Episode 38: It’s okay to be okay
You are listening to the Life Reconstructed podcast with me, Teresa Amaral Beshwate, grief expert, best-selling author and widow. I’m so glad you’re here because in this and every episode, I shine a light on the widowed way forward.
Hello and welcome to episode 38. In this episode, I offer 3 reasons why feeling okay sometimes leads to feeling terrible, and what you can do about it.
Do you catch yourself sometimes feeling okay, maybe happy, joyful, laughing out loud or smiling, and then quickly feel terrible?
It’s common in life after the loss of a spouse. Let’s talk about why that is. I want to offer 3 possible reasons, and what you can do about it.
First it can simply feel foreign, and that can be startling. After weeks, months, maybe years of feeling incredibly difficult feelings, that becomes the norm. And we can easily decide that these difficult feelings are our one and only connection to our person.
The following quote is something I see on social media often. It is, “Grief is all I have left of you, so yes, I do hold onto it.” I once believed this, too, but today I see it differently.
There is grief, yes, but that’s absolutely NOT all I have left of my husband. He would hate that idea that all he left me with was grief. His life meant so much more than his death. So I have much more left of him than grief.
I learned from him, I was shaped by him, and I try to live each day exemplifying his best qualities and my own. Another quote that floats around the internet is, “Be the things you love most about the people who are gone.” (the author is unknown to me). That one is right for me. And I think it’s opposite of “grief is all I have left of you.”
So, while it may feel foreign to have comfortable feelings, it’s okay. They too can be a connection to your spouse, and a way to honor them.
Another reason why feeling okay can then lead to feeling terrible is because of what we make it mean. Does this mean I’m over it? Moving on? Forgetting him? Leaving him in the past? Am I allowed to feel okay, and even better than okay?
American singer and songwriter known professionally as Halsey is quoted as saying, “Life is not pain versus happiness. One does not replace the other. They exist together. Happiness doesn’t arrive as a replacement. It arrives to assist you in carrying the weight of the pain.”
Feeling okay, happy, joyful or any comfortable emotion in no way means that you’re “over it” or “moving on” or “forgetting him,” or “leaving him in the past.” None of those things are required to move forward, I promise.
Your future will be a mix of emotions. Be on to your brain and notice what you make various emotions mean. Uncomfortable emotions don’t keep you close to your person, and comfortable emotions don’t push your person away. You get to experience all of it, and none of it means anything about you or your spouse. Emotions don’t have to mean anything other than you’re a human, and humans experience lots of emotions.
The third reason why pleasant emotions can ultimately be uncomfortable is because of guilt and regret. If your brain tells you that you should have been able to save him, then it’s likely that you can’t give yourself permission to be okay. If your brain tells you that if you’re not miserable, then you didn’t love him enough, then it’s likely that you can’t permission yourself to feel comfortable feelings.
My brain offered me those thoughts and I believed they were true, and they kept me stuck in a spin cycle of suffering. Now I know that they’re just thoughts, and not all thoughts are true or useful. I learned to challenge them. And eventually I found other thoughts that were more true, that were useful and kind. Today I believe that if I was meant to save him, it would have been possible for me to save him. Today I believe that my misery is not a testament of my love for him. Today I know that I can choose so many ways to honor him, and misery would not be my choice.
Today I believe that the one thing I can do for him is to truly live. To build a full, beautiful and purposeful life. And that means I feel a wide range of feelings, and it’s all okay.
And that’s what I wish for you- a full, beautiful and purposeful life after loss. And the best way I know how to make that happen is the January 2024 Life Reconstructed coaching program. It’s a proven program exclusively for widowed people. The doors close on 12/27 and I’d love for you to join us. The link is in the show notes. Remember that I believe in you, and I’m here for you. Take care.