The Resolution of Grief

Updated: Jan 6, 2019

Since days before the new year, you've no doubt been inundated with the resolutions of the able-bodied. Losing weight, exercising more, working harder, playing harder, saving money, getting ahead...

Watching the flood of posts as someone with chronic pain, someone who can't work, who often struggles even to get out of bed- it's a bit odd.

I used to be a resolution maker. Before I got sick and the world went upside down on me, I made the same resolutions most people made. I spent years wishing I was thinner, smarter, wealthier- had a better job, had more friends, had a relationship. I resolved to exercise more, to eat better, to get ahead. And then I got sick. And resolutions for personal betterment shifted into longing for improvement. It stopped being about setting intentions and more about clinging to hopes.

I haven't set actual resolutions in some years. For one, my life has taken a track that diverges from most my age, and for another- well, looking back at years of frustration, it seemed to me that setting resolutions was simply pre-planning failure. So I stopped. This year though, reading post after post after post I started thinking about what I *would* resolve, if I were to take up that mantle again. What are the things I should strive for this year?

And I realized there are things, within my pain-limited life that I can aspire to do better.

1. I will recognize and respect my limitations, while listening to and honoring my body's signals.

2. I will rest when rest is needed. (Yes, even if I've just gotten up. Even if I haven't actually done anything yet).

3. I will require that others respect my limitations, and not feel ashamed for doing so.

4. I will be kind to myself.

5. I will allow myself my grief

That last one is probably the surprise on this list for most. But think about it. As people with chronic conditions, disabilities, pain, illnesses (invisible and visible) we are flooded with what I like to call, positivity porn. You see it especially vividly in the cancer community. The power of positive thinking! Think Positive! It could always be worse! I met a man with no shoes, feet, legs etc.etc.etc.

We're surrounded by demands to see the bright side, if not for our own good, well- then to avoid bringing down those around us. No one wants to see the depressed disabled girl moping about right?! That's not inspiring! And let's face it, that's what all of us disabled sickies are here for right? To inspire! :gag:

And I'm not saying don't find the silver lining. Find it, embrace it, find your joy and run with it (or limp or roll as the case may be). What I'm saying is there is a grief to being sick. There is a grief to being disabled. A grief to being in pain. And that is ok. It is ok to say, this sucks. To have a moment where you are stricken by your reality and you allow yourself to FEEL that.

In 2018 I already began embracing this and I plan to continue it in the new year. I live with constant, chronic, debilitating- often almost dehumanizing levels of pain. It has affected every aspect of my life. And though, for the most part, I find great joy and value in the things I am able to do and accomplish- every few months I will wake up and immediately be completely overwhelmed by the knowledge that this pain is never going to go away. That it is, in fact, going to get worse. Forever. Even at the age of 37, that's a lot to take in.

But where previously I would have plastered on a smile and ignored that pain, this year- I've done something new. I've given myself permission to grieve. To sit in those moments and allow my tears to fall, to yell into my pillow, to pull the covers over my head and sob heavy, hard, loud shaking cries. Because the fact is- it fucking sucks. And there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that. For me, these moments are now almost therapeutic. The unexpected catharsis of my life. Close friends and family can often hear it in my voice, and they've learned to give me both love and space. Time to mourn a little, room for a very small pity party- and the knowledge that in a day, or at worst- two, I'll be fine again. Back to my usual self, kicking ass, taking names, flying around in my chair and managing my new reality as best I can.

A few months ago at a regular doctor's appointment, I was having one of those moments. But as I had the money for the copay and the energy to get there- I wasn't about to cancel. I managed to stave off the despair until I sat in the exam room alone and waiting. But then, the tears welled over. I was exhausted, in pain, and suddenly- again- overwhelmed by this reality. Instead of fighting it, I cried. I was still crying when my doctor arrived, and I explained- I was just having a moment. They happen. Not often, but every now and then. And that in a day or two, I'd be fine again. It's just.. part of the cycle of this reality.

And true to form, by the next day- all was leveled out again. But part of the thing that keeps me from drowning in those moments is that when they come I allow myself to feel them. I allow myself to acknowledge that there is a grief to be had in this. And all that is accomplished by ignoring that grief and stuffing it down is to schedule a much bigger and much more dangerous breakdown for a later date.

There is health and healing in allowing yourself to grieve. Even when what you're grieving is your own life, your own sense of normalcy, your own daily condition.

And so, as the new year rings in- I wish you all the resolution of grief.

Because you are allowed to grieve, even when others would prefer you pop with positivity. YOU are living your daily existence, not them. And sometimes, that means honoring even your grief.



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