From Grief to Joy – Option B

The past week has been a tough one.  It may be because I just came back from the most awesome trip away.  The yoga, writing and surf retreat in Costa Rica was beyond my expectations.  I could easily have seen myself living there for another 2 months – 6 years with no worries!

Leading up to my trip I had anticipated that along with yoga and vegetarian food there would be a detox component and that no alcohol would be available at this resort.  I decided to do a trial run on and give up alcohol for Lent.  I also joined Jenny Craig to lose a few pounds and had planned to exercise to get in amazing physical shape.

Jenny Craig was the easiest as they chat with you about your goals and then give you tiny boxes of food for the week.  You are encouraged to add vegetables to the meals and can replace a dessert with one glass of wine.  Since I am now planning meals for one, this was a no brainer.

On Fat Tuesday I enjoyed my last 2 glasses of red wine with friends at dinner.  Then I said no more.  Forty days is really long, so I only lasted half, but 20 days with no alcohol was an important milestone for me.  In the circles that I socialize in, a glass of wine is quite common, relaxing and fun. Drinking seltzer with lime during social get togethers was something I felt awkward with, but I did it and was quite impressed with my Lenten attempt.

The exercise portion of this plan never really started.

Anyhow, I joined Jenny Craig and stopped drinking for 20 days and I FINALLY lost 10 pounds.

Oh, and I also drank water with apple cider vinegar every morning because I read somewhere that it helps.

I enjoyed my well deserved vacation to Costa Rica and felt amazing when I returned to New York.  I hiked up a tall hill for my meals, took 2 vigorous yoga classes each day and enjoyed amazingly fresh vegan food all week.  I was on a holiday high for at least one week when I returned.

Then came the holiday hangover.  No, it wasn’t about alcohol but the everyday life settled in.  I am no longer resting in a hammock in the oceanside jungle with 3 meals prepared for me each day.

Little food is edible in my refrigerator.  My garage scares me after finding squirrels in the fireplace, I’m not sure what could be living out there. I am no longer deserving of any special attention because I am an unexpected widow.  I just have to get up, go to work, deal with all the stuff and get over it now.

I purchased the TIME magazine on the flight home that featured Sheryl Sandberg, the COO for Facebook who found her 47 year old husband dead at the gym in a Mexican resort they had been visiting for a friend’s 50th birthday.  She wrote a book called Option B with her friend and psychologist Adam Grant.  The article intrigued me.  I was glad that grief was on the cover of TIME and that someone so famous had written a book about this awful phenomenon that so many people must encounter.

Sheryl Sandberg has been making the circuit of interviews on TV and podcasts.  I purchased her book this past week and read the whole thing over the weekend.  It is a self help book for people like me and anyone else who has experienced a big change in life.  So much information is packed into her book and is best read by reflecting on one chapter at a time.

Some of her ideas are different from what I have read before.  I like them.  I am always searching for ways to make my life better.  The book is a great guide book that includes chapters called: Kicking the elephant out of the room, Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence, Taking Back Joy and Raising Resilient Kids.

Following is my review and impression on some of her ideas.

1. Self Confidence

I could write a blog about each of the chapters, honestly.  So many good things to think about but I really connected with the chapter on Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence.

When I lost my husband, I lost my biggest cheerleader.  No matter what I did or said, he was always on my side.  If I was upset with friends, kids or work, he would tell me how great I was and then lead me through solutions.  Now that he is gone, my self confidence is waning.

In the book Option B,  they acknowledge the benefits of people writing down what they are grateful for.  People who journal and record what they are thankful for are happier over time and learn not to be envious of what they do not have but grateful for all they do have.

Sheryl suggests to think instead about “small wins” each day and record what you did well each day, and why.  Instead of thinking, as you go to bed each night, about all the things that went wrong, focus on what went well. Studies showed that making this one change helped people lower stress levels, and improve their mental and physical health.

This exercise can move our gratitude from passive to more active.  Counting our blessings was determined not to build confidence.  But we can build confidence with our contributions by reminding ourselves we can make a difference. I will try this.

What 3 things did you do well today?

2. Bouncing Forward

While many people who experience intense loss or trauma struggle with PTSD or anxiety and depression some people are more resilient. Option B talks about post traumatic growth that is experienced. Nearly half of the people who experience a traumatic event note at least one positive change.

I could relate to some of these.

Gaining personal Strength – In the beginning I could not deal with even talking on the telephone.  I have learned how to pay the bills, fix things and find the strength to get through the hardest of situations.

Gaining appreciation – I started early on going into nature and praying.  I would thank God for all the good things in my life. Being grateful for friends, family and just being alive helps me set the day in the right direction.

Forming deeper relationships –I feel that I have more empathy for others now.  In the book they mentioned how soldiers who had experienced tragedies together developed solid bonds with each other.  My bereavement group and my Facebook widow and widowers group both have sent me people who share my experience and I can relate to on an unfortunately, shared level.

Discovering more meaning in life – This is when you search for religion or spirituality.  I looked beyond, to life after death. I strive to seek knowledge with the bible, yoga, meditation and Buddhism.  I wonder about the significance of my own life and what is my purpose here.

Seeing new possibilities – Am I headed in the right direction? It is time to contemplate different directions in life.  The life I planned is no longer there.  What is the new plan? For many people having a job changes to following a new calling.  I wonder where I am headed.

3. Taking Back Joy

We often focus on the big moments when we look for finding Joy.  Option B suggests that happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity.   Rather than wait until we are happy to enjoy the small things, go and do the small things that make you happy.

So today, I took back Joy with a walk along the beach.  I have lived in this neighborhood for many years and this is the first time I walked 4 miles along the shore.  Some of the beach is a ‘town beach” some must be private, but at low tide I think it is OK to take a stroll on the sand that is covered under sea for half of the day.

Walking outside in nature is so much more interesting and healing.  I walked with a friend and it was great.

Reading Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s book Option B has been enlightening for me and I plan to read it many times.  I highly recommend the book. You can order it online here by clicking on the Amazon title link after the photos (this is an affiliate link)

Have a morning walk with me.  Where do you like to go for serenity?

Low tide


Looking toward Connecticut
Rocks on Long Island
Osprey nest


Keg party anyone?


Seaweed on stones
Swans in the Sea

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

from grief to joy option B


14 Responses

  1. Thankyou for sharing your heart. Your thoughts on self confidence really resonated with me. And that beach looks so peaceful and quiet. 🙂

  2. I truly enjoyed your reflection- I took that same walk 3 weeks ago- maybe this is just the kick I need to take another walk- you are quite right- it is healing to walk in nature

  3. I just saw Sheryl on Ellen and I actually thought of you and my other Friend about her book. She shared so many touching and emotional moments in her life and ways she is trying to move forward. I heard the book is amazing. Kristin you were meant to write……beyond inspirational to so many! I truly encourage you to take all your Blogs and put in a book:) Thinking of you! xoxo

  4. I’m behind with blog reading, I’ve been on a journey of my own (not out and about) but through my mind and onto paper (online paper) – it was labelled something like 10mins a day but I often found myself “forgetting to eat lunch” as I pondered the daily activities…

    My idea of action to get away and think – is to leave my property – walk or bus about my city, meandering – usually with no destination in mind (sometimes I have one business chore to do off-site)…then I just take off. I usually come up with solutions/ideas/or just plain gratitude that I can do this meandering…

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Runaway Widow
Join me, Kristin, on my journey to adjust to the sudden death of my husband and learn to live as a young, middle-aged, remarried widow.

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