Four. Time

Next Pillar

What Helps

Allow more time than is often expected to make decisions.

It can be difficult to make immediate decisions, for example around the funeral (unless there are religious imperatives). Life decisions can also be difficult. And we can feel the pressure to rush a decision to counter that feeling of powerlessness. Only giving yourself time to allow proper reflection can ensure against regret. 

Grieving takes longer than anyone wants or expects, we cannot fight it, we can only find ways to support ourselves in it. When we block it there are much higher rates of both physical and mental illness.

On the positive side

Over time the intensity of the pain lessens; we do naturally adjust and re-engage with life again. Our capacity to adapt is a key signal of our mental health. 

Our relationship with time feels changed

The future can look daunting and there can be a longing to be in the past. The best we can do is keep our outlook short, keep our attention focussed on today and this week.

Don’t compare your time frame to others

Or the time imposed on you by others. Often people say 'it’s been three months', 'it’s been a year'. 'Now it’s time to get on with life'. Grief has a pace and a time that is uniquely individual, and we need to respect and allow it.

Nothing in grief and loss is completely black and white

So be aware that grief  is also a process that shifts and changes - if there is a sense of real 'stuckness',  professional support may be required to protect against complicated grief. 

Being in the moment

Being mindful means focusing one’s attention on the present moment, being aware of the sensations in our body, of the sights and sounds around us, while calmly accepting our feelings. Apps like Headspace are useful guides. (See also Pillar 8 on page 281.)

Time changes as we age

Our relationship with time is radically altered as we age. When we’re young we feel life is for ever, we feel immortal, but as we age we have a scary sense of our mortality. Time has different hues, depending on our mood: when we are unhappy, time slows down. The more we can be mindful of the day and the moment we are living in, the richer our life can be. As Annie Dillard wrote, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’ It is worth remembering.

Mind and Body

A central pillar is our mind  and our body, that has been mightily impacted by the death of the person we love or the big change in our life.