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Short and Sweet Summary: If you’ve surrendered your last remaining slivers of control to grief’s black abyss, it’s time for a friendly intervention. You are in control of a lot more than you think.
When your life shatters in ways you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over anything.
Whatever you thought you were in charge of ceased to exist the day your husband took his last breath. You think to yourself, any control I had was an illusion. From that point on you stumble through your days making decisions like it’s an out-of-body experience. You can see it happening, but you feel none of it.
While it’s true you don’t have control over many things that happen in your life, like an approaching storm or someone else’s bad behavior, a few things still exist that are decidedly, 100%, up to you and you alone.
If you’ve surrendered your last remaining slivers of control to grief’s black abyss, it’s time for a friendly intervention.
As in, it’s time to remind you of the five key areas you really are in charge of.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR INNER CIRCLE (aka Your Posse)
If you surround yourself with clowns, don’t be surprised when your life resembles a circus.” – Steve Maraboli
You get to decide who stays and who goes. The friends who say, “I have no idea how you feel, but I’d like to hear all about it” (and then keep coming back) are the ones who deserve a gold star for bravery and perseverance. Hanging out with a widow can be a real buzz kill. But the friends who keep showing up are your true friends. Those are the keepers.
The rest of the scaredy-cat clowns? Ditch ’em.
You know, the ones who say, “call me if you need anything!” or “I’m sorry I haven’t stopped by I’ve been soooo busy!” or “You’re not alone!” but then leave you alone. You know the friends I’m talking about. I’m not suggesting you send out a formal notice to those friends who let you down the most.
“Dear former friends who bailed on me during the hardest, ugliest, most wretched time in my life, I do hereby formally remove your cowardly asses from my trusted inner circle thus eradicating you from any central and/or peripheral position in my now extremely limited, carefully selected posse.”
But if you’ve already written the notes and addressed the envelopes, who am I to tell you not to drop those bad boys in the mailbox? 😉
Seriously, though, I’m just reminding you that you get to choose.
You get to control whom you let into and out of your life. You get to control whose invitations you accept and those you don’t. I’ve had to remove toxic people from my life and encourage relationships I would never have expected. Those friends who never called or were “too busy” for me are now distant memories.
Why does this help you? Because you don’t need people like that in your life either.
You are in charge of who joins your inner circle.
Make good choices.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR MONEY
Yes, you have a ton of expenses and you’re drowning in bank statements, business expenditures, mortgage payments, loan interest, college expenses, and plain old credit card bills.
Now that you’ve inherited the expenses, you get to decide how to manage them (see this post about money management skills every widow should have).
If you don’t like the bank that charges you an ATM fee, find a bank that doesn’t. Can’t afford college tuition? Tell Junior to fill out some college scholarship or grant applications. Want to save money on electricity expenses? Turn off all electric devices before going to bed. Or consider using a Smart Strip to automatically shut down devices that aren’t in use, saving you money and reducing your overall energy usage.
Also, you could also lower your thermostat by one or two degrees in the winter or do as the U.S. Department of Energy suggests and keep your air conditioner around 78 ° in the summer.
You get the idea. I stripped our budget bare after my husband died. Any non-essential spending was capped for several months so I could figure out where all of our money was going. But, it was my choice. I was, and still am, in control of how money is spent in this house.
Unless you’re skipping mortgage payments or gambling your life insurance money away, no one gets to tell you how to handle your finances. Even if you have a financial planner, it’s her job to guide you not to take control of your finances. If she suggests you buy an annuity, you get to decide whether to buy an annuity. You can take all the information you have and make informed choices that are best for your family.
Basically, it’s up to you.
You are in control of your money, sister.
Make good choices.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH
Now before anyone goes off half-cocked about having no control over the flesh-eating bacterial infection they acquired swimming in the Zambezi river, I’m only talking here about things you CAN control.
Yes, a lot of health issues are out of your hands. You can’t change your genes or the flesh-eating bacteria that attached itself to your skin.
Or some cancers. Cancer sucks.
But you can change what you put in your mouth, what time you go to bed, or how often you exercise. I have friends who claim they’re addicted to pop (soda if you don’t live in the Midwest) and just couldn’t survive without their 2-liter of Pepsi every day.
It’s not that they CAN’T stop drinking pop. It’s that they WON’T. There is a difference.
I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 15 years. It was hard to quit. Nope. That’s not true. It wasn’t hard. It was FUCKING EXCRUCIATING. But I quit anyway because I wanted to be healthier. No one can convince me it’s too hard to quit anything because I quit smoking. I adjusted my entire lifestyle to quit smoking. No simple task.
With all the grief, anxiety, and sadness surrounding you, please be good to your body, OK? Don’t drink 2-liters of pop every day or eat candy bars for lunch. With so much outside of your control, make it a priority to take charge of your health.
So, at the very least:
- Drink lots of water every day. What is “lots?” As much as you can. At least a couple of 8 oz. glasses. Preferably more.
- Eat breakfast. Scrambling an egg takes about 90 seconds. Seriously. Or put some peanut butter on a piece of whole grain toast. Refuel your body before you go out for the day.
- Eat fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
- Get 30- minutes of exercise each day. Preferably outside. In the sun. For Vitamin D’s sake.
- Plan your meals to eliminate the stress of what to eat for dinner. Get out your notepad. Write it down. Or buy a meal planning or meal delivery service. There’s no shame in it.
You are in charge of your health.
Make good choices.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR HAPPINESS
Happiness is a choice. There. I said it. You get to choose whether to be happy or not. You won’t be happy all the time (nor is it realistic to be), some days will kick the shit right out of you and other days will be kind of in-between.
Undoubtedly, grief is seriously unbearable at times, but when the birds chirp outside my window in the morning, I’m happy.
When I hear the neighbor kids laughing on the swing set, I’m happy.
When my son tells me he loves me, I’m happy.
By all means, I could take all the grief and sadness and unfortunate events of my life and make them front and center every day. I could focus on the shit storm I’ve navigated over the past few years and be miserable. Or, I could be grateful I woke up breathing today and remind myself that breathing makes me happy. It’s not about going around and pretending to be happy. It’s about recognizing the minor details of your day that make you smile.
That is to say, if you want to be happy, be happy.
You are in charge of your happiness.
Make good decisions.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR DECISIONS
It’s difficult making all the decisions for the household. It’s overwhelming and sometimes terrifying. Every single decision rests squarely on your shoulders and that’s a pretty heavy burden to carry.
When I make bad decisions, like spending money to upgrade my alarm system to Wi-Fi so my phone could turn my alarm on and off, but then literally never use the feature, I cringe. What sounded like a good idea at the time turned out to be not such a good idea. But I learn from my mistakes and move on.
And then, when I make good decisions like starting this blog so I could do something that brings me joy, I do a happy dance.
I make bad decisions and I make good decisions. Some decisions are scary. Some decisions are no-brainers. But the decisions are all mine. You get to choose and be in control of your decisions, too. Own the shitty decisions. And celebrate the good ones. If you second-guess yourself into sickness, please stop.
And start all over again tomorrow.
WIDOW WRAP UP
If grief has seized your power and held it hostage, it’s time to regain control. I hope you realize you are in control of a lot more than you think. I hope you take some time to really think about how many ways you’ve relinquished your control over the days, weeks, or even years and how you plan to get back on track.