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So I’m less than two years from losing my boyfriend in a motorcycle crash (we had a real life planned and I miss thoughts of that life) and I feel like I should get a pass for the first year because I was a zombie.
Now, however, I’m “alive” again and I’m struggling to find my motivation. Is that normal? How do I start caring again? I just can’t get there, about anything.
Things I’m unaware of hit me at the strangest, most unexpected times and I constantly feel apologetic for it. I’m now a crier, and before this I’d been through so much that made me cry that I’d become immune to tears. But here I am, near tears when I don’t know they’re there and I find myself angry at myself for that. Help?!
Dear One –
Two years is so early. It’s just a blink, isn’t it. Somehow it’s both an eternity since you last saw him, and just a moment ago that he was here. Of course you had “a real life planned.” Just because you weren’t married doesn’t mean your life together wasn’t real or serious. But we do that, don’t we – justify and defend, because so much is taken from us: the world doesn’t always see a boyfriend or a partner the same way it sees a husband or wife. Be assured, please, my love, that your relationship was real, is real, and it makes perfect sense that you miss that life, and that tears are now commonplace.
You ask about finding motivation, and whether it’s normal to struggle at this point in your grief, in your life.
It is. It’s entirely normal. When sudden death erupts into your life, your whole way of understanding the world is rocked. Knowing that it can all disappear at any moment tends to change a person’s interest in things. Previous interests – even things you loved – can seem futile.
You aren’t the person you were before. This experience of love that you’re living has knocked you off course. When you gain your footing again – and that takes the time it takes – you’re going to be facing a different direction. You’ll have to find out how you fit here now, who you are in this new place.
Another thing to remember is that grief is intense: it’s physical and emotional and spiritual and all sorts of other things. It takes a lot of energy to grieve. The first year, as you say, is a zombie year. For many people, year two is worse: your systems begin to come back online, your gaze is just slightly lifted from your feet. The world has changed. You have changed. You are still changing. The world hasn’t righted itself, and you are just aware enough to know it.
You’re aware enough to know you aren’t where you want to be, and still broken-hearted enough to not be able to do anything about it.
That you want something different for yourself, even as you have no energy to find something different – that is the beautiful place. That’s the place to lean on.
If there is any glimmer of interest, any spark of light or fascination, capture it. Lean into it. Lean towards it. Hurl yourself to face in that direction, even if that’s the only motion you can make. Face what is good. Face what is love. Want that for yourself.
Get greedy for those moments when you drop into your core, when you feel – not “right,” but righted. Darling, if anything draws you – follow it.
It doesn’t matter what you might “do” with any of those fleeting sparks of interest. You don’t need to find your direction, your path, through the rest of this life. You only need to take notice of what draws you, right now, and follow it. As best you can. One tiny little glimmer at a time.
And sometimes, there are no sparks. The world is empty and boring and full of things that make you cry.
You want it to be different. It isn’t different. That’s annoying.
You can’t fake interest. You can’t just tell yourself to buck up and get on with it, throwing yourself into things that are empty and dry. It won’t work.
At the same time, you don’t want to be this way.
You don’t want to cry. You don’t want tears leaking out at every possible moment, making you splotchy and weepy and red.
At the same time, there’s not a damn thing you can do about that.
Being angry at your own broken-heart is such a tricky thing.
It turns into this giant, escalating storm: tears. Then angry at tears. Then angry at yourself for being angry, for being unable to come to yourself with love. Angry that this is what you’ve got now: a reason to have tears, and anger about tears, instead of the life you were living. You had a good life. Now you don’t. More tears. More angry at self for having tears. And on and on and on and on it goes.
Can you just notice it? I mean – catch yourself? A thousand times a minute if you have to?
Can you recognize when you are heaping on the judgment and anger and frustration at who you are and what this is?
What this is is a broken heart inside a deeply changed human, still alive in a world that doesn’t make any sense.
The path here is to honor that, somehow. To allow it, to let it be okay that everything sucks and there is no point. To somehow stop apologizing for having a sensitized heart.
It isn’t easy. None of this is easy.
And you are here, still, now.
You deserve a life that is honest and true, even – or especially – when what is true is pain. When what is true is the blank space: the places that haven’t filled in.
The road here, the ‘what do to’ here, is to want love for yourself, even when you have no idea what that looks like. Even when you have no energy to explore it, even if you knew what it was.
I don’t know if it’s possible; I don’t know if it will help.
But heave yourself in that direction. Turn yourself back towards love.
Moment by broken-hearted, weepy, disinterested moment.
As often as you can.
Let love carry you.
Megan Devine is writer, grief advocate, and clinical counselor. Her partner drowned on a beautiful, ordinary, fine summer day, and she’s stayed alive after that.
Megan is the author of the audio program When Everything is Not Okay: Practical Tools to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind. Roughly every six weeks or so, she hosts a 30-day online community of writers and grievers in the Writing Your Grief e-course. If you want to talk about your grief, you can even pick a time on her calendar for a free 30 minute phone call. You can find all of this, plus weekly posts, resources, and the weekly letter, on her website, www.refugeingrief.com.
Follow Megan Devine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/refugeingrief
Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.
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