Tristful is an archaic word that means to be melancholy or full of sadness. Like forswunk and forwallowed, it is a word which is said to be obsolete now, but it is so beautiful that I want to bring it back.
It came into the English language, as many words did, courtesy of the Normans and the Plantagenets, in medieval times. The Latin word tristis gave French the word triste, which gave English trist meaning sad or gloomy, and thus tristful.
I discovered this word today while looking for words to describe my feelings and state of mind at this point in my grief journey. Over the past few days, I have been feeling as though everything is too hard, and I just want to withdraw into my cocoon and wallow. I’m not angry, nor am I ungrateful, but I am definitely not numb. My emotions are very close to the surface, and at times I am unable to hold back the tears.
I know all of that is completely natural, and I know I need to accept it and work through it. I know it won’t last forever.
But I also needed the words to understand and express my emotions.
I have been using the term ‘melancholy’ a lot, and it describes my condition perfectly. However, I know that while one cannot actually wear a word out, it is entirely possible to cheapen it with overuse. Melancholy is a word that I love because it is so expressive, and because it’s beautiful to say and to hear, so I would hate to be guilty of turning it into a cliche.
Sad isn’t deep enough. Miserable would be appropriate, but it feels more temporary and somehow more minor than what I am experiencing.
I very quickly rejected morose and in a funk because both suggest sullenness or a bad mood, which is not reflective of my feelings or state of mind. Moody was no better.
When I saw tristful listed in my thesaurus under the entry for melancholy, I had an immediate sense of having discovered a gem that most people had laid aside and forgotten about. As I researched its meaning and etymology, I knew I had discovered the perfect alternative.
Tristful: to be melancholy or full of sadness. #words #emotions #etymology #English #blogpost
Today’s professional development day at school focused on Positive Education and how we can help our students and our communities to flourish.
One of the aspects I found most thought-provoking was the discussion about positive or comfortable emotions and negative or uncomfortable emotions. It was particularly relevant to many of the things I have been experiencing and observing about life in recent weeks, and I want to share my observations and reflections on those things with you here.
Before I go any further, though, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not a medical or psychological expert or professional. I am, however, a high school teacher of 30 years’ experience, so I have had time and opportunity to make some observations about the things that happen in life and how we deal with them.
More personally, as someone who experiences chronic physical issues and mental health challenges, and who has experienced many conflicting emotions recently due to profound personal loss, I’m confident I know at least a little bit about dealing with adversity, and I’ve learned a few things about the importance of balancing negative emotions with positive ones.
Both positive and negative emotions can be powerfully motivating. Fear of failure or embarrassment is as strong, or stronger, in some people as desire for success is in others.
Negative or uncomfortable emotions can motivate and fuel positive outcomes such as creativity, empathy, and relationship building.
Positive and negative emotions can actually be highly effective ‘companion emotions‘. I don’t expect that this is a scientific term at all, but it seems to me a useful term that describes how contrasting emotions experienced at the same time can provide some healthy balance and perspective.
I can testify from the past few weeks that gratitude can moderate grief, and enjoying a few quiet moments in the beauty of nature can transform abject misery into much gentler sadness.
In different contexts, fear can be a healthy addition to awe or wonder – think of a child at the zoo, for example, for whom interest and desire to engage with the animals should always be balanced with both respect and a little fear or mistrust, so that the child and the animals all remain safe. In yet another situation, a little anxiety or nervousness can actually heighten deliberate preparation and performance if it is paired with intentional and thoughtful preparation, because it can stop one from making rushed or careless errors, or from taking success for granted.
Life is not about always avoiding the feelings that make us uncomfortable or sad. Hoping to do so isn’t realistic at all, given that there are many situations that we can neither actually control or entirely avoid.
Instead, it’s crucial that each of us learns to manage those negative or uncomfortable feelings and use the situations in which we encounter them to develop and consolidate our personal strengths and resilience. Learning to look for the positives in life and choosing to find a balance for the negative experiences or emotions we encounter is how we grow and move forward in life.
“Whether dealing with a major lifeshattering event or a small bump in the road, we can use gratitude to help boost our happiness and change our outlook. While gratitude won’t change our circumstances, experts say gratitude can change how we feel about them.”
That’s certainly what I’m seeking to do while working through my grief. It’s okay to take the time to mourn my losses, but I can’t afford to unpack and live there. Finding a constructive way through my pain will enable me to heal, and come out stronger at the other end.
In being honest about how I feel and what I’m thinking in my posts on this blog, my hope is that my words will help and encourage someone else get through their personal challenges, whatever they are, and to deal with both their circumstances and their feelings.
I have no doubt that knowing we are not the only ones going through grief or pain or whatever trial it is that is burdening us actually helps us to start to heal. That’s why empathy and compassion are so powerful. That’s why the support and love of family and friends is what we yearn for and seek out when things are hard.
Tonight, as I reflected on these ideas and considered the fact that I had no evidence for my inexpert assertions, I did find a number of articles that show my conclusions are consistent with current science and research surrounding emotional and mental health.
Tonight, I am contemplating — somewhat anxiously — what tomorrow will bring. That’s fairly standard territory the night before returning to school for a new term, but right now it’s even more complicated than usual.
Phrases like “back into routine” and “good to keep busy” have been bandied about altogether too casually by people who don’t understand how I feel. In one sense, things may seem as though they are “returning to normal”, but I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, it feels very much like I’m stepping into the vast unknown.
The world out there is anything but normal.
The state in which I live ihas been cut off from the rest of the country by border restrictions because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne. We’ve all been quarantined to an extent, and Melbourne itself is locked down much tighter than we are out here in the western region of the state.
The distance between us and Melbourne is no room for complacency, though. Just today we heard the news that Warrnambool, the regional city in which I work, has reported its first active case in months. It’s sobering news, and terrible timing for the beginning of a new school term. Honestly, it just adds a greater sense of impending doom to the craziness that is going on out there.
I’m keen to see my students, though. My hope is that they will take my mind off things through each school day and keep me motivated when I’m feeling low.
So, I’ve invested in masks and extra sanitiser. I even have sprays to disinfect any work the kids hand in. I will be even more conscientious and deliberate about social distancing, because I don’t trust other people to do the right things. At least my natural cynicism about human nature is intac which, I suppose, is something.
Life isn’t ‘normal’ on a personal level either.
I miss Dad. I miss Helen. Enormously.
I have lost two of the constant, consistent encouragers in my life. I keep thinking of things I want to tell them, and photos I want to show them, and I can’t. I want them to know about my new great-nephew. I want to tell them I love them. It’s really, really hard.
I’m trying to work through my grief, but that isn’t going to happen according to any timetable. That’s a process that will take as much time as it will take.
The past three weeks have changed me, although I can’t define exactly how.
I feel like I should be more resilient, or better at handling things, or at least better at faking an appearance of being able to manage, but I’m not.
I feel like I should look different somehow, but I probably don’t.
That is, of course, if you don’t look too closely at the dark circles under my eyes. Sleep has been evasive ever since Dad was admitted to hospital with coronary issues on June 16. During the week in which both he and Helen passed away, I barely slept at all. Last night I managed seven hours, but it was in two instalments with an hour off at half time. It’s no wonder I feel like rubbish.
My purpose in expressing my thoughts and feelings here is not to moan or whine. I know I am not the only person experiencing these things. I am not the only person experiencing grief, or lugging emotional baggage everywhere.
I want others in similar situations to understand that there is nothing wrong with feeling the way they do. All of this is part of the grieving process, and it’s crucial to be kind and patient with ourselves while we sort our various burdens out.
I want other people to understand that they can’t expect people who are grieving, or anxious, or caring any other kind of burden for that matter, to feel a certain way or simply “get over things” in any set period of time.
Grief is not a tidy and well-organised domain. Everyone experiences it differently. It brings with it a whole variety of secondary emotions that are unpredictable at best. Denying it, suppressing it, or trying to make our grief fit preconceived expectations are futile and unhealthy ways of dealing with it.
That means each of us has to deal with it in our own time, and each of us can expect to be as messy as our grief. Each of us will, at some point, have to step out into a world that has changed significantly and irreversibly.
Acceptance, kindness, patience and self-care will help to make that a healthier process for everyone.
Stepping Back Into A Changed World #grief #emotions #anxiety #personal #blogpost