Lazy. Such a strange word in the way that it can be used so differently throughout our lives. A lazy coworker or teenager can be a terrible source of frustration but a lazy Sunday can be one of our greatest joys.
In grief, I find it works a little differently. So often I speak with people who tell me they feel lazy or identify as this new lazy person that they don’t recognize – so new from the go go go that they were used to before.
In this respect these aren’t people enjoying the leisure of a well deserved break, but instead a frustrating new side of themselves that they don’t understand and can’t see a way out of.
So first and foremost, let’s start by changing the language. Because I don’t think lazy in any of the ways we’re used to saying it works for someone who has had a loss. The circumstances are too different, too extreme, and a change of our language and perspective may just be what we need to make the change.
Grief is exhausting. I say this all the time and EVERY griever I speak with quickly agrees, and yet…it’s this same person who doesn’t understand why they feel less motivated, interested, or energized.
I think it’s important that we start by recognizing and validating just HOW MUCH WORK it takes to grieve. Sure, it doesn’t look like much- from the outside it may not look like anything at all. Picture for a moment those cartoons where you can see the cogs and wheels inside a person’s brain, only imagine that the only thing turning around in there is grief.
And it’s not just sadness. It’s the questioning, the second guessing, the anger, regret, remorse, anxiety, worry and uncertainty. It’s the time travel of revisiting the past, unable to shake images of the last days, weeks or months. And the worry and uncertainty of the future. What now? Where do I go from here?
The quiet griever is actually quite busy in that head of theirs and unfortunately not too many of their thoughts can be viewed as anything close to positive.
So how do we help?
Start with the basics.
One of the first things I ask the people I’m working with is, “how have you been sleeping?”. The answers may vary but there’s no denying that whether a griever struggles to fall asleep, or has a hard time staying asleep, losing sleep in grief is a norm for many and it’s having a very big impact on their days.
How can we be expected to function during the day if we’re not sleeping at night? Grief brings with it such a deep sadness and sluggishness, we may not even recognize the role being tired is playing in our inability to heal. The exhaustion blends in so easily with the rest of the experiences of grieving.
So starting with the basics, we want to look at our sleep and make sure we’re getting enough of it. It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes practice but a good night’s sleep is well within your grasp. To learn more you can read our previous article on sleep here: HOW TO GET A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP WHEN GRIEVING.
“Are you eating right?”. That’s another another question I ask of the people I work with. And by right I mean, are you eating often enough? Is it at least somewhat healthy and not all fast food or food that comes out of a can? While food is really such a big part of our days, at least in earlier parts of our life, the healing nature of it is sadly overlooked and can make a real difference in the energy we need to grieve. Just as athletes fuel up for their physical performance – a griever needs real nourishment if they’re going to have what it takes to get through their own emotional marathon. This too has been addressed in an earlier article and if you’re interested in learning more you can find it here: FOOD AS FUEL FOR SELF CARE AND HEALING.
Next, let’s think about the personality changes that happen after loss. There is nothing more visible than the very huge void a loved one leaves in their passing. So while it’s so easy to see just how much has changed in our routine and in the landscape of our life following loss, we don’t always realize just how much has changed in us.
Take a moment to think, just off the top of your head, 3 personality traits that you have identified with, or labeled yourself as, for most of your adult life.
Organized? Patient? Optimistic? Creative? Productive? Caring? Focused?
Now think about how many of those traits feel within your grasp, right now, in the very depths of grief.
Most will say that the strengths so easily available to them in earlier parts of life seem so out of reach when grieving. And it’s this that also adds to that feeling of “lazy”. Because let’s face it….who cares and what does it matter?
I often hear people use the phrase “matter of life and death” – as in, “call me back when you get a moment- it’s not a matter of life and death”. Translation?
It’s not important.
So many things in life prior to loss seem sooooo important. There are deadlines, plans, and expectations, and the desire to do everything just right.
But after loss? Not so much. It doesn’t seem so important anymore. After loss we realize that geez – basically nothing is a matter of life and death and after the death of someone we love, everything else seems just really really small and insignificant.
So who cares? Why bother?
I’ve had this question in some way or another asked so many times from so many people that I think together we’ve actually come up with some idea of an answer.
If looking at any effort we make as an attempt to change our life in a way so that it no longer reflects things that have happened and can’t be undone (like the loss of someone we love) than we’ll always be right: it won’t make a difference.
Nothing can change the reality of loss, and that takes a really long time to adapt to that information.
So it’s true: getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t make a loved one come back. Eating well doesn’t make a loved one come back. Making a new friend, or engaging in a hobby, or working in the garden or fixing up the house doesn’t make a loved one come back.
So what difference does it make? Well, perhaps if we do a few things differently and slowly find our way to some part of ourselves and our lives that are somewhat familiar and recognizable maybe we can make this new reality just a little more tolerable.
We already know what inaction looks like. What becoming stagnant and stuck, and what feeling “lazy” looks like.
Doing a few things to make life better may possibly do just that – make this life a little better.
You’re NOT lazy. Have compassion for yourself. Give yourself some grace. Be patient with yourself and this process.
All of those things rattling around in your head that are causing so much stress will often seem so unreachable and hard to solve, no matter how many exhausting times we go over it. Why? Because they are unreachable and unfixable. At least today. Today you can’t fix it all.
So take all of this one step at a time and start with the basics.
- Validate this experience by understanding why grief is so hard and lasts so long.
- Improve your sleep – and do not expect anything else to improve until that does.
- Make sure you’re eating well. Nourish yourself. Take care of yourself on this very basic level and remember – it matters, and you matter.
- Be patient. Take this one day at a time, one hour at a time, and don’t let the overwhelming nature of it overwhelm you, make you stagnant or slow you down.
- Change your perspective and consider the alternatives. We already know what this (current state of grief) looks like. What would one small change do and could it bring you even one step closer to healing?
No, this isn’t the life you planned for or expected and it’s not the one you wanted or asked for. But don’t give up on trying to make it better. Because it just may work.
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