Distraction/Denial Po-tay-toe/Po-TA-toe

Two things inspired me to trip across the keyboard instead of take the nap that my yoga training weary self needs, first was a discussion about Patanjali’s sutra on the benefits of distraction during hard times and the second was the search term that turned up today on my blog.

The search?

grief denial through remarriage


There is a school of thought in the grief is practically a 12 step program camp that says that anything short of total immersion in the grief “process” is denial.

Oh, okay, a vacation with the kids here and there is fine, but only if one goes all angsty about it because it feels wrong to have fun when someone – a dead someone – isn’t there to have fun too*.  Holidays are permissible too if the travel destination is one that the dead person loved. Plenty of garment-rending opportunities in emotional minefields made tangible. Very good grief work for the committed.

But I heard this a lot in my day, remarriage before your kids were grown or a decade or two had gone by – whichever came first – were sure signs that a person was “running away from his/her grief”. And there’s a footrace I’d like to see. Outrunning one’s self is an Olympic caliber event.

Here’s what baffles me – beyond the idea that grief requires active, directed participation – the act of dating, falling in love and remarrying are probably three of the top ten biggest drivers home of the undisputable fact that your spouse has died.

Sure, there are stories here and there of people who rushed into marriage and “came to their senses” in the ensuing months or first years and then divorced. I am not convinced that grief was the blinder or the resurrector of good sense. These were people, generally speaking, who never had or seldom employed sense pre-widowhood.

People who don’t do well in the dating world after a divorce or death probably didn’t date at all or very well prior to their marriages.

Tragedy doesn’t rend you. You aren’t a different person. Tragedy – like a yoga practice – just exposes deficiencies that were already present. Or in some cases, forces recognition. People tend to drift, or coast, through life once they’ve snuggled into the equivalent of a gerbil’s nest. They might have doubts, dissatisfaction or realize they aren’t living in accordance to what they’ve been taught or believe, but they are content, warm and cozy, and that’s enough. Until it’s not. Hard times shine bright harsh light on our realities.

So what do the Sutra’s say?

The Yoga Sutras are amazing. It’s like the Bible or the Koran minus the fairy stories. Unvarnished universal truth that is no different today than thousands and thousands of years ago. It predates Christ or Mohamed or Buddha. Human beings and their basic “issues” are as predictable as the trauma/drama of teenagers. Self-interest is hardwired.

According to the sutra’s the distraction is the life obstacle and what you do to get through, around, over or under it is the solution. Taking that and applying it? Falling in love again is the key to overcoming the death of a spouse.

Maybe not “the” key. Patanjali provides a long list of “distractions” that a person can immerse themselves in when obstacles come along. An asana practice or meditation being among the ways a person can go about righting themselves after being upended, but at the end of the list he concludes that whatever a person chooses and devotes him/herself to will serve equally well. It’s individual, so some divorced/widowed people might choose to rebuild their lives as a single. They cultivate careers, hobbies and children. They volunteer. They nurture friendships. How’s that different from choosing to love and recouple? It isn’t unless you factor risk because there is always risk when people connect with each other. I would argue that there is risk in going it alone as one can never know if the safety net he/she weaves will hold over the length of life any more than recoupled folk do.

But it’s a fascinating discussion, isn’t it. And to think, Patanjali wrote it all down for the edification of others before Buddha sat under a tree or St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland or John Paul II ignored pedophilia in the priesthood so he could be adored. Boggles the mind.

*And seriously, where is the glorious after-life in all this lamentation? Sometimes I wonder if people who proclaim a religious belief in the here-after have less faith than Thomas. One would think all these dearly departed had been packed off to a hell dimension or something.

7 thoughts on “Distraction/Denial Po-tay-toe/Po-TA-toe

  1. And then there is the fact that Will was dying for a long time. I believe a lot of your grief took place before he even died. It might be interesting to see if for the folks who hang onto grief for it was because the grief was sudden and unexpected.
    I’m sort of struggling with that now with Friday. I know the day is coming sooner or later, and seem to be doing some peremptory grieving.

    1. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in pre-grieving, but I suspect they were not realists or things happened to suddenly for it to be possible or they are like most people and don’t grasp odds/percentages.

      I still consider myself fortunate that there was never any hope. It made things oddly easier, if that makes sense.

  2. I love this line ~ “the act of dating, falling in love and remarrying are probably three of the top ten biggest drivers home of the undisputable fact that your spouse has died.” A classic truth that makes too much sense to occur to people who want to believe otherwise.

  3. I want to eat this post three times a day for two weeks, because I’m sure to see results.

    Inches off my waist, increased energy, better sex drive, and so forth.

    Why is it that people are so wont to put time lines and labels on people and behaviors? I love that. As if they know what is best for you. As if they can put their lips to your forehead and after 8.5 years you have cooled enough to begin coupling once more. Such bullshit.

    And for the other, the idea that there is a “before the Bible” angers the general public so much that it amuses me to run the notion across in casual conversation.

    “Oh, that is quite reflective of the Sutra that states…”

    Love it.

    Love it love it love it.

    1. “Oh, that is quite reflective of the Sutra that states…”

      That’s a giggle. More and more I love the Sutras. I am even discovering that Buddha was not nearly as aloof as western interpretations make him out to be and probably would have thought Richard Gere was silly.

  4. distraction as obstacle? thousands and thousands of years ago – before the internet, sesame street and mobile phones – the sutras nailed this? that’s far better than the parables of the new testament.

    “Righting yourself” – be it as a single or a couple. Post-tragedy or the lesser post-divorce. Pick a path that works and get on with it. Why do we let the opinions of others rattle us?

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