Scientific and mathematical by nature, my mind feels safe with quantifiable metrics used to measure progress. I need clear and concrete boxes to check that help me to categorize my level of success. This holds true for both my personal and professional life. This is part of why I struggled so much when grief struck.
After all, my running sneakers sat in the same corner collecting dust for almost a year and my mildly-okay- days were consistently followed by days of reeling in grief. By my own measurement standards, I was flailing and failing. I desperately searched for the indicators that my children and I would be okay. At the time there appeared to be none.
My expectations had been driven by societal norms (such as three days for bereavement from work) and chatter from friends who felt I had grieved long enough. My goal-oriented-self used these factors and created pressure for full-recovery in a shortened time frame.
Ultimately, as I plodded along down the path of grief, these expectations left me to repeatedly disappoint myself. The disappointment impacted both my mood and self image and fueled a vicious cycle.
The truth is……..my grief scales were off. Instead of looking for that full recovery, I should have been noting the slightest changes as signs of progress. If you are grieving pay attention to: the day you cry less, when your lost appetite returns or your insatiable hunger subsides, the moment you muster a laugh, the one conversation you partake in without fogging over, the radio song that doesn’t send you into a waterfall of tears, the moment you dust off the sneakers and take them out for a spin and the first night you sleep for more than two hours straight. These all mark progress. One day, you will be like me. You will be able to look back and see how far you have truly come. You’ll say their name and beam at the recall of warm memories. You will be able to move forward from grief. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t place too many expectations. Most of all……be generous with your grief scale. Give it time.