Lack of focus and the inability to be present is a common issue for those who are grieving. I can remember struggling through meetings at work. It was a bad combination of me not being able to track what was going on because I was mentally and physically exhausted plus I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had a broken “care meter”. It wasn’t that I wanted to dwell on the death of my son. My brain was numb. I call it “Swiss cheese brain” because it feels like you have big holes everywhere and that you are not all there. It is something experienced by most people who are suffering from the death of a loved one. There are so many factors besides the lack of sleep…shock, anger, hopelessness and a variety of emotions all smacking you in the face at once.
A friend whose son died very recently just asked if I had any tips on how to cope. She was having a difficult time driving, chopping vegetables and staying focused. I shared my coping strategy of compartmentalizing my pain and my other emotions by visualizing putting them in a box with a lid. Then, after putting the lid on — placing the box on a shelf to be dealt with later. You could use the visual of Mason jars too. I once used jars but they remind me of a therapist who told me not to put my emotions in a jar and put them on the shelf. She thought it was an unhealthy way to deal with past hurts. Little did she know that my skill at shelving my pain would eventually save my life more than a few times.
Shortly after sending my jars and boxes strategy to my friend, she wrote me back to report that it had saved her from accidentally chopping off a few fingers tonight. She had used the visualization in such a creative and self-empowering way. It made me happy to hear that it worked for her.
I know that someday when the numbness fades and the danger of doing bodily harm because of the lack of ability to stay focused goes away, my friend will be able to empty those boxes or jars and move forward cherishing all of her happy memories of her son. This little strategy worked for me and now my friend and it just might for you. If you are struggling with numbness and emotions that are getting in the way of your healthy happiness or safety give it a try.