An announcement came forth about major government funding to create guidelines for concussion and sports. I am always advocating for brain injury awareness and change. I should have been happy. Instead, I was angry and frustrated. Throughout the day I grappled with feelings that bounced from frustration to fighting back tears to anger and then to a feeling of a lump in my throat. I knew there was more to it than I understood on a conscious level and I needed to take time to work through it. That evening I immersed myself in prepping for a dinner party the next day. I listened to music while I chopped vegetables and cooked. In between thoughts my tears seemed to free fall with no regard of how stupid I thought all of this was.
When I dug deep into those feelings here is what I discovered:
It was the 26th anniversary of my husband’s death just a few days prior and the anniversary of his funeral was less than 48 hours out. After the deaths of my husband, my brother, and my friend (all within 18 months of one another), I committed to ‘change the world’ in their honour. I would do whatever I could and whatever it took to increase awareness about brain injury and to make a difference in the lives of the individuals and families living with the outcome of such a catastrophic event. And I felt as though I had failed. It felt like failure because nearly 20 years ago, I was promoting Universal Return to Play Guidelines that were, and remain, sound. The announcement of funding to develop new guidelines seemed unnecessary. Still, I understood that something deeper was festering for me. Suddenly, I realized that the anniversary of my husband’s death is often my benchmark to measure and judge what I have done ‘to change the world’.
This year I have passed the quarter century mark since their deaths and the grief that I thought was reconciled long ago had unexpectedly reared its ugly head. This has happened to me before and to my clients. It should not have been a surprise to me. Moreover, as I worked through my thoughts and feelings, I took time to implement the following tips to help loosen the grip of my unexpected grief:
- Understand that grief has no timeframe or agenda. It pays no heed to calendars, money in the bank, or your social status in the community. It only cares that you pay attention. Carve out time to sit with the feelings that are coming up for you and don’t be afraid to examine them. Feel what you need to feel for however long you need to feel it and then consciously let it go. Stuffing the feeling may bring temporary relief; however, the grief you are experiencing will continue to lurk in the background and patiently wait for another opportunity to pounce.
- If you do not have anyone to talk to, write about what’s going on. Write it as a letter, an essay, a poem… whatever appeals to you. Writing is very cathartic. For many, including myself, writing something down equates to saying it out loud. Anything you can do to give expression to your feelings is a way of releasing the pain and sorrow.
- Let nature wrap you in its loving arms! Get moving. Go outside and breathe in the fresh air. Turn on some music and let your body sway to the beat. Or do as I did and find something that you can do with your hands and allows you to work through your feelings at the same time. It’s amazing what you can work through when cleaning a closet or cupboards!
In closing, please know that we are all doing the best we can with what we have from where we are at. It does not matter how much time has passed. It only matters that you continue to heal.