The coulda, woulda, shouldas; the if onlys; the what ifs; these are the creepy, crawly monsters that worm their way into our hearts and minds. These are the thoughts that slide into us, making their way into the dark places within, waiting for just the right moment to come creeping back out with whispers of guilt that threaten to strangle us with their words. These are the things that keep us constantly questioning every decision we make or have ever made.
Creeping into my dreams, these messages twist my memories of what has happened in my life into crazy ass nightmares. Dreams – both sleeping and awake ones – that can leave me so muddled I find it hard to just get through a day. Seriously it is challenging enough to simply walk through grieving into a more whole, healed place. When shadowy messages with themes of coulda, woulda, shoulda; if only, and what if pop onto the scene that journey becomes more twisted and harder to disentangle truth from fiction.
“If only you had done _____________, he would still be alive.” “You could have said this to the doctor and maybe things would be different.” “You should have done an autopsy so you would know why he ended up in the hospital.” “What if you had been more focused on you all eating healthy and exercising?” “If only you had known more about reiki or other healing tools, maybe you could have saved him.” And on, and on, and on the thoughts can twist and turn in my mind.
It becomes a daily task to set these thoughts aside along with the guilt that comes with them. Refusing to allow these thoughts to take hold in my mind becomes a necessity. When I don’t set them aside, I can quickly slide down into a rabbit hole of my own making. In that rabbit hole I torture myself with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, shame for having missed something, fear that I will miss other things of importance leading to more loss, and a whole slew of cuckoo luckoo land dark thoughts. Getting out of this rabbit hole can become a monumental task with seemingly no end, ever.
Interestingly, these journeys into rabbit holes in coulda, woulda, shoulda land are a new thing for me. I’ve only started these journeys in the last couple of months. I don’t think I was having many of these slip slidy trips until recently, which I am most grateful for. Whether it’s the inching closer to the year anniversary that is doing it, or other intense events that keep popping up, I don’t know. All I know is that they are wicked little trips my mind takes me on. I find myself quite fearful, blocked, unable to speak out loud without sobbing, and stuck when I slip down into these holes. Not feelings I want to experience for long periods of time.
I have no doubt these kind of thoughts are a very normal part of most grieving journeys. It’s so easy to begin to wonder what could have gone differently. There is such a longing to have our loved one back that our minds can go into overdrive trying to figure out what happened. These kinds of thoughts can also be part of our regular moving through life. Most of us have fascinating inclinations to second guess, wish we had done things differently so the outcome would have been better, and believe that if we had only known we could have saved someone or something we have lost.
Maybe. Maybe not.
What I am trying to do now as these thoughts arise and try to twist around my heart, strangling it closed, is to focus on forgiving myself. I am trying to allow the thoughts to flit through my mind and then to let them go. I am trying to remind myself that in all I do in life I make efforts to do the best I can in any given moment. I am trying to love myself enough to give myself a break. I am trying to remember that I do not have all of the answers, nor is everything completely within my control. I am working to keep myself out of the rabbit holes that I create for myself. If only I could do that, be gentle and love and forgive myself, then I would be able to let go of all of the things I think I should do and instead live my life as best as I can.
What if I could do that? What if you could do that? Think of the peace and healing we would feel. Ahhh, if only…