Episode 13. Wrestling with reality
Intro with music
Hello and welcome to episode 13. In this episode we examine two reasons why we argue with the reality of loss, what acceptance does not mean, and what you can do to feel better today.
Whether the loss of your person was expected or sudden, it’s a struggle to accept your horrible new reality.
This should have never happened. He should be here. We should be living out the future we planned.
In her book The Grieving Brain, Dr. Mary-Francis O’Connor explains that your spouse is ingrained in your understanding of the world.
Here is a quote from her book:
Grief is a heart-wrenchingly painful problem for the brain to solve, and grieving necessitates learning to live in the world with the absence of someone you love deeply, who is ingrained in your understanding of the world.
This means that for the brain, your loved one is simultaneously gone and also everlasting, and you are walking through two worlds at the same time.
You are navigating your life despite the fact that they have been stolen from you, a premise that makes no sense, and that is both confusing and upsetting.
It is incredibly challenging for your brain to understand your new reality.
So we argue with what is. We rail against our circumstances. We wrestle with our horrific new existence. It’s an exhausting battle that we can never win because, no matter how much we fight, reality is still reality.
And arguing with reality feels extra terrible.
Although this struggle is a normal part of grief, when we stay in this place long-term, we stay stuck, piling suffering on top of the pain.
We resist accepting what is, in part, because the brain is genuinely confused by their absence, and in part because of what we make acceptance mean. Our brains tell us that accepting what is means that we are letting go of our spouse, or that we are condoning what has happened.
But in truth, acceptance only means that we agree that the loss did, in fact, happen. His heart stopped beating. We don’t like it; we would give anything to change it, but it most certainly did happen.
By agreeing with the fact that it did happen, we help our brain to slowly learn the new reality, and we redirect our energy. We choose to focus that microscopic amount of energy we have each day on other areas that matter to us, that need our attention.
In redirecting our energy, we end this particular variety of suffering. And then we can take a little better care of ourselves, we can better process our pain, and we can begin to put one foot in front of the other.
Acceptance isn’t just one, irreversible decision. Today you can decide to practice acceptance and tomorrow you might want to go back to wrestling with reality. Sometimes we just want to argue with it. There is no right or wrong. Just notice how you feel when you’re arguing with reality, observe your energy levels, and know that you have a choice to think other thoughts on purpose.
And in terms of helping your brain grasp this new reality, you can reorient your brain daily, with love and kindness. Use the preface, “this is the part when….” For example,
This is the part when I wake up and she’s not here.
This is the part when the graduation party invitation is addressed to only me.
This is the part when I go to a wedding alone.
This is the part when I learn to cook for one.
You may notice in the second year after your loss, that the reality settles in differently, more deeply. This is common as the brain continues to learn life after loss.
You can do this. I know you can. Remember that I believe in you and I’m here for you. Take care.