I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked someone how they cope with grief and they say, “Well, I keep myself busy.”
Keeping busy can be a good thing. We all need to have a purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We all have gifts and talents to share, and we are called to offer them to others. We all need enough money to live, and most of the time staying employed makes that possible.
Watch out though, that keeping busy doesn’t become the excuse that keeps you from grieving. It is easy to fill every hour with activity to avoid facing the fact that you are alone. It is easy to wear yourself out so thoroughly that you are too exhausted to think about what has happened.
Those tendencies are fed by our society, which values productivity and denies pain. After a tragedy, you are expected to pick yourself up and move on. You are told not to be a burden or bring everybody else down. You are told that it’s time you put this behind you and get on with life.
Give yourself permission to ignore society. Give yourself plenty of time and space to grieve. Cry until you think you can’t cry any more. Go ahead and feel lonely. Feel sorry for yourself for a while. Scream and throw a temper tantrum. Be angry. Be sad. Be grateful. Recognize and deal with all those emotions that come tumbling out.
Why should you let yourself feel all this pain? Because otherwise you will never truly heal. Grief unexpressed does not go away. It lurks just under the surface, waiting to rear its ugly head when you least expect it. Your emotions are less controllable, so you find yourself reacting to things in ways that are entirely out of proportion. You may sob over distant deaths or even cry over a game show. The more you try to hold it all in, the more determined it is to come out. You can even make yourself physically sick by refusing to face your grief.
Is it hard to allow the pain? Yes. You may wish to take advantage of a support group so you can share your struggle. Perhaps you prefer to read the stories of others so you gain their wisdom and advice. You may choose quieter activities like writing, music, or drawing your experience. Or you may choose physical activities like sports, running, dancing, or stomping your feet.
It is good to be busy, to have goals and purpose in your life. It is also good to help yourself heal, so you can better enjoy the life you have now. Happiness and satisfaction are still possible, especially if you don’t use the busyness of life to avoid doing the things you need to do to find them.
© 2011, Amy Florian. Used by permission.