grief myths and dating

We suffer from the need to skip the work and let someone else tell us how. But that never works. It’s a patch at best. Books, gurus, groups, ideologies, philosophies. They are starting places. It eventually all comes back around and down to you. Are you willing to push through?

Statue of (a) mother at the Yasukuni shrine, d...

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Interesting article on MSNBC today by Wray Herbert who writes the “We’re  Only Human…..” blog. The title was Psychology: Time Only Heals Some Wounds. In it he talked about a research study by Michigan State University psychologist Richard Lucas.

Lucas questioned the idea that people have set-points for happiness in much the same way people seem to have set-points for weight for instance. It is the idea that some of us are just unable to sustain prolonged states of melancholy or conversely happiness. We are divided it seems into glass half empty or glass half full camps. What he found, however, was that people’s feelings are effected by life’s stresses and turmoils and that whether or not a person can adapt or overcome them is not predictable or even predetermined by personality. The stressful event has much to do with it.

For example adjusting to divorce is not the same as adjusting to being widowed. Widowed people, according to the study, seem to “get over” their grief though it appears to take about seven years on average* for this to happen, but the divorce appears to leave permanent emotional scarring that affects divorcees for the course of their lives. The reasoning behind this rather odd finding is that it may be easier for  people to adapt to an event that is a one time hit of “bad luck” than to adjust to a “chronic condition” like divorce.

They liken divorce to that of a chronic illness whose reminders are constant and go on to further postulate that people who get married and stay married until” death do they part” were actually happier people anyway whereas divorce seems to strike those who tend towards misery normally.

The widowed are able to reframe their thinking and adjust their goals/expectations and “escape” their misery and the divorced are trapped because the lack of real resolution makes it impossible for them to do that.

An interesting theory.

A poster at YWBB today,  Jenna, posted today about being irritated by the board and other widows. I could relate. Can relate. There have been more than a few instances when I have been “irritated” to the point of snarkiness at the defeatist lifer attitudes of another widow on the board. But what makes me, or Jenna, fight and “reframe” and others content to put on the black weeds of acceptance? Why are some of us “Scarlett’s” and others “Aunt Pittypat’s” or “India’s”?

*Update – Recent studies have found the time limits on grieving to be rather arbitary and anecodotal at best. Researcher George Bonnano has found that the vast majority of people, who have no underlying mental health issues, take on average 6 months to a year to leave active grief and begin to move on with their lives.

Lot's Wife on the Dead Sea Shore

Lot's Wife on the Dead Sea Shore by Ian W Scott via Flickr

In the beginning, I looked back a lot. Went over every detail and tried to figure out what I overlooked or just didn’t see that could have made the difference between Will dying or still being alive.

When it finally sunk in that this was not the most productive use of my time, I downgraded that particular brand of self-torture to “hobby” and took up the full-time task of trying to stay one-step ahead of disaster.

My world was a house of cards, and it took only the slightest suggestion of a breeze to threaten it. I was single-minded in this respect as well. I rarely let anyone stop me from doing what I thought needed to be done. There were times when I was wrong, because who isn’t, but more often I managed to come to just the right solution and stave off the wind for another day.

Afterwards, I tarried for quite some time in the eye of the hurricane that I had been holding off with super-human will, but as time passed and the urgent needs of survival faded, I found that I wasn’t able to anymore. The adrenaline surge came to an abrupt and I was swept into the maelstrom.

Storms pass, even tropical ones, and you climb out of the temporary shelters, assess the damage and call your insurance man. That used to be Will. And then it was just me and whomever I could cajole into assisting me. Now there is an exotic Canadian applying for the job. It is harder than I thought it would be to allow him to help. I thought I had learned so much. In the end, I still have trust and control issues to work on.

Still, once upon a time, I didn’t even acknowledge the existence of  these issues, let alone work on them.

I am not sure how it happened that I came to fall in love and agree to abandon the cocoon existence I had so carefully constructed for myself and my daughter. For all my Saggitarian impulsiveness, I am more of a water rabbit. Bunnies don’t like working without a net. It makes us cranky. Crankiness being our standard cover for insecurities and fears.

I guess it would be too simple to say that I just couldn’t resist, but I couldn’t. There is something compelling and ultimately futile in resisting destiny and oddly unmistakable. I have never been able to back away, even when I was terrified, and I wouldn’t say that I am really. How could I be after all that has happened? But, I am not naive. I don’t lightly discount the fates. Destiny is the stronger force, but the fates will play havoc where they may.