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Alone: How I Conquered My Need to Avoid Feeling Grief

It’s easy for me to go about life and take the punches as they come. Something difficult happens, and I get over it and move on.

Avoid feeling, and never actually deal with the emotions.

One reason this is a quick and easy fix is because, as a mom, I’m never alone. I bathe with an audience. I can’t use the bathroom uninterrupted. Even when I’m sleeping, every night my four year-old climbs on top of me or I wake up thinking of him. It’s easy to turn my own thoughts off and focus solely on my kids. If I’m never alone, I’m never forced to face my own feelings. I’m kind of okay with this.

It is easy to avoid feeling emotions when you are always with your kids

For the most part, I don’t have any desire to ever be alone; I’d much rather remain constantly stimulated by the people and things around me. My husband loves to do things alone. He’ll go out to eat, ski, hike, or to a movie by himself. I never have done these sorts of things alone and have never wanted to. I tease him and call him a loner.

When difficult things happen, sometimes I want to run and hide from everyone and everything, but I can’t. When these difficult things keep coming but you’re always surrounded by little people who need you, it becomes easier to just hide the grief. Outrun the grief. Avoid feeling. But the grief builds.

For me, the difficult things in the past two and a half years have been relentless.

Just to name a few: the passing of my brother at the age of 33 due to colon cancer, four months of living apart from my husband as we relocated to Vermont, and two miscarriages.

So, when the most recent devastation happened (the second miscarriage), my husband encouraged me to go and do something alone to process my experience. But, I don’t like to be alone. Wait, why? Oh right, because I need to avoid feeling.

I planned a hike of Deer Leap in Killington for a group of women the day before Mother’s Day. What was initially supposed to be about five women slowly dwindled down throughout the week. By the morning of the hike, I was the only one left. I told my husband and he insisted I still go.

I’d wanted to do this hike for a while and it was a bit too hard for me to take my kids along. But I don’t like to be alone. But I did want to go. Ugh, the dilemma!

On that Saturday morning, as John Muir (may or may not have) said, “Into the forest I went to lose my mind and find my soul.”

Avoiding being alone helped Julie avoid feeling grief

I took a deep breath, texted my husband that I was starting (come on, I can’t be totally alone) and headed out on a moderately difficult hike to a gorgeous view. It was hard to completely get out of my own head. It took a while. I kept focusing on the sound of the cars passing on the road below. But, before I knew it and without even realizing it, the sound of the cars was gone and I was alone with my thoughts. It was not as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, I should have and could have done it sooner.

I stopped a few times along the way to look around and listen to the quiet (and, let’s be honest, to catch my breath).

When I reached the top, I felt so light and refreshed.

The view was beautiful and I was proud of myself.  I felt the wind on my face and the slight ache of muscles I hadn’t used in a while. I’d been avoiding many feelings, but most recently fears that my body was not working properly. It’s hard not to have those feelings after a miscarriage. My body had not worked the way it was supposed to, the way it was made to.

But, when I was standing on top of the mountain, blood rushing, heart pounding, joints, and muscles screaming, I couldn’t help but appreciate my body. It wasn’t broken; it had gotten me here. 

Alone in the woods, it's hard to avoid feeling

I was completely alone, surrounded by nothing but wilderness and a gorgeous view, and I loved it. For the first time in a long time, instead of feeling weighed down by the thoughts I’d been avoiding, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. A weight had been lifted from my shoulders, mind, and heart.

TBH, I snapped some pics and texted my husband again. Baby steps. Then, I sat down and ate my lunch ALONE. That’s in caps because, when’s the last time I ate lunch alone?! It was glorious.

I eventually headed back down and rejoined the world. I will admit, it was a bit begrudgingly. The feeling of immense calm and contentment that I felt after completing a solo hike and getting right in my head stuck with me longer than I expected. It felt like I had woken up from a long deep sleep (not an up all night checking on kids, barely-actually-sleeping-sleep) completely refreshed and renewed. I’m excited (and not-so-secretly plotting) to do it again.

Grief is something we all process differently.

Some talk with loved ones, some seek therapy, and others find peace alone. I carry a heavy burden by choice. As a mom, it is my choice to find happiness in each moment with my kids and avoid feeling grief. This experience also opened my eyes to my own strength, both physical and emotional. It’s amazing, the lightness I felt when I stopped trying to avoid feeling and faced my grief head-on.

What do you do to clear your head? What is your favorite thing to do alone?

 

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One Response to Alone: How I Conquered My Need to Avoid Feeling Grief

  1. A.Y. Berthiaume
    A.Y. Berthiaume August 10, 2018 at 2:43 pm #

    Julie this is an incredibly deep, honest, vulnerable, real, and even lighthearted (at times) post that I completely relate to and feel so deeply. I’m a “hold on a little longer” girl, myself, always telling myself I’ve got to push through to a “better time” to feel because right now there is x, x, and x to do and that needs my focus. At least one of those xs is my son. I loved the way this post progressed and you found your way literally and figuratively up the mountain and back down.

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