-giver, provider and decision-maker, family manager, driver, errands-runner, house chef and cleaner, etc. How do I find room to be a friend to others, a part of community, with healthy activities, and still take care of myself properly, finding time to grieve...?
It is not easy, and I cannot do it alone. Perhaps the most practical skill a grieving person can develop is mastering the call for help. This is something I find very challenging in and of itself. Who doesn't have enough trouble of their own? Who isn't stressed or tired or busy themselves? I don't like being the needy one and I'm not good at asking!!! :) It is also one of the challenges being in a new place... It takes time to make new connections and build a new support system. I don't have it all figured out yet... But yes, I am reminded. I have to keep asking. I have to find a way to take breaks when I need them. I need the Lord to give me the humility in my weakness I need to ask for appropriate help. I am still grieving. I am still in the first year. It is all too much, raw and painful.
By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Prov 22:4)
*Grieving with Hope, by Samuel J. Hodges and Kathy Leonard