How to Take a Break from Grief
How to Take a Break from Grief
Grief…along with anxiety, stress and depression….is just plain exhausting. It consumes every single aspect of every single day with no reprieve in sight. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take even a short break? A mini-holiday? I was about 6 weeks into my grief journey when I discovered that I could do just that, so I thought I’d share my experience. It began one day when I went outside to put something into the bin….
OK, it was an empty wine bottle but I’m not going to explain that right now. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t lonely in the bottom of the bin. 😄 Anyway, I’m getting off track.
I used to enjoy gardening but after my husband died suddenly, I stopped thinking about the garden and barely went outside. Actually that’s a massive understatement…I stopped thinking about life in general!
I felt like I was at the bottom of a deep well, with un-climbable dark walls rising forbiddingly around me. I was utterly trapped in that nightmare, with no way of waking up, or even having a short breather from it.
At this stage you might be thinking that I’m going to tell you that gardening is the answer. LOL Oh, I wish it were that simple! I know I ramble a lot but I promise I’ll eventually get to the point. 😄
Anyway, on that particular day, I dropped the empty wine bottle into the bin and was about to go back inside to start on another box of tissues when I noticed that one of the beautiful plants I used to love so much had brown leaves and was clearly dying.
Something twigged in my brain and I went to get a watering can, filled it with water and watered that poor plant. I was thinking that I couldn’t do anything about Norbert’s death but I could save this plant so that it would flower and become beautiful again. It didn’t need to die as well.
While I was tending to that plant, I noticed that the one next to it was struggling too as it was surrounded by weeds, so I carefully pulled them out. Then I noticed the dead leaves which had built up along the garden wall so I went to get my rake.
I pottered around the garden doing small jobs as I saw them. No plans…just seeing the devastation caused by my neglect and working to fix it and make it lovely again. I walked back and forth to the bin, taking dead plants and prunings (instead of wine bottles for a change [guilty look]). 😏
All of a sudden I realised that the light was dim, and I looked up to see if dark clouds had come over while I had been busy. No dark clouds, but a single star twinkled on the pink-tinged horizon! Good heavens….what time was it!!! I went inside to check the clock and received a shock when I saw that it was 6pm! I had gone outside at 3pm and assumed I had been out there for about an hour at the most…but it was 3 HOURS!!!
I had been in a ‘space’ called FLOW.
[Flow is] “…the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed….flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”Wikipedia
Importantly (for me), I hadn’t shed any tears during this 3 hours because I had been so focussed on what I was doing that my exhausted brain had been having a much-needed break from the horror of what had happened. Apparently ‘flow’ is a well-known psychological phenomenon and in fact most of us are aware of it when we say we are ‘in the zone’.
For the weeks following I would often go out into the garden to look for that break again. Sometimes it never came and gardening just felt like hard work but occasionally I did find it, and the hours slipped by while I took an emotional break by focusing on what I was doing and therefore living in the present.
I had also discovered that meditation helped me, but this was giving me a break for minutes, rather than hours.
The research I’ve waded through seems to suggest that attaining a Flow State is about doing something you love…or at least, used to love.
I found an article called Psychologist’s Guide to Emotional Well Being which has a list of activities that commonly cause the state of flow:
You might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a list of leisure activities, but leisure is not the same thing at all. You can sit in front of a TV for hours, or go to visit a friend. Both may be leisurely but that unique state of flow won’t be there for you. Why?
Hmmm….off to do more research. [grin] OK, it’s because ….
So….when I realised this, I could see how my time in the garden does just that.
That was back in October 2017, but since that time, I have also discovered that my newly found interest in watercolour painting can give that same sense of flow, although it certainly didn’t at the beginning because it was too challenging for me, and lead to anxiety and a feeling of failure.
I persevered though, and as long as I don’t take on anything too challenging I can now spend a Sunday afternoon completely focussed on my latest creative task.
I got to thinking that this is not just for people who are struggling with grief, but may also be helpful for anyone going through a particularly hard time for whatever reason…giving yourself a break from the mental anguish as the hours slip by more quickly and enjoyably than usual.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share this with you. If there is anything that puts you ‘in the zone’, please pop a comment into the box below as I’d love to hear about it.
Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.