I’ve been listening to podcasts. This is a new development, as I have a hard time sitting down and focusing on audio for more than ten minutes at a time. I guess I’m more of a visual learner. A few weeks ago my mom sent me this one on grief. Counselor and Author Patrick O’Malley shares patterns found in his work counseling grieving people. His biggest take away – people don’t want to forever move away from grief, but rather they want people who are safe to talk to. Safe to process with. Safe to listen to their story.
I want people to listen to my story. I know, as they all have been damn well telling me, this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.
Mr. O’Malley also says that our culture gets grief wrong because we attach negative or positive labels to the process. If a person is grieving and they are having trouble getting out of bed, can’t go to work, or continues to be sad, this is bad. Negative emotions = negative experiences of grief.
If the opposite is true, and a person is functioning well – working, going out with friends, remaining connected – we equate that with a successful handling of loss. Congrats, snap your hands, you’ve moved on. The reality of living with grief lies somewhere in the middle.
Over the last year and a half I DID function. I went to work, spent time with friends, and the grief gremlin still lived within. I can still be really sad, foggy, and confused. On the outside, I was living in the positive. On the inside, I was struggling, yet because I wasn’t visibly falling apart or unable to function it seemed like things were moving along just fine. This spectrum of grief as bad and healing as good is damaging to those who are working their way through it.
Today, I listened to this new podcast “The Other F Word – Conversations About Failure.” The title drew me in immediately, as any opportunity to reference the REAL F word makes me curious. But no, here they are talking about the other one – failure.
Sam Lamott’s Episode hones in on how harmful our projections of perfect can be. How when we hold in our stories we miss out on honest, authentic living. His approach suggests that, as humans, we are all going to flow through positive and negative. We need to be more honest in our responses to the question ‘How are you today?’
He says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it can be freeing to answer with ‘I’m feeling a little blue today.’
“BLUE IS BEAUTIFUL,” he said, “the sky is blue, and the ocean, and many beautiful things.”
My eyes filled with tears and I nodded along. Blue is beautiful too.
Mountains. Clouds. Rain drops. Flowers. Plums. Peacocks. Ice. Sharks. Payphones. Jazz. Blueberries. Birds. Emotions.
I’m trying to give myself grace and combine Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Lamott’s wisdom. Because today, I feel a little blue. This does not mean I am bad. An important distinction. It is ok to feel shitty, to not be living in bliss. Grief and experiences of emotion are not negative.
My mom is back where we spread my Dad’s ashes and I didn’t go this year. I ache for family vacations that will never be the same. I miss that mountain valley. I wish I was there and I could read Dad a poem or two. Thursdays I work out of the office and my heart usually feels a bit heavier when I’m working alone. Every time I turn on the news something ridiculous is happening in our country. People are hurting. This makes me sad as well.
I will get up after I click publish, and I’ll go sit outside to watch a softball game. Life will continue and my emotions will pass. I’m learning though, that there is beauty in the bravery it takes to say ‘Today, I’m just a little bit blue.”
Learn more about Patrick O’Malley’s new book Getting Grief Right by clicking below.