Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Finding My Zen

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
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Finding My Zen


It has always been hard for me to slow down. And it gets even harder when I am feeling difficult emotions. In the past year I felt completely stuck in a downward spiral of sadness and to combat these feelings I overscheduled myself, over committed and just did anything I could to avoid spending time alone with my thoughts. And eventually I reached my breaking point where I was forced to reach out and get support from both friends and professionals. I lost Will 4 years ago and had an incredible outpour of supports in the years following his death. It was this surreal experience of sadness from losing Will and intense joy to know that Will and I had built such a strong network of support who was prepared to help hold me up through my grief. Unfortunately I had a traumatic experience last summer and found myself back in the intense pain I had felt when I first lost Will. The only problem was that this experience of pain was linked to something I wasn’t as comfortable being open about. I of course told my closest friends and again they built a little cocoon of love around me, but this second round of support was harder for me to accept. This second time around, I was constantly worried that my friend group would start to feel like I was a burden. It seemed like we had just gotten back into the swing of things where I felt like we were just hanging out as friends again and I wasn’t with them primarily for emotional support.

I felt like a regular human being, I didn’t feel like widow was one of my top three identity traits anymore. When I met someone new and got to know them more intimately as a friend, I felt like I could say that I was a widow, but that I had grown a great deal from the experience and I could talk about the loss without shedding uncontrollable tears. It was hard to feel like I had been knocked down again emotionally. And I often felt so angry at Will for not being available to support me after my bad experience last summer. And though I know my friends love me and want to support me it was hard for me to ignore the feeling that I might be a burden to them. That they might start to see me as the perpetually damaged friend who was always upset, always dealing with some way too huge life circumstances, and no longer a friend you could just get a beer with and joke around.

And feeling all these concerns about friends, compounded with the pain of losing my life partner and experiencing trauma helped me to realize that it was time to bring in the big guns and get some serious professional help. So, for the past four weeks, while on summer break from teaching I have been participating in an intensive daily therapy program. And at this program I can see how many pretty normal people are out there, trying to deal with grief and loss and life setbacks in a healthier and more productive way. I’m also learning that I really didn’t know how to deal with my grief, sadness, and loneliness and many of the things I did to try and make myself feel better where actually just intensifying my pain and sorrow. There are a lot of skills you can use to repair yourself and find a way to be strong again and slowly I am starting to incorporate these skills into my life.

And probably the best thing I am taking away from this therapy program is learning what activities and places help me to soothe myself. In an effort to learn how to slow down and sit with my feelings I have begun to meditate and connect with nature. And this is where finding my own personal Zen comes in. One day after my program I went to the Skokie lagoon with my lawn chair and a book. I thought it would just be a nice place to read and be alone. I ended up sitting there for 3 hours just staring at the water and trees. At the time I arrived I had been feeling intensely sad, but at some point I felt like a calmness started to take over my body and mind. And it was in this moment that I felt calm and secure and ready to handle all the feelings that grief and life had thrown at me. And since this first visit to the lagoon I have returned many times. It is a place where I can feel at peace and let myself be still, and I’m so grateful for having found it.

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