Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Learning to Grieve

So the next chapter of "A Life Complete" by Sallirae Henderson deals with Learning to Grieve. This chapter resonated with me on a few levels. Firstly, she discussed grieving the loss of the familiar. I went through that when I first moved to Australia, and the first couple years were difficult for me. In all the big ways, life here isn't all that different than it was in America. I still have a home, a car, a job, friends and family, etc. But in a thousand small ways it's really different and there was an adjustment period. I missed finding my favourite products in the stores, or celebrating holidays they don't have here. Christmas is in summer, my birthday is now in winter, we drive on the left, and in some ways I even had to learn a new language. Australian English really can be quite unique, with a whole new set of slang words and expressions! There are so many little differences that initially I went through a bit of mourning for the familiar.  I've been here ten years and for the most part I've adjusted fine. I've learned to substitute or do without some things, and for other things there are now import shops and/or online shopping.

Nowadays what I miss most is people with whom I spent my youth and years of shared memories and traditions. I have friends here, but no one who has known me all my life -- no one who remembers all the crazy things we did when we were young. I can share stories with people, but it's not the same as having lived through it with me. I imagine that's kind of what it's like when you get older and most of your friends and family have passed before you. I stay in touch with people from home via phone when I can, but most are not online so that's all I can do, really. I definitely grieve for those I can no longer call, having lost both parents and all grandparents.

Next she discusses how we might grieve our lost youth. We may feel bad about ourselves as we age due to all the advertisements on TV, radio, billboards and magazines featuring products to make us look younger and sexier, with 24-hour 800 numbers so you can buy their products right now (suggesting you don't want to spend another minute succumbing to the effects of age). "How can we feel good about our ageing selves when we're made to feel we must nip in the bud immediately?" The models in those ads seem younger every year and it can be hard to relate.  Suffering from PCOS brings enough symptoms that make me feel unfeminine, so adding loose skin and an ageing appearance as I lose weight can really do a number on my self esteem if I let it. I try not to - I don't spend a lot of time focusing on the negative things, but neither do I feel happy and positive with what I see in the mirror most days. It's not how I expected to feel having lost nearly 100 pounds, so I truly wish I had done it sooner.

Sallirae says that periods of 'time out' to allow the processing of small losses may be necessary, or it may take a year or longer to recover from a major loss of the loved and familiar. Allowing ourselves this time to grieve may save us from the awful devastation of having it all crash down on us in our last years. I do try to find ways to stay in a good headspace most days and I don't really want to spend time grieving a youth I can never revisit. I continue to focus on facing fears, trying new things, and learning new skills to keep my mind sharp (I'm learning to write code). Hopefully I'll start singing again as that's always brought me joy. I've got strong spiritual beliefs. I meditate, but not as often as I'd like - I would like to find time to do more of that, as it helps me find peace within myself.

As far as friends and family, I am planning a trip home to the States next year. By then I should be at a healthy weight and hopefully far enough into maintenance that the familiar foods from home aren't a major temptation. There are a few people I can't wait to see again, as I haven't been home since 2006. And if I've reached my goal and am looking and feeling my best, that would be nice.

How about you? Those of you who are at or approaching middle age, do you find yourself missing who you once were or things you once did that maybe you don't or can't do anymore? If you got to your goal weight later in life, did you find it wasn't all you hoped it would be? What things do you grieve?

4 comments:

  1. Certainly a thought provoking post Anna, and one that I'm still thinking about. Sorry this is a short reply because it should be longer and deserves to be longer. My first thoughts are it's good to look back as memories both good and bad are what makes us. Live for now with one eye on the future maybe?

    I'd certainly be looking forward to "a trip back home" which you are planning for next year.

    Take Care and ....

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan. I am definitely looking forward to going home again (though not the long flight itself).

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  2. This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
" — Anatole France

    Because I have moved around so much I feel like I have died many death to many lives. And of course there has been the loss of family members to real death, and the loss of friends to circumstances. For all my moving around and constantly changing the external circumstances of my life I do have a hard time saying good-bye to loved ones though. It can almost feel like abandonment to me, does that sound strange? I have a real fear of abandonment.

    I am right in middle age but not sure that I am mourning my youth so much, I rather feel that I am finally coming into "my age." The body changes can be a little hard to accept, in my mind I don't see myself as a middle aged woman but then I look at photos and they tell a different story. That sometimes feels like a little shock. I am not at my goal weight yet and not sure what I am expecting to happen when I do reach it. Ask me again next year! :)

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    1. Hi Kerstin ... I love that quote! And no, that doesn't sound strange, I get the abandonment feeling. I sometimes feel I abandoned people back home but I fell in love with an Aussie so what was I to do? I don't so much mourn who I was when I was younger ... it's more my youthful appearance. I would love to have the hair I had at 30 ... much thicker, natural wave and a better colour. I worry as I get thinner my face will look even older now. Ah well ... I do think health is more important than looks, but getting to goal will seem a bit bittersweet if I'm still unhappy with my appearance.

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