How I Found My Real Silver Linings…
“Strength is obtained by overcoming obstacles. Life is going to knock you down & try to keep u down. Its up to u to find strength, get up and keep living. (Thanks, Melinda!) <3 So very true! Life is what you make it! ;)” ~Facebook post early 2011
In the beginning months of grief I put on a happy face (see above referenced post). I played the strong girl that could overcome her husband’s death. I could keep on going even when life had me down. When my kids cried themselves to sleep, I took Xanax just to shut my brain off so I could sleep. I wanted to avoid their pain, my pain. I pretended the pain didn’t exist. I showed up at soccer games for my son because I was still his coach. I pretended that seeing other parents there cheering their kids on was okay, I could handle it. I pretended that I was enough for my son. I yelled at my teenage daughter for back talking and grades. I pretended I was enough of a parent to be both mom and dad. I pretended to be okay, pretended I was strong and I pretended to find my silver linings.
I went to grief counseling, I smiled. I found a grief camp for my kids, I smiled. I laughed with my friends, I played soccer on the team my husband and I had played together, I took pole dancing lessons, I went to the gym, I tanned in a tanning bed, I created my own little widow group, I smiled. I smiled and I smiled. I was dying inside. The tears came when the doors were shut and the shower was on. The tears came in the very back of my closet with my husband’s clothes all around me, on me, trying to smell every last smell of him I could. The tears came into my pillow with my daughter knocking on the door and me turning down her offer to comfort me. The tears came when I was alone. I was too afraid to let anyone see the real me. I was afraid they would think I was soft and vulnerable. I had so much pride. I was afraid to ask for help except for surface things. I relied on my family and couldn't bring myself to express how much I really needed them when I really did. I thought people would help without me asking. I cut my own grass because I didn’t want to pay someone and convinced myself that it was healing, only to hide my pain for the next 3 days because it actually hurt to do the chores my husband always did.
“But you have no silver linings without a cloud.” ~ Angela Carter
In the beginning, I had a friend tell me “Fake it until you make it.” I loved that advice and I turned it into finding my silver linings. I posted and posted about my silver linings on Facebook. Hell, I still do. I found silver linings in everything. I’m not saying that doing this was wrong. It was how I survived my husband’s death. It is how I have survived the last 6 years. My silver linings have been my comfort, my way of finding happiness. They were definitely my security blanket for a long time. I used my silver linings to hide my grief. I didn’t want to share my grief with anyone, not even my kid’s. I thought I had to be strong for them. I thought if they saw me break down, they would do the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I used my silver linings as a shield, they were a way to keep people at a distance. Silver lInings were the way I pretended to be strong.
“Every cloud has its silver lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint.” ~ Don Marquis
Somewhere along the line I stopped showing the fake smile, I stopped doing things to pass the time because I couldn't bare to be at home. I started to truly grieve and let the tears come. It’s taken me six years to be true and real about my silver linings. My “real” silver linings come from days when I can share my grief with my kids. They come from genuine happiness and time spent with friends. Silver linings are found in my tears and sharing who I truly am. Silver linings come from doing things I love to do. Silver linings come from doing the grief work. It’s not easy and definitely not pretty. There is always a silver lining out there. I love that.
If you find yourself lost in grief, here are a few suggestions to start finding your silver linings:
Share your grief. Yes, I know that you may feel like you don’t want to cry and you feel like people don’t want to hear or see it…if you keep shoving it down, it’s going to come back up later and it will be 10x worse. Your true friends will support you and they really don’t mind being your shoulder to lean or cry on!
Do what feels good. Some of things I listed actually felt great! While I may have smiled and gotten through, the pole dancing gave me confidence, soccer and the gym gave me exercise endorphins. Trust me on the endorphins part….get active and get happy! It lasts longer and longer.
Self Care! Massage, mani-pedis, a good book, a bath, journaling, yoga, meditation….whatever it is, do it! If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.
Ask for help. I know it’s hard. I know just how hard that pride pill is to swallow. You have peeps out there willing to help. Trust me, just ask.
Find an amazing Grief Counselor! Seriously! Doing the research is sometimes more than we can take when we are grieving. This was so worth it! My counselor was beyond amazing. She gave me permission to grieve and move forward.
If you find yourself alone in your world, find others like you. Create a widow group, find a grief group. There is definitely something to be said for having someone just “get it”!
Be kind and gentle with yourself. It’s been rough. You are allowed to feel everything you are feeling and it’s completely normal. Pat yourself on the back. Treat yourself. You’ve done an amazing job so far. If it’s been 24 hours or 24 years, losing a spouse is never easy…you are already doing an amazing job! Grief is on your time table.
Peace, Love and Silver Linings, peeps. You’ve got this.
~Tanya Barrett, Life Coach @ www.PeaceLoveandSilverLinings.com