My first visit to a grief counselor was in March, 2010. She was cool, full-time counselor and part-time yoga instructor. I sat on the couch embracing an aqua Pier 1 looking pillow, protection from the questions she might ask.
I was there for grief, but clearly she’d bring out more. Trudy was going to force me to dig deep, to explore myself, my fears – ones I’d buried underneath my marriage. In many ways, Lisa was my security blanket. Now I was exposed. Nothing to cling to. Nothing to hide behind, except the pillow.
I hurt so deeply.
“How long will I feel like this?” I asked.
“It takes most people five years to feel completely whole again.” She didn’t sugar coat.
“That’s unacceptable. I can’t feel like this that long.”
She explained that my grief would not be as intense for five years, but that it could very well take a long, long time to move forward.
Yesterday marked the five year anniversary, and Trudy was right. I do feel whole again. Looking back, it seems like so much has happened over the past half-decade. But in many ways, it doesn’t seem so long ago that I first met my counselor.
Time goes slowly when you look forward but it seems fast when you look back.
I remember three things Trudy told me that could help to speed up my healing:
1) Lean on those around you
I was a master at that. I let folks support in any way they were willing. At times I told them what I needed. All stepped up to the plate.
2) Lean into your grief
She told me not to run, to allow myself to feel it. To cry. To talk it out. Not to hold back. Again, a tip I conquered.
3) Find new interests
I’ve tried. I wish I had more, but I’ve discovered writing, acting with my kids, and I’ve ventured into dating and spending time with some really cool people. I’ve got some work to do on this one though.
There were two other things I found important in my journey. One was to keep busy, especially in the beginning. I think it could have been easy to sit in bed and watch TV. Fortunately for me, having kids did not allow that.
The final piece of my healing puzzle was building a stronger belief in the long-term future. Having faith that I will see Lisa again has given me the ability to enjoy this life more fully. That may sound counterintuitive. Maybe it’s like an upcoming vacation. Enjoying day-to-day life is easy when you know that you have something really exciting to look forward to.
So many people hurt for so many reasons. My hope is that they will find tools to move them forward. The darkness can be suffocating, but with hard work and time, there’s a whole lot of light to find.