How do I deal with disappointment and grief? Used to be I ate my way through it, cookie after cookie, chocolate after chocolate.
I have a very vague memory of when the pattern started. When my biological father died just before I turned five and my mother immediately decided to return to college, my brother and I were dispatched to live with our grandparents for two years. In my family, crying was definitely not OK. Daddy and Mommy were gone, but I was not to cry. One time at the breakfast table, when I started to cry, my grandmother tried to make it all better by pouring syrup on my waffle, noting that she was filling every hole. I actually recall looking at that delicious-smelling, thick, rich maple syrup, my tears evaporating as she filled all the holes with it.
How poignant! Filling every hole, indeed! Not filling any of the deep holes in little me, crying in disappointment or grief or loneliness. Yet, hmmm, she's paying attention to me, giving me something to fix my woes, sugar pops into my mouth bite after bite and guess what? I start to feel better. I learn that sugar fills my holes. NOT!
Indeed, she didn't know any better and I unconditionally forgive her. Yet, there began a life-time pattern of trying to fill grief holes with sugar. My OA sponsor says this is very common with women who overeat. She believes, when doing Step 4 (listing defects of character), that more of women's defects stem from grief than from resentment, which is common for men. She encourages me to look at how I've handled grief and disappointment in my life, at how pacifying with eating sugar may negatively affect my character and behaviours.
OK, I was 5 or so when the syrup incident happened and 67 when I stopped eating sugar as a solution. So for 62 years, I more or less unknowingly smothered my grief in sugar consumption. That's a long time.
What happens when I eat a lot of sugar is that I get cranky, really nasty sometimes. I can recall yelling at my parents, at my siblings, at girlfriends, at boyfriends, at co-workers and often at my poor husband after overdosing on sugar. Lots of mean spirited yelling over trivial things.
Interesting, isn't it, that this character defect, the yelling, is an indirect result of not dealing directly with grief and disappointment. I've doubtless harmed others, at least harmed my relationships with them, with my angry yelling, never even considering for a moment that the basis might be my own unexpressed grief rather than something they did to cause me irritation.
For the past seven months sugar has not been an option. Did I have disappointments and grief during that time? Yes. And I note that the anger response is still in me, even without the sugar to trigger mood swings. It's habitual. I need to change this. Awareness is the first step. Notice grief. Notice disappointment. Name it. Sit with it. When anger wells up in me, ask myself, what is making me feel sad.
Not OK to be on the pity pot? Nope, it's not. Yet, unfortunate, unplanned, unwanted, sad things happen. I must learn to recognize and allow grief into my life, and not just the big things like death of a loved one or pet, but also the day-to-day disappointments, even the ones that seem trivial. Not pity pot, but to be mindful of sadness, that is my journey now.