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  • Writer's pictureMary Balistreri

Accomplishments of A Griever

At the end of each year, I encourage my coaching clients to make a list of everything they accomplished. The act of writing things down makes an impact for a variety of reasons. It reinforces the positive. It reveals patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed. It makes the individual stop to reflect. Was 2023 really all bad? What progress was made?


Many of my clients are resistant at first. "Why waste time this way? Wouldn't it be more productive to make a list of what I did wrong and create a plan to stop doing those things?" they say. Yes, looking for how to improve is part of the process, and, for balance, it is important - even revelatory sometimes - to acknowledge the things done right.


Invariably, clients will ask what the rules are for compiling the list of accomplishments. "What counts?" they ask. Sometimes, only the largest accomplishments seem worthy to them. Depending on the sort of year one experienced, however, it may be the smallest things that mattered most.


This philosophy brings me to today's subject for this blog. As a person who experienced a heavy load of grief this year, I believe some of the tiniest brush strokes of strength and purpose, when put all together, fill the canvas of my year to paint a picture of success.


Here are a few bundles of actions that lead to a successful year for me as someone who could have fallen prey to the sadness.

  1. I woke up, got out of bed, and dressed every day. Even if I accomplished this activity only 75% or 80% of the year, I would deem it a positive accomplishment. There were days when I returned to bed early or changed into my pajamas late in the afternoon, sure. That is ok. Those days count, too, because I made myself get out from under the comforters of my cozy bed. Each morning, I laid in bed and looked at my calendar. What must I do today? Clients, work, and time with friends and family were my top motivators. Yet, even when my day was free of appointments, I knew getting out of bed, wearing clothes - sometimes just sweat pants and t-shirts - and walking around was important to my health.

  2. I made soup. Homemade vegetable soup is a secret weapon (ok, now that I am writing about it, not-so-secret) of mine to stay healthy during emergencies and in daily life. Each bowl contains a full cup of cooked vegetables. I developed this habit during the years of caregiving and emergencies. Never knowing when my sister or mom would be hospitalized created this habit. At the end of a long day at the hospital, it is easy to stop for fast food. The salt and fat are killers if ingested too frequently. So, I trained my brain to think of the soup waiting for me at home. I made it in large amounts so some can be frozen. Much of the time, it also contains chicken, so I get the protein, too. I probably made soup 26 times in 2023. It feels great to write it down!

  3. I let myself be sad. So many times this year, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. A big wave of it rolled at me relentlessly burying my head in oceanic, deafening sounds. It filled my eyes, nose, and mouth with salty water. It held me down with dark, cold wetness. I stood or sat or lay immobile with feeling. I felt. I found allowing the crashes of emotion to take hold of me subsided eventually to ripples of emotions of all kinds. The day after surrendering, I was usually filled with energy. Balance.

  4. I let myself be happy. I unabashedly searched for and found happiness in great quantities this year. I vowed to share experiences with friends and family whenever and wherever possible. When friends invited us (my husband and I) to outings and parties, we were there. I stayed in touch with people and requested coffees, lunches, events featuring music and dance. I accepted invitations for many of the same.  I opened myself to forming new friendships, too, and invited new people to join the names on my list of adventurers. I filled my calendar with fun, laughter, friendship and love.

  5. I purged. A close friend opened my eyes to Swedish Death Cleaning this year. I wrote a few blogs about it and my discoveries while purging. The idea is to get rid your home of much of the stuff you have accumulated, so your loved ones do not have to dedicate their time to the chore when you pass away. As someone who participated with other family members in cleansing the world of my loved ones' belongings - saving some, tossing others, agonizing over those decisions - I do not want my family to do the same for me. Truthfully, I only accomplished 25% of my attempted sweep of all the clutter in my house. I give myself partial credit for this, and add it to my list of accomplishments.

  6. I believed. Magical, mystical events occur when a soul leaves the Earth. I believe that. Evidence of an afterlife and messages from loved ones who passed this year became a prominent part of my life in 2023. As it is with most things in life, I realized I held the power to believe in signs or to choose to chalk it up to coincidence. I chose to believe every time. I talk about the Spooky Stuff in a blog post from earlier this year, and again after my Mom died. Certain birds appearing in my yard or outside the window of my mom's hospice room? A sign. Objects moved around my house with no explanation? My sister Ann embracing the role of a poltergeist. And, my most favorite, the movie running in my head of Ann and Mom walking together in a heavenly garden conversing, laughing, and smiling. The scene I see in my mind is incredibly detailed. Ann is wearing a tan, linen jumpsuit over a white blouse. She looks they way she did in her early 30's. Vibrant, her dark hair gleams in the sun while her dark chocolate brown eyes sparkle and her beautiful, perfect nose crinkles with her laughter. Mom is in her prime as well looking as she did in her 50's with her blondish brown hair tied back and swept into a little bun. She is wearing a light blue cotton shirt she made herself and black pants, dressed for a day in the garden. Mom is using her hands to explain something to Ann and then she doubles over with laughter, her blue eyes sparkling while her entire face opens with happiness. As they walk along, I see a long, white picket fence enclosing the garden path. This representation of their afterlife makes me smile. It makes me happy. Did they send this particular vision to me? I believe they did. And, for me, believing, not just once but many times throughout the year, is a cumulative accomplishment. I added it to my list.


On the very last day of 2023, I am giving myself the gift of recognition. I did it! I was not alone in my achievements of the year. No. In fact, I was surrounded by loving people who selflessly hugged me, checked in with me, sent me articles, brought me soup and casseroles, and simply, beautifully, held me in an embrace of comfort, energy and love.


I am grateful for them and for 2023. And, looking forward with optimism to 2024.

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