The Wisdom of the Body

In a previous post, I mentioned my trip to Vegas in November, and the bout of Bronchitis I had when I returned home that lasted into December. These, coupled with the holiday season and its usual stresses, had me withdrawing from all forms of human interaction.

It was during this time that my husband also seemed to be struggling. In the evenings he was falling asleep in his chair not much past dinner time, and he seemed chronically fatigued.

During these last several weeks, I felt my emotional energy contract. I struggled with spending time with my boyfriend. It’s not that I suddenly loved him any less, but I felt dramatically unaffectionate when we were together. I felt my body yearning instead to be with my husband, and to pour all the affection I had into him.

I’ve felt guilty for pulling away from my boyfriend as I have, but at the same time, it has seemed so necessary. And it’s been so hard trying to put all the push-pull internal chaos inside me into words. I’ve tried to communicate as clearly as I can what’s happening with me, and he’s been so gracious about accepting where I’m at. I’m very fortunate; the grace he extends me allows me to be the way I need to be. I couldn’t ask for more.

My hubby continued to be more tired than usual through the holiday, feeling ‘meh’ on a steady basis, with several sad days. When he revealed to me how much our son had been on his mind, I wanted to smack my own head. Of course. How could I not see his fatigue as a symptom of grief? Apparently, the same way I couldn’t see my current state as a symptom of mine.

Yeah. The more normal you feel, the easier it is to forget you’re grieving.

As time passes, it becomes harder to recognize the ways our bodies help us cope with and heal from trauma. I recall the first year was a mix of detachment, surreality, and dread. At times my mind seemed to grasp what happened, but it didn’t yet feel real. The second year, by contrast, was excruciating.

I felt the emptiness of loss in every cell of my body. I physically ached with grief. And as significant dates approached, (holidays, anniversaries) I would experience weeks of dread and anxiety ahead of time, so when the day finally came, I was too exhausted to feel much of anything.

When you emerge from the depths of loss: the insanity-making emotional cocktail that hits you whenever you’re around people who remind you of your loved one (in other words, everyone); the stunned amazement at the world moving on, unaffected when yours has wholly shattered; the anger, and guilt, and shame, and resentment and jealousy that is unleashed in your soul…when you emerge from all this, there is such a sense of relief…life begins to make sense again. It’s at this point we forget that grief isn’t finished with us. It is a life-long process, and we need to honor it as such.

The dread and anxiety have waned over time, to the point I feel I’m ‘back to normal’ as much as I can be. And what that really means, is that I’ve accepted my old normal is gone, and I’ve learned to embrace the ‘now.’

But the body remembers. It knows that beneath the busy-busy of getting on with life (because it will get on anyway, with or without you) there is still pain. There are still places within us that hurt when touched. So, when our bodies try to tell us to slow down, to conserve our strength, to rest, or connect with others in specific ways, it’s important we listen to those signals, that we take them to heart.

Whatever our truth is, our bodies know – even when we don’t. We need to be willing to listen to their wisdom.

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