The Danger of the Fast-Forward Button

Family of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley

About two and a half years ago, as I sat with the early grief of losing Shawn, I wrote a blog post called “Press Fast-Forward.” In it, I talked about how I wished I could just fast-forward my life to a better place. Here’s a bit of what I wrote:

My ability to hold other people’s pain and frustration is significantly less than it once was. I want to feel for other people, but I just can’t. I guess this is because I can barely hold my own emotions throughout the day. Grief has made me into a more selfish person – a person who is more likely to reach inward than outwards on days like today.

I don’t want to be sad anymore. I want to wake up and play music really loudly like my dad always did as we were growing up. I want to sing and dance around the house to that music and I want to pick my kids up and spin them around. I want to laugh really hard with my friends and I want to do all of this every day, not just on special occasions.

In this post from the spring of 2018, I imagined that in six months or a year or two years I might be able to feel more positive emotions. I couldn’t really picture my future, but I hoped – God, I hoped – that things would be better someday.

And damn I wanted to leapfrog to that day. I didn’t know how to get to a better place when I was three months into widowhood. I just knew I wanted to get out of where I currently was.

Early grief is really, really terrible.

So what if it were possible? What if I could have just skipped over the grief and gotten to a better place? Wouldn’t everyone choose that?

From my vantage point now, I can say this: I’m not so sure that would have been the right choice.

Listen, I’m not saying that people should suffer unnecessarily. There were times that I felt like I really Could. Not. Go. On. and I wouldn’t wish those kind of days on my worst enemy. I do wish I could have skipped those days.

But there’s a danger in the fast-forward button. It doesn’t actually exist, of course, but there are ways to try and fast-forward through grief. I mean, you can ignore it. Plenty of people do this by hiding away all evidence of the person who died, and burying their feelings. I think most people are enlightened enough in 2020 to know that this is not a very good way to deal with grief.

But there are other ways to try and “get better” quickly. I know – I tried all of them. I thought if I found the perfect therapist, she could get me to a better place. So I spent hours and hours seeing almost a dozen new therapists in a quest to “fix” myself. I also read every single thing I could about grief, throwing myself down rabbit holes of internet videos and crazier blogs than mine. I did EMDR and yoga and even a meditation grief group. I just wanted to get through the grief. I wanted a fix for the pain.

In the end, the fix wasn’t any one thing – it was all of them. But most important, it was living with the grief and letting time pass that helped me heal.

There’s a Japanese type of art called Kintsugi, which means “golden joinery” and is the process of putting broken pieces of pottery back together with bits of gold. The resulting piece is whole again, and considered even more beautiful than it was before it was broken.

I’ve often heard about Kintsugi when people talk about grief (and there are even books on it). I never really liked the comparison, honestly. I mean, can’t we just imagine that the pot doesn’t break in the first place? How about Shawn never dies? How about that?

But we can’t always control if the pot breaks. Sure, if I break a pot, I can just go out and buy a new one. But that doesn’t really fix the first pot, does it?

I think it’s the same thing with the fast-forward button. It takes a lot of time to work through grief, to piece yourself back together and to make yourself into some version of whole again. Of course new widows and others early in grief want to fast-forward. I know I did.

But there’s a danger in trying to fast-forward through it all. I don’t want to return to my life of 2 1/2 years ago, not at all. But I also am glad that I moved through that grief without too much time spent in hyper-speed. I am glad I let myself have a lot of deep emotion that was sometimes ugly to witness.

There was no fast-forward button then, and there’s not one now either. That’s life, I suppose. I just lived each day one day at a time, and slowly, unevenly, awkwardly….my life shifted into something new.

In fact, just this morning, I found myself in my kitchen, listening to loud music and dancing with my kids before school started. I picked up Tommy and spun him around, laughing as I did it.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.

2 Replies to “The Danger of the Fast-Forward Button”

  1. This post is very relatable to be today. Today I am exactly 2 years and 2 months into widowhood and I have been questioning myself as to why I have gotten so self centered. When my husband was dying I was anyway but selfish. I was empathic for everyone, even strangers I met in the hospital. Now my thoughts revolve around myself as though I’m the only one who matters. Thank you for sharing your experience because I feel better about what I considered a moral shortcoming on my part. I relate so completely to wanting to fast forward too but I know that’s not only impossible, it wouldn’t be right even if it were possible. I’m so glad that I found your blog!

    1. I think grief – and the isolation of covid – can certainly make us more self-centered, and I don’t think that’s something to be embarrassed about. I think we all can be really hard on ourselves when we’re experiencing grief, and really, we need to be kind to ourselves. Thanks for coming to my blog and for this thoughtful comment.

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