Hello, and welcome back to another episode of The Widow Podcast. It's lovely to have you here joining me again. And I really appreciate you coming back for more.
So today, I want to talk to you about choices, the choices that we have in our grieving journey. Now, this may well ruffle some feathers, make you feel uncomfortable, annoyed, frustrated, but just bear with me, hang in there and listen to what I've got to say. And remember to listen with an open heart and an open mind.
We can't always control what happens to us in life. We know that. But what we can control is how we choose to respond. And that's quite difficult. I think sometimes to understand, or even to put into practice, because when our emotions are heightened, we often lose our clarity of thinking. And we feel like we lose control, and we react. But sometimes if we can just stop, take a breath, and think about what we want our next step to be, we can choose a response, a response that is more aligned with who we are, the person that we want to be, and that will help us move through life a little bit more positively, a little bit more easily.
Now, it's funny, you see a lot of quotes out there don't you about choose happiness, you know, you can choose to be happy, it's a choice you have. And to a certain extent, I kind of buy into it, I get it, we do have a choice in terms of how we choose to wake up in the mornings and the thoughts that we have and the things that we do with with our day. But sometimes, especially in grief, we can choose to want to be happy as much as we like. And sometimes we're desperate to feel happiness but we just can't. Because the grief is raw, and it's heavy. And it needs tending to, it needs some love, it needs some attention.
So as much as maybe choosing happiness, every single day, and choosing to be happy is not something I truly believe is possible. I do believe that we can choose ourselves, we can choose love, and we can choose now. And that's what's important.
They say that time is a great healer. You hear it all the time, you see it don't you, in these motivational quotes. And to some extent, yeah, you know, time helps. But what I think is more important, is what we choose to do with that time that we have. And it's that that helps us heal, not just the time alone. It's the choices that we make in that time.
03:50 – We can’t change the past
Now we can't change the past, God, you know, we wish we could, there's so much we look at, from our past and think, what if, what if I'd done this differently? What if I'd done that, what if I hadn't done that, and maybe things would be different, and we wish we could go back and change it. But the simple reality is we can't, and we have little control over our future it's just another thing we are very, very aware of. Because we plan the future, we'd planned a future with our person in it. And they're not anymore.
And that's harsh, but it just reiterates that we don't know what's around the corner. We can plan and plan and plan but we don't know what's going to happen. And all we have is the here and now. All we have is is the present moment. And again what we choose to do in that moment will hugely determine what follows, how we feel, you know?
05:03 - Grief is painful
And yes, grief is painful. But as the saying goes, suffering is optional. Now when I first heard that, that kind of ruffled my feathers, and I kind of thought, really? How can you say that, have you suffered in grief? How can you say that that's optional! And I kind of forced it, and it kind of played on my mind a little bit, because I just didn't get it, I was in the wrong place. And you know what it's like, sometimes we hear things, don't we, and we're in the wrong place at the wrong time. And we can feel the anger bubbling inside, you know, the frustration, the annoyance? How can somebody say something so stupid to a lot of things that we hear.
And there are certainly things that I say, you know, that I know through social media, people that aren't in a similar place to me, or haven't kind of been through the journey as I have, they will take what I've said, in a very different way than it's meant. And it causes heckles to go up, people are ready to fight on it.
It's sometimes understanding that you're going to hear things, and people are going to say things, and I might say things that you'll just think are utterly ridiculous. But just remember, we all travel things, and we all travel journeys, in different ways, at different paces. And that's okay, there's no right or wrong way to this, we're all entitled to our own opinions and feelings around these things.
But also remembering that as much as you're not feeling something here, and now, it might come in time, it might just be you're not quite ready to hear that yet. It doesn't quite resonate, doesn't quite click. And that was certainly the way it was for me when I heard about suffering being optional. But I understand it a whole lot more now. Now I can reflect back now I do what I do.
And I speak to so many people, so many widows, about their grief and their journeys, how they're feeling, what's going on for them. And I really, really understand how much we layer our grief, with our own suffering. And a lot of what we are going through in our grieving journey is what we have placed on it, what we have layered it with, with meanings that aren't necessarily true, and that is what I help people to change. The stories that we tell ourselves, the meaning that we place on things, the way we perceive things, the way we think about things, the words we use. There's just so much, there's so much that we can change to reduce our suffering. It doesn't take away the pain, it doesn't make it all go away, it doesn't make everything brighter, all of a sudden. But it helps us take back our power, it helps us make better choices.
And again, it's creating that awareness around you, your thoughts, your actions, your behaviors, all of that kind of stuff. Because unless you're aware, unless you've noticed what's going on for you, you can't change it. And it's hard to be that open and honest with yourself. It's really hard. It's not easy at all, it takes a lot of courage, a lot of bravery. But it's doable.
So, when we talk about choices, it's taking time in the now, in the present moment to think about the choices that you want to make in this season of your life. And remember, the seasons come and they go, nothing is permanent. But the choices that we make in any season of our life need to be different because we experience different feelings, different emotions. And we need to tend to our needs in a different way.
And sometimes we just keep going, we just keep doing the things we've always done because that's just how it is right? That's what we've got to do. And we don't, sometimes we just need to stop in the moment and breathe, properly breathe. The big belly breaths, where you really fill your lungs, slowly and deeply. And you take time to be present in the moment and ask yourself, what do I need? What do I need right here and now? I get to choose.
You don't have to be a superhero. You don't have to do everything all the time. You don't have to continue with your life as it was before your partner died. In fact, it probably isn't even possible. Especially if you've got young children because everything's changed. Everything's Different, you're different, life's different.
And I know we want to cling on to what once was. I certainly did that. But sometimes we've got to open our hearts, and accommodate the changes that come with it and stop fighting them.
We have to make a lot of difficult choices in life, especially when we lose someone we love, choices we don't always want to make. But there are also many, many empowering choices, beautiful choices that we can make. But we don't always realize it, because we're so focused on the heaviness of the grief, we forget to remember that we have power in that.
And I know it's hard, our confidence is knocked, we are literally on our knees. We don't know who we are. We don't know where we're heading, we don't understand. And a lot of the time, we don't understand this because we're not listening to our body's needs. We're too busy writing to do lists, trying to finish everything, trying to please everyone, trying to be supermom, and it's just sometimes going you know what, something's got to give. I've had so many conversations in this last week alone, of people that are putting hugely ridiculous expectations on themselves that just are not realistic. And they're crumbling. They're crumbling before my very eyes, they're broken, they're tired, they're exhausted, they've got nothing to give. They're angry, they're bitter. They have all these feelings bubbling up inside of them. They don't know what to do with. But do they stop? Do they reach out for help? Do they show themselves some kindness? No, no, no. Why would we do that? No. I'm going to pull myself together, I'm going to stop being so pathetic, I've got too much to do, I can't stop. I can't ask for help. I'm a burden. People don't want to help me.
You know all these stories, we tell ourselves, stop, you're doing that to yourself, you. You don't need to, you can reach out for help. There's always people that will want to help. You may not know them yet, you may not have found them. But you can get out there and you can find them. You can choose courage over fear. Every single day, you get to choose hope. You get to choose love over judgment. Calm over frustration. These are choices you can make. If you just stop and take a moment and recognize what it is that you need in that moment.
Show yourself that compassion, that kindness that you seem to want to show everyone else. It's kind of like, we're all running around, aren't we, solving everyone else's problems, making everyone else okay, thinking about what's happening for them in their world and trying to make it better for them all the time, whilst neglecting our own needs. We're forgetting to plug ourselves in, to recharge our own batteries. And it's no wonder that eventually we hit a brick wall. That dam that you're building to hold everything back, it's going to burst. And when it bursts, it's going to be messy. And you're going to wonder what on earth is happening.
So, it's learning to let that water trickle back through gently so that it doesn't explode everywhere. And the way to do that is by choosing you. There are so many choices you can make that are going to help you in your grieving journey. Choose to show yourself kindness and compassion, not judgment and criticism. I mean, God how many times do we do it when things aren't going our way, we're feeling a bit rubbish, and we just judge ourselves, we criticize ourselves. We think we're being stupid. We think we're being pathetic. We think we're not good enough. We think we can't do it.
What does that achieve? What does that really achieve? That's just extra layers on our grief. If somebody came to you, if your best friend came to you, and told you how she felt, and it was how you're feeling, you wouldn't turn around and beat her down further would you? You wouldn't tell her she's pathetic and she needs to pull herself together. Get on with it, stop being so stupid, the jobs need doing. You wouldn't. So why don't we speak to ourselves like that?
We've got to learn how to be present for what is showing up and that is going to change, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. God, you can wake up in the morning and feel awful, and by lunchtime, you're like, Oh, I feel great. And vice versa. It doesn't take much to knock us, especially in the raw early days of grief. And it's learning to tap into what's going on for us at any given moment. Choosing that love, choosing that kindness. It takes a lot of self awareness. But it's doable. It is absolutely doable.
And it's understanding that where you focus your mind, how you use your words, and how you treat yourself. It's all up to you, but they are your choices, nobody else's.
But often, we are just choosing unkindness, frustration, guilt, shame, criticism, judgments. Why? Why are we doing that to ourselves?
16:09 - Choose our responses
So what exactly can we choose? There's so much we can choose, we can choose our responses. As I said, we can choose how we respond to any given situation, can't always choose the situation we're in, but we can choose how we respond to it. We can ultimately choose if we're going to be a victim or a victor. That's your choice, you can choose your words. I mean, how many times are you choosing words that are wearing you down? I'm not good enough. I can't do this. You can, you can do this, you may not be able to do it right now, but you can learn.
And it's understanding that using words like never, and always, are very final. I will never be happy again, I will never be the same again, my life will never be good again, I'm always going to be miserable. That's not true. Not if you don't want it to be. You can be happy again, you won't be miserable forever. But just recognize what you're saying. And say right here and now I'm not happy, I'm miserable. But maybe one day I will be again, don't close yourself off to things. Choose your words wisely.
Choose to lean into what is, stop ignoring it, stop boxing it away, find time for your grief, allow the sadness, allow the guilt, allow the shame, all of it. The things that you're thinking, that you're hiding from yourself and from everyone else, because you think they're bad. Trust me, they're not. There's not one single thing any of you could say to me that I haven't either thought for myself, or heard somebody else say to me about their lives, their relationships, their feelings, their emotions, their thoughts, because we all have the same thoughts. We all think the same things in various different ways.
But the truth is, we all have them. And if you said what you're keeping in out loud, I bet you would find somebody else that would go oh my god, me too. Thank god you've said that, that's how I feel. And this is why it's important to have the conversations, to normalize it. Because we're not normalizing it. We're keeping it all in because we think it's shameful. We think it's wrong. And it's not.
Whatever is showing up for you, tend to it, listen to it, explore it, be curious about it. What's it taking you to, what do you need to help yourself through that? None of it is wrong. None of it is bad. It is just what it is.
Remember, we're just not layering things as positive and negative. I talked about it in my feelings podcast. There's no good or bad feelings, they just are and we need to nurture them. We need to lean into them. We can definitely choose to be kinder to ourselves, a whole lot kinder. We can reach out for help. We can stop, we can breathe, we can press the pause button, we can scrub off half our to do list. Yes, there's things that need to be done. Absolutely. There always is, but does it need to be done right here, right this very minute? Is it that urgent? Is there someone else that can help you do it, or could do it for you? Is there something that can wait? Be kinder to yourself, speak to yourself nicely. Slow down, stop expecting too much. Ask for help.
We get to choose what we say yes to and what we say no to. How many of you out there are like just yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, I can do that, yeah, that's fine, no problem, I'll come. No, you don't mean to say yes, you want to say no, but you keep saying yes. As you're trying to please everyone else, please yourself, do what you need. You can choose to say no, and that's okay. It's acceptable, it's allowed. If you can't say no, say to somebody, can I get back to you? Can I let you know? Can I go and check my diary? I'm not sure.
Be honest about how you're feeling. We can choose to love again. I'm not saying it's easy. It's not. It comes with a lot of extra emotion. It requires extra energy. It is not the answer to all our prayers, sadly. But if you want to, you can choose to love again, again, without laying it, layering it with guilt, and shame. You don't need to do that. We can choose joy, we're allowed to be happy.
We are allowed to grieve and be happy all in one moment. Two opposing factors can be true in any one given moment. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been with my children having the most wonderful time, my heart is full. But it is also broken, because Simon isn't there to see it, to share it with us, to be able to experience the things we're experiencing. Now, what do I focus on? Do I kind of come away from the joy in the moment that is in my children that are alive, or do I drown myself in the guilt and the sorrow that Simon isn't there? I can acknowledge it. I can recognize that it's there. I don't need to let it take me away from the joy, I can have both, you can have both too.
And it's learning how to sit with both. One doesn't outweigh the other. But you can choose joy, you're allowed to be happy. It doesn't take anything away from you. You can choose to honor your person. Moving forward, creating a new life, finding joy, finding new love, you can do all of those things while honoring your person, not shrouding it with guilt and shame because you're doing something wrong, you're letting them down, you're being disloyal, you're doing none of those things. You're here. And I don't know about you, but I would feel more guilty to Simon, if I was to sit in misery for the rest of my life. And not go out and make the best of it. Because he doesn't get to do that. What a waste of two lives. If he dies, and I just choose to not live mine to the fullest. I'd feel more guilty about doing that than I do about moving forward and creating that life.
It's reframing your thoughts. It's thinking of things in a different way that work for you. My way might not work for you. But what does work for you? What can you change the story into so that you give yourself permission to go out, honour your person, live your life, take them with you, be the best parts of them. You get to choose, you get to choose the meaning that you place on the things that you do. That is your choice. Nobody's telling you that.
We can choose honesty and authenticity. And we can stop pretending, share your truth. Tell people what's really going on for you. Be honest about it. Again, I speak to so many people and we're like actresses, which honestly we should be getting some kind of award for pretending that everything's okay, when really it absolutely isn't okay. Be honest, be authentic, let people in, you will feel lighter, you will feel freer you will be making space for more of the good stuff. You know you don't have to keep it all in, you don't have to do all alone. You don't have to keep pretending.
We can choose not to add more suffering. And the suffering that we add to ourselves that just goes on and on and on with the stories that we tell ourselves, the words that we use, the meaning that we place on things, the way we perceive the world, all of that, all of that adds more suffering to our grief.
We can change that, we have the power to change that, we can choose the way we perceive the world, we can choose the meaning that we place on things. Dating somebody else doesn't mean that you no longer love your person. Finding joy doesn't mean that you're being disloyal. How somebody else responds to you says way more about them than it does about you. We can choose how we perceive these things.
Choose to look at everything you have done, not the one or two things you think you haven't done. Choose your boundaries., who you spend your time with, and how you spend your time.
I speak to so many people again, that just are spending time with people that don't fill them up, don't love them, don't support them, don't nurture them. And they do things with their time, they don't want to do, that they just feel nothing about, because we're just doing what we've always done right? And that's just how it is.
No, life is about change. It's always going to be changing, it's always going to be evolving, and we need to adapt. We are very adaptable, very adaptable. I'm not saying it's easy. I'm not saying it's always fun, but it's doable. And we get to choose how to make those changes. We have so much power. And I'm not saying all this takes away your pain, that it makes everything better. It doesn't, the pain is still there. But by blocking the pain, by adding the suffering with the stories that you tell yourself, by not dealing with what's showing up for you in that moment. You're making it a lot harder for yourself.
We've got to learn to sit with the uncomfortable. I know it hurts. I know it's horrible. And I know it feels like you're never going to get out of it. It takes a long time. And we're exhausted. When's it going to end? When's life going to be normal again? There are a lot of big questions flying around your head. Questions you want answers to that you can't answer. Don't go too far ahead. Don't think too far into the future. Don't keep going backwards. Stay in the moment. Sit in the now, lean into what you need. Listen to your body. Connect with others, reach out for help. Sit with your grief, allow the joy.
Everything that is showing up needs your attention, needs your kindness. And it's down to you. It is absolutely down to you. How you choose to live your life, day to day. How you choose to speak to yourself, how you choose to respond to situations, who you choose to spend your time with, how you spend your time, the words you use. What you say yes to, what you say no to, what you allow yourself. Remember that.
I am sending you all lots of love as always, and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of The Widow Podcast. Take care goodbye