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Uncompleted Projects


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I'm having a really difficult time completing things. I get all hyped up about a project and then drop it because I'm bored, or overwhelmed, or off to something different. I have managed to see a few things all the way through, but it is much more the exception than the norm. I've never lost interest in things this easily before. I don't think I jumped into things so quickly before either. Is it because my husband isn't here to bounce things off of or even get recognition from? How do you start to enjoy your successes without someone to tell you "Ya done good?" It's nearly impossible to stay motivated.

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Several things may be at work here, all of them common reactions to loss.

Maybe you're having trouble completing tasks not because you get bored with them, but because you're having trouble staying focused on them. People in grief often report difficulty concentrating and thinking straight, and you'll hear that complaint many times from people on this site. Problems with concentration have been one of my biggest chaallenges since my husband died last year.

You also may be impulsively throwing yourself into projects in an effort to stay busy (and try to take your mind off your loss), or to find some purpose or project that can become an anchor for you. Example: because my husband was ill for a long time before he died, we put off a bunch of badly-needed home repairs and renovations. I've made it my mission to get those jobs done and finishing off the repairs Bill started has kept me going, even when I haven't felt like doing anything except crying. The repairs aren't so urgent that the house is crumbling around me, but it has become important to me to get them done, one at a time.

You also may be trying to take on tasks that would be easy to do under normal circumstances, but may feel or be too "big" for you to tackle when you're grieving, feeling depressed and weak. If this is the case, it might help to break the big tasks down into smaller steps and give yourself credit for completing each step. When you're in mourning, no task is so small that it doesn't deserve a self-pat on the back. It may sound weird, but some days even getting out of bed and getting dressed can be big achievements! And believe it or not, giving yourself recognition for small accomplishments helps to rebuild your self-confidence. After awhile, you start to think, "I did this, this and this. Maybe I'm not such a hopeless case after all."

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  • 1 month later...


I've re-read your reply a hundred times. It has helped me realize this is a long, arduous process. I was hoping that the lack of concentration was a temporary side effect. Originally I felt I had to complete all Bob's projects, too. I couldn't sleep anyway, so I tried to wear myself out getting things done. It was almost manic, but it beat the heck out of slowing down and feeling the agony of his loss. What I couldn't do myself, people have showed up to take care of.

I even managed to stay really focused for over two weeks preparing for my craft show last month. It was the most work I had done in a long time. It totally wore me out. I haven't been able to do anything since and I've been exhausted. I still have to get up early and function because I have two kids, but I find myself falling asleep during the day and feeling depressed when I'm awake. I thought at first, that being able to do the work for the show was proof I could handle a job and even had the opportunity to interview for a part-time opening. Now, I continue to wonder if I'll ever be ready to commit to anything requiring a continuous effort.

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I know I had a lot of trouble with concentration and sleeping the first few months. I ate maybe one meal a day and slept maybe 2 or 3 hours, or maybe not at all. I couldn't accomplish anything, and spent a lot of the work day crying in the ladies room. My focus was terrible. I would get lost driving home, or would have to pull over because I was crying so hard I couldn't see.

In my grief group, I found out these reactions are common during grief. I found that they improved slowly. Even now, 4 1/2 years after he died, I find that I am doing well, but occasionally, I will get to what I can only describe as another level of peace, and then I will suddenly feel a little more energy to deal with things. It is a very slow progression, and you may not notice until you look back and realize you are no longer crying every single day, and you finally cleaned the house, or went out with friends, or finished a project.

But I cried for two years every single day, and I think the lack of energy and focus lasted at least that long. I mean, it got slowly better, but still affected me. And I realize I am still recovering -- but then, two years ago I lost my dad, so that grief also added into the mix, so that's probably why I still feel the effects of lack of energy and focus to accomplish things.

I think it's very helpful to let yourself just grieve and not expect yourself to accomplish lots of tasks in the first couple of years after a major bereavement. Obviously there are things that just have to be done, but it helps to separate out the projects that really can wait and let them wait.

A hundred years ago a widow or bereaved parent would wear black for two to four years and basically everyone knew to treat them kindly and let them grieve. A widow was not expected to be social for at least the first year. Now, our society expects us to bounce right back after the funeral, which is ridiculous. I often remind myself that it used to be normal to expect people to take years just to mourn.


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  • 1 month later...

Dear Kath,

I am having this problem, too. For the first couple of weeks, I was doing stuff as distraction, but now I have become listless and can't seem to do anything. I know how you feel.

I think the people who have posted have good points, that it is normal in grief to be like this, and to let yourself grieve.

I also enjoyed AnnC's comment about how in times past, people wore black for 2-4 years after a loss and were allowed to grieve for that long and their grief was acknowledged. Nice to know it used to be like that.

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