Finding Joy in Grief

When I write, I aspire to teach something. I post about things I’ve studied or learned through experience. I prefer to share posts with bullet points and step-by-step lists.

I started this Rock Star Life blog because I saw that vision. High standards in every aspect of life. Mind-blowing achievement. Discipline and passion and larger-than-life and sexy and successful and fun. All mixed together in some sort of chaotic synergy.

But then grief hit. Even harder than before.

Mom in the Nursing Home

My mom has had Alzheimer’s for more than 5 years now. A couple weeks ago, she ended up in the hospital, and since then, we’ve had to place her in a nursing home. This next phase has been so much harder than I expected, especially after all this time. And I haven’t coped with it well.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’ve been binge-eating, especially sweets. Eating fast food. I’ve even gone through the drive-thru a couple times. I’ve spent hours watching movies. Buried myself in a book. Avoided friends or talking about it. Haven’t even journaled really.

You see, healthy coping strategies require facing the grief. And right now, I just want to make it go away.

But I know something about handling stress. I can tell you confidently that these strategies I’m using don’t work. They don’t make the grieving go away. Avoiding doesn’t get you anywhere. When it’s time to face reality again, it only hurts worse because of the damage these behaviors cause.

So, I’m committing publicly, to anyone who stumbles across this blog, that for the next 8 weeks, I won’t do that. I won’t eat to avoid feeling. In fact, no sweets at all for the next 8 weeks. No fast food. And no binging.

When I feel sad, I will journal, call a friend, cry, take a walk, or use the stress management tools I’ve learned. When I’m overwhelmed and need to turn off the thoughts and feelings for a while, I will go for a walk/run, or go to the gym.

And I will write about it. I will share this journey with you. Because I need to learn from this. Because I can use the accountability. And, most importantly, because I know I’m not alone.

The stressors in your life may be different. Your “soft addictions,” your unhealthy ways of coping, may be different. Regardless, facing reality, and finding joy in the midst of pain… These are lessons we all need to learn. I hope you’ll journey with me.

What was the most stressful period of your life? How did you try to cope?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Finding Joy in Grief

  1. Your transparency is amazing, Abby. Find a close friend, even one, who will just sit with you. Let you say the same things over and over again without telling you to move on. Give you ONE piece of candy. One spoon of ice cream. One hug that will last. Someone you can call any time and just cry. Give yourself permission to stay in, sleep, escape, grieve, get mad, be happy, be silly-to be passionate. Within a few years my life changed so dramatically, the one I trusted most betrayed me, my church deserted me, my only brother died of cancer, my father had dementia, my mother needed so much help, my children were grieving so very much. I numbly went to work and there were days when I just came home and crawled inside and sat.

  2. I found one friend…then another and learned how very important friends are that let you be where you are, encourage you and give you the time to grow and grieve. I pray you find this Abby.

  3. Your experience is similar to my most challenging life event.. as my mother progressively lost the will to take care of herself, to be engaged, to take steps to continue to live and walk on her own. It lead us down a path I didn’t want to go. I could see it coming, but I couldn’t really prevent it, I often tried to coax my mother to come with me, to walk outside to get up out of her chair. She simply didn’t care and
    her muscles atrophied first and then her mind atrophied into early
    Alzheimers. Certainly not the way I had hoped to see her age. I had my life to live, I found myself frustrated at being a coach to her. She was satisfied with sitting in her comfy chair. She said she had earned the right to do nothing. I hated hearing that… as if it was a luxury and something to be desired. I understood all about being tired, and fatigued with the demand of former years… she worked hard all her life but I couldn’t understand the nonsense of not taking care of herself physically. I grew worried and impatient.
    But to answer your question, I decided I would walk, and work out, and I would say to myself, I can walk, so I will beat feet… and I will make my muscles stronger by weight training. But the depression of the anxiety of all my mother’s needs, ailments, sadness, was overwhelming to me. I felt like I was rescuing or attempting to rescue.. someone who really didn’t want to be rescued. I have to say, I also succumbed to food as comfort. Not so great an idea.
    I had the cycle of temporary relief followed by mental guilt and bad self talk in my head. But when I read other people’s blogs on Spark People who had faced all kinds of problems and obstacles in their life, I realized that I could overcome too, and eat healthier even during stress times. I have to say Abby, you inspired me everytime you posted your healthy dinner …. showing how much good you can eat. I realized in order to take care of my mom, and not go over the edge into bad thinking with all the other areas in my life, was to work out, take time for me and that really did relieve stress. I also took note of the many blessings God gives me daily. It is tough though when you have been, as I was for a long long time, the primary caregiving, watchdog, advocate, the one person they want to see – the sunshine in their life… it just wears ya out. I had support from a distance from my siblings, but they were not living it. It was not real and up in their face like it was for me. I don’t think they could have handled what I did.
    Another thing that helped was having a hobby, in addition to workouts, and having other people who needed me in less intensive ways. My sewing guild was a big therapeutic outlet for me. My mini projects were sanity breaks from think about my mom and “what are we going to do” — worries and concerns. I found that when I was sewing it made my mind shift gears.
    Also, in other stressful situations with my youngest son, I knew I could not intervene in his life the way I thought things should go.
    I had to take a break from all the what ifs, and here is what I was led to… an art class. I started water color painting with an artist friend from church and the act of concentrating on how to achieve colors, mood, and working on a scene was all consuming of my brain… it was such a relief from the “other stressors” that I was lifted up from my pit of concerns. I made sure I signed up for one small class after another, to let other things challenge my mind, and I was blessed
    each and every time. The expression in sketching, painting and simply learning how each medium works, was a fun new discovery.
    I am certainly not an accomplished artist, but I so enjoyed it, and my teacher was very encouraging as I followed this path of discovery… looking at the world with new eyes so I could translate that to the art sketch book or water color sheet was good for me.
    Lastly, I have rediscovered the art of slowing down, to notice the beauty around me. To listen to the birds singing for joy in the early morning. Noticing which flowers have bloomed. Going to the nursery and buying one plant and actually slowing down enough to get in the ground. Instead of being on the computer, I will go out on the deck with a cup of tea and just listen and watch. Our lives are so hectic, we forget or at least I do, how much wonder is around us
    and what a relief it is to just slow down, and take it all in.
    I didn’t think I’d have much to say and here I am going on and on.
    I hope you find some outlets to find some beauty and calm around you. I think about you and pray for your strength and happiness Abby. I am impressed with your commitment and putting your goal out there. You really inspire me. be blessed… (((hugs))) Kathryn

  4. It’s been so sad watching your Mom’s decline Abby. Thanks for being willing to engage the grief that you face and being willing to share it. It’s a privilege to be welcomed into something so valuable and that will be painful for you.