The rebuilding of a life that’s been flipped upside down by grief is not a quick job. How to keep going when the grief has passed and you feel less like a widowed person and more like a general wreck, is not something we’ve seen much of in bereavement literature.
To fill the gap, we’ve brought together three tweaks to try to lighten your daily load and two deeper approaches to get you unstuck or headed in a more fruitful direction.
One thing at a time
Humans are not good at multi-tasking. At least most of us are not. It’s not a male/female thing either. Neuroscientists have studied all kinds of us and found that the more things we try to do at once, the less effectively we do each thing. So one simple lesson is that trying to fix everything at once is the hardest way to proceed.
Now, life doesn’t really let you ignore the kids until the debt is paid off or drive around in a broken car until you find a new job. But what you can do is assign each problem its own day, or half day.
If you need to see your child’s teacher today, let yourself off the hook with the job search until tomorrow. If you have a dispute with a neighbour, resolve to think about it at a specific time and not before. Get into the habit of telling people: “I’ll get back to you about that on Thursday”, or whenever suits your schedule.
It’s not quite the efficiency nirvana of touching each piece of paper (or opening each email) only once, but it might help in getting there.
Less is more
The Paradox of Choice is a book by American psychologist, Barry Schwartz, that explains why too much choice makes us miserable, stressed and lonely. Too many choices, it argues, distracts us from focusing on what is most important and meaningful to us and it also reduces what we have in common with others, across our peer group and across the generations.
World leaders like Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and the UK’s Queen Elizabeth are all said to have decided on a narrow range of clothes to wear: one cut of suit in a choice of two colours; one style of jacket; one style of shoe, handbag and hat. This means they don’t have to think about what to wear and can focus on other things.
I tried this to stop spending money on clothes that were never worn. I worked out that the things I wore most often were blue. If I only bought blue clothes I’ve have a better chance of avoiding regrettable purchases. What I found was that I spent much less time shopping, because I only looked though the blue rails; less time choosing outfits because everything worked together quite well, and I saved money.
Lately I’ve been wondering about motivational quotes. I love them but I’ve a nagging feeling that they used to work better for me when there was less of them to choose from.
I would find one line in a book, copy it out, pin it to my wall and that would guide me though life’s ups and downs for months or years at a time. Now, with so many to choose from, my head is turned with each new one and I end up remembering none of them. So I’ve picked one, embroidered it onto fabric and I’m putting the others on mute for a while.
Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on The Paradox of Choice
First published in Widows and Widowers magazine Issue 14