Emotions have always been difficult for me, I would be the first one to admit it. I can tell you how I should be feeling in a way that made sense by a textbook definition and I would usually leave it at that. “I have tears streaming down my face I am sad.” A baseline answer on why I am feeling that way and hoped you would accept it or maybe a quick “I don’t know?’ Because I don’t have a word for any of it, and everything feels wrong. God, I am so screwed up I can’t even feel right.
And then I ended up in therapy – hey! A name for my new memoir!
I learned parts of a toolbox called Dialectal Behavioral Therapy and emotional regulation. It is okay that emotions and feelings were weird! So is your brain. You aren’t broken. It did sometimes mean homework and trying to decode everything.
Am I feeling angry, or is it something else? Pain?
Helplessness? Something else?
Often emotions pretended they didn’t know each other at all or switched name tags at the door, “this sprout of anger has nothing to do with grief it has everything to do with me being frustrated because I can’t open the pickle bottle….and I have no one to ask and it makes me feel….helpless…oh…”
Anger and Grief tend to be best friends. Or was it helpless? Confusion.
Envy and Grief made strange bedfellows but weren’t uncommon.
Anxiety and Grief got to be such good friends that I am pretty sure they eloped and got married.
Guilt disguised itself as anxiety-inducing questions that questioned everything I did. “Why are you finding joy in these small things?” “Why are you laughing so soon?” “Why did you accept that invite out for coffee?” Guilt was the toddler between Anxiety and Grief always asking questions.
I had a much harder time pairing positive emotions like gratitude in the equation.
Some things were easier than others. The positive easy things.
Some days the list seemed endless and flowed like water. Then grief showed up and guilt moved in finding the little things to be happy for seemed wrong!
I liked the idea of being thankful and loved the practice but was starting to forget how.
I needed to find something small to be thankful for again or I was going to have grief swallow me whole.
I told this to my therapist and he gave me homework. “Don’t think it. Freeform it. No Rhyme or reason. But, I want you to write down everything you are thankful for.”
“This is dumb.”
“Don’t think about it. Just do it.”
Dust bunnies and Garden gnomes.
This might be easier than I remember…
I am thankful for Rose bushes, my landlord, vine-ripened tomatoes, my friends, bumblebees, and social media. I am thankful for black clothing, my in-laws. My in-laws for creating him, for David.
I am thankful for whatever plans and stars that came together for me to become his wife.
I had everything to be thankful for I was his wife!
I am thankful for being his wife.
Lessons we learned, adventures we went on, fights we had, finding whisker bits in the bathroom sink after he shaved.
The time we spent together, the times we didn’t.
Yes, but, you need to be sad because he can’t be here to share that with you.
Raise your hand if your brain is a jerk?!
The thing about gratitude is that it is different than the other emotions, it doesn’t always demand to be felt. It does mean we have to look for it, nurture it and use it. Practice it.
Life is messy.
Pain is messy.
Gratitude can remind us that it is okay to feel the pain. It is okay to experience the mess.
I am thankful for the mess. I am thankful for pain. For Calm in the storm.
I am thankful for David.
It doesn’t seem natural to find something so light and positive in something that can be so dark. but, it is the thing that will allow us to move forward in our grief journeys.
Maybe it is the thing that will allow us to reconnect our pasts and our presents. Maybe it is the thing that will keep them present.