Saturday, April 11, 2015

post-estrangement: Coping Skills Become a Lifeline

I think that learning coping skills is an important part of the healing after estrangement.  Estrangement is like a wound that never seems to heal and so you have to figure out different ways to cover up the "woundedness" while you struggle to put the pieces of your soul back together again. 

My first vow post- estrangement was "I will travel and / or see something every month".  

Seeking adventure became that activity that motivated me to do something.  

When I wanted to stay in bed all day, the planning of an adventure got me up and doing the research.  Once the itinerary work was done there was the packing and preparing.  Then of course there was the actual adventure itself and the thousands of photographs to journal the event.  (more about the purpose of photography in another blog) 

Adventure travel has been the common thread for me through these years of grieving and gradual recovery. 

I remember my first trip was with my sister in September 2009.  I could barely put one foot in front of the other I felt so weighted down with sorrow.  And yet I still vividly see in my mind’s eye the beauty and marvels of that trip.  At first it was really, really hard to plan and execute these adventures.  Slowly it got easier and easier.  Now I realize that at first I was "running away from the grief".  Gradually that changed and now I am realizing that I am "running towards life".  

Having a new desire / goal in my life has been like an anchor through all the chaos of the swirling emotions brought about by being estranged.  I sometimes wonder if having this centering goal was one of the factors in keeping me focused on what I needed to do for myself in order to heal.

I am pleased to report that not a month has gone by since that decision in 2009 without an adventure.  Even a small one counts (like meeting a friend in another city to go on a hike).  And then of course there are the big ones like 3 months back packing in Europe.  I feel that in forcing myself to create new memories I am slowly building up a stock pile of "go to" images for when my mind starts to ruminate. 

Whenever I feel the urge to ruminate; I start to visualize a trip. I try to see as much detail day by day of the trip that I can while recreating the adventure in my mind.  

Focusing on those details gradually drowns out the memories of the estrangement.  They are never totally gone, alas, but at least I can push them into the background and allow the more pleasant memories center stage.  This has proven to be especially useful on those restless, can’t sleep nights.
Renate Dundys Marrello 
photo credit: unknown

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful idea, I particularly like the idea of 'go to' memories when you start to Ruminate. I have been afraid to go anywhere as I have had my confidence knocked sideways with this. So I am definitely going to start and make a journal so I can show the estranged one if I ever get a chance to.