On Grief and Stoicism

Last week I was talking to someone about 2016, how it’s been a bad year, that I’m running on empty.

It’s true it hasn’t been an easy year, particularly the last four months. Nowhere has been safe from the delivery of bad news: Texts, phone calls, social media, face-to-face conversations. Sometimes I dread looking at my phone because I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

To me, running on empty has meant feeling like I don’t have the capacity to grieve, to emote that I’m grieving. I process things, I feel what seem to be the right feelings, but I also feel crushing guilt that I can’t drop everything, can’t work my fingers to the bone and fall into bed every night, physically exhausted from the effort of making things easier for someone else.

I’ve been self-deprecating, saying that I’m medicated to the eyeballs and that’s why I rarely cry anymore, but I’m beginning to think it’s a growing stoicism and stoicism is a bit the the spoon theory: You have a bunch of it at any given moment and if you’re not using it for yourself, you can give it away to other people.

It’s taken a long time to realise sometimes my empathy is misplaced or overwhelming. That small, sincere gestures mean something and that it’s okay that they’re small. That feeling overwhelming grief myself isn’t unburdening the other person of theirs and what they need is someone slightly emotionally removed.

Things in my own life are not uncomplicated and I owe it to myself to work on that, to have my house in order, so to speak (and looking around my lounge room, literally as well). I would be happy to end the year with just a clearer head space and a better capacity to be there for other people.