Do Not Disturb
Bears do “it”. Some rodents do “it”. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur of Madagascar does “it”. And I have done “it” too.
What is “it”?
This state of inactivity in the animal kingdom lowers the body temperature and slows down the heart and breathing rate. The process conserves energy during a period of time when sufficient nutrients are unavailable.
For humans, loss can trigger a similar event. Intense pain and grief may prompt a need to pull back for protection. While our hearts and souls are no longer being fed by the love of a special person, we recoil to conserve energy.
After the death of my husband I recall wanting to totally shut everything out and retreat with my young children to a place far away where I did not have to answer any questions or tell my sad story anymore. I wanted to run away from the pain and resurface in a place where I felt safe again. I knew that I couldn’t literally crawl into a cave like the bear or burrow down deep in the soil like a rodent, so I found a way to temporarily shelter myself while I regrouped and you can do it too.
First, let those in your inner circle know that you need a little space and time alone. Next, remove the excess clutter of your busy life. Focus on your basic needs. Put social obligations on hold and take a leave of absence from your book club or card group. Try to experience some solitude. For me, after the children were in bed at night, I turned off the television and sat alone in the darkened, quiet sun room and stared at the moon and the stars through the windows. I felt so small and insignificant as I focused on something bigger. My fears and concerns slowly took on a new dimension.
There is a sense of peace and security in isolation. It is self-soothing. Listening to ourselves breathe, feeling the rhythmic beat of our heart in our chest, and feeling the pulse in our limbs reminds us that we are living. Loss shakes up life like a tornado. But we need to remember that we survived. The world continues to spin, whether we want it to or not. Briefly stepping off the merry-go-round allows us to focus on rebuilding our healthy selves while we figure out how we fit back into the motion of the big picture. Yes, a piece is missing. An important piece. So we need to regroup and rebuild our confidence and get ready to rejoin the living.
My five year-old grandson’s kindergarten class recently completed a science unit on hibernation. On the first day of winter in December, each child brought in a favorite stuffed animal from home, preferably a bear. Max parted with his special ‘lemon bear” and carefully put him in the large box with the other animals. The lid was closed and the hibernation process began. Last week on the first day of spring, the box was opened and the students eagerly reclaimed their furry friends. Then the teacher asked if the students noticed anything different about their animals. My very astute grandchild remarked that his bear was feeling “a little bit shy about meeting new people”. How did he know how I felt when I came out of my hibernation? How did he, at such a tender age, know that there can be a feeling of reluctance to venture out and a fear of the new unknown order? His sage observation only confirmed once again that that my sweet, sensitive grandson is an old soul.
Just as the bear knows when to amble out of his cave and the other animals are alerted to become active and search for food, by listening to our inner voice, our “whispers” we can be drawn out of hibernation. By truly knowing and understanding ourselves we can readjust and find happiness again and open our hearts up for a new serving of love.
“Healing from grief is not the process of forgetting. It is the process of remembering with less pain and more joy.” (Author unknown)
Give yourself permission to take a short season of hibernation if you need it. Don’t worry about explanations. Chances are, unless a person has felt the intense pain of grief, he or she will not be able to identify with your motives any way. But don’t linger too long. You need to eventually come back out and enjoy the beauty of a new season of hope.