We have to learn to be our own best friend because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies. – Roderick Thorp
So often during our deep grieving we fall into the trap of condemning ourselves, dwelling on our regrets, and/or doubting ourselves. Instead of celebrating the great marriage we had and honoring our wives, we turn on ourselves and focus on the negatives.
This can only lead to an even more difficult and longer grieving experience, which for some may result in what is called “complicated grief.” Once you find yourself in this negative space, it can feed itself with self-inflicted wounds and a deterioration of your ability to find a way out. When you settle into this state of mind, you are apt to dismiss the very things that might help you, such as seeing a grief therapist. Much like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, your psycho-emotional state feeds upon itself and rationalizes all the bad decisions you may be making.
The further into this state of mind that you fall, the more you drive away the very people who could help you. Family and friends may give up on you, may be offended by some of your words and actions, and may cut their ties to you. Then you really are isolated.
So how do you get out of this state of mind? The first and most important step is to recognize that you are becoming your own worst enemy, and that you need help to get out of this pit of despair. This means reaching out to those who still are in your support circle and letting them know that you need and are willing to accept any support they can offer.
It also means finding a good Grief Therapist (not general therapist) and hopefully a grief group in your area. You may find the first meeting or two to be challenging for you, but if you stick it out and open your mind you are likely to discover this really can help.
A part of this healing process also involves learning how to be your own best friend. You just lost your best friend, had half of your identity torn away, and are struggling to find who you now are. If you focus on being your own worst enemy, it is unlikely that you will be successful rebuilding a new and productive you.
However, if you decide that you are going to be your best new friend, then you can focus on forgiving yourself for imagined and real mistakes that you may have made during your marriage and while caring for your wife. You can begin to do as your wife did… which was to encourage and support your continued growth as a human being living in an imperfect world.
Will you get there overnight? Hell no! Just like building new friendships in your workplace or neighborhood, this development of your friendship with yourself takes a lot of work. And I mean real work! Not just uttering nice phrases and patting yourself on the back, but a concerted effort to recognize and build on the good already in you, and then seeking to develop creative new ways to become the new and better person that your wife always knew you could be.
These can include volunteering at area nonprofits (e.g. food banks), being a mentor to your grandchildren or young people at your workplace, creating art for others to enjoy, and much more. If you succeed you may be pleasantly surprised to discover the positive impact you can have on your family, workplace, and community.
Good luck to you on this new journey of self-discovery.
© Copyright 2021 Fred Colby
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