Does Grief Have An Expiration Date?

Grief is a big bowl to hold. It takes so many formations, so many textures and colors. You never know how or when it will rear its head and take a hold of you. Sometimes you cry unfathomably, some days you feel guilty because you haven’t cried, and in other moments you are so angry or filled with anxiety you just don’t know what to do.

Grief is one of those emotions that has a life of its own. It carried every feeling within it and sometimes there’s no way to discern it.

Today was a hard day.

Usually I am able to hide my feelings well. Usually I can paste a smile on my face, exude positivity, and not allow anyone to know that I am being eaten away inside.

Today was not usual.

Today I had more meltdowns than I can ever remembering facing on any given day in the past. Today I found myself becoming angry and hostile about the littlest of things. Today I awoke from a daydream to find tears leaking down my cheeks. Today I curled myself into the fetal position and sobbed.

Today I grieved. Or at least my grief finally came out…

It has been a month since my friend Denise’s death and I still don’t think I’ve truly taken the time to grieve her loss. Sure, I’ve cried in the late hours of the night, but I hide that sadness during the day so the world won’t see my weakness. I have not wanted the world to know that I am hurting. And I feel more guilt as time keeps ticking away that I’m not better yet… that I am not as strong as I pretend to be.

I feel like I should be nearing the end of my grieving period… and that is the issue!

Certain things need an expiration date. Milk, eggs, meat, yogurt, the salad that gets pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten… An expiration date means there is a time we need to be done with these things, a time for them to either be a gone or thrown away. I get this. I’m in perfect understanding of this. But why do I also feel like grief has an expiration date as well? There seems to be this under-laying concept in our society that allows grief to have a shelf life and then it needs to be permanently removed from the house and home.

I think this way of thinking comes from those who have never experienced a great loss. Good for you! You are so blessed! But unfortunately, there are a number of people in the world who cannot say the same. The majority have suffered devastating losses and therefore know the truth — grief does not have an expiration date.

Everyone fears facing such a loss. Alongside that fear, they are also hopeful that their grief will only last a certain amount of time, that it will only take “so long” to recover. So until they are faced with the reality of a loss, it is a lot easier to think, “This won’t happen to me, and if it does it will only be awful for a short amount of time and then SNAP! Back to my happy-go-lucky self and all the sadness will be magically erased.”

Friends, this way of thinking sets us all up for very disappointing expectations!

The reality is, everyone deals with grief in their own way. If someone spent years loving another person, that pain will not simply be removed due to society’s belief that it should be over at a given time.

The same can be said for people who made a lasting impact in another’s life, just like Denise did for me. Her loss is something I still not comprehend, and I’m finding it difficult to “get over it” in a timely manner simply because I doubt how well I am coping — or if I am coping at all.

Over the past month, I’ve learned a few more things about grief. Grief will take on different forms in different people. Not everyone cries while others cry all the time. Some people exercise a lot, others talk about the situation often. Many seek counseling or look for support groups.

I’ve come to enjoy the company of good and understanding listeners. This is a big step for me — when I start to feel sad, I actively look for someone to listen to my feelings and give me support.

I called Wilbur today for that support. I felt awful doing so, and I actually retracted my invitation for help only a few minutes later, but he came over and lent me a helping hand to get through the evening. He reminded me that I am allowed to feel the pain of Denise’s loss and that it is healthy to do so.

From past experience, I know that the frequency and intensity of grief’s pain will lessen over time. However, the reality is that those memories will resurface and the pain will itch its way back into Life every now and then. Everyone grieves at their own pace and in their own way. There is no set right or wrong way to grieve, and that is something we as a society need to start incorporating into everyday life.

Grieving in a healthy manner and taking steps forward does not mean you won’t have tough days or moments. Grief is a way of life, but you can continue to lead a happy life by choosing to do so and putting in the necessary work.

There is no expiration date on grief. When you’ve faced a tragic loss, grief never fully goes away. This doesn’t mean you will be sad forever though, and that you can’t choose to be happy in the future. Take however much time you need to grieve your losses, because, luckily, there is no expiration date on the love you shared with your lost loved ones either.

Personality Shift

I was talking with friends and a statement was made that one’s personality tends to change every six months. I’m not sure where the studies can be found that show this to be true, but I was curious if certain differences in learned traits and habits might ultimately shift someone’s personality. And so I did some investigating of my own accord to find out.

For me, I look at my old self — not even two years ago — and can see quite a difference in my behavior and ideals. I’m more outgoing, more independent, stronger, and more confident in myself. Where I once questioned what I wanted to do with my life, I now know at least a direction and that is to create a better community around me. I want fulfillment in life by helping others. I know my place on earth is to show others God’s grace and to be an instrument for Him. I find myself striving to be a better person every day by practicing patience, caring, and becoming a listener to those around me.

In October 2014 I wrote a post entitled Quick Personality Identifier. Here I wrote about my results from an online Myers-Briggs Test. (If you don’t know what this test is, I recommend checking it out now! Take a free assessment and really get a fuller understanding of what is going on in your head…)

At that time I was an INFJ personality type. INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all. INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.

Today, I retook the test. Interestingly enough, I am no longer an INFJ — and I chose three different tests to get accurate results. Instead, I have shifted into an ENFJ. Not a huge change once you get down to the nitty-gritty of the personality types, but a change nonetheless. My shift from I (Introvert) to E (Extrovert) justifies the differences I’ve noted in my personality. Rather than being more preoccupied with my own thoughts and feelings, I’m now primarily concerned with my physical and social environment. This is something I am quite proud of and view this shift as a widening of my world.

Reading through my personality profile, I feel like I understand myself so much better! My strengths, my weaknesses, my interactions with those around me… everything is touched upon in this profile and it’s almost like looking into my own mind.

As I said in my Quick Personality Identifier post, the test is based on four preferences for personality types:

  • Where, primarily, do you prefer to direct your energy? E or I (Extroversion or Introversion)
  • How do you prefer to process information? S or N (Sensing or Intuition)
  • How do you prefer to make decisions? T or F (Thinking or Feeling)
  • How do you prefer to organize your life? J or P (Judgment or Perception)

Joining the ranks of Oprah, Jennifer Lawrence, and Daenerys Targaryen (my girl!), being an ENFJ means I am a natural-born leader, full of passion, and quite charismatic. With a confidence that begets influence, ENFJs take a great deal of pride and joy in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community.

Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. – David Deida

ENFJs make up only about 2% of the population, and they are always the people reaching out to inspire those around them to achieve and to do good in the world. ENFJs radiate authenticity, concern and altruism. They are unafraid to stand up and speak when they feel something needs to be said. ENFJs fine it natural and easy to communicate with others and they often can reach every mind, be it through logic or raw emotion.

The interest ENFJs have in others is genuine, almost to a fault — when they believe in someone they can become too involved in the other person’s problems and place too much trust in them. Most of the time, this trust is a lucky thing because it tends to inspire the other person to become better themselves. On the opposite, sometimes an ENFJs optimism can push others further than they’re willing to go and ultimately push them out of the ENFJ’s life.

Another snare ENFJs are vulnerable to is the capacity for reflecting on and analyzing their own feelings but sometimes getting caught up in another person’s plight and then seeing that problem in themselves. The ENFJ then attempts to fix something in him/herself that isn’t wrong. When this happens, the ENFJ’s ability to see past the dilemma and offer advice is limited and therefore they are of no help at all. Self-reflection and meditation are important practices for ENFJs during these moments so they can distinguish between what they truly feel and what is a separate issue needing a new perspective.

Overall, an ENFJs strengths are being tolerant of others’ opinions, reliable, charismatic, altruistic, and admired for their strong personalities and positive visions. Their weaknesses are being overly idealistic to the point of naivete, acting too selflessly, reacting too sensitively, and defining their self-esteem on whether they are able to live up to to ideals and goals. Failure in any respect causes their self-confidence to plummet. This also means that they can struggle with tough decision, usually becoming paralytic at imagining all the consequences of their actions.

When it comes to romantic relationships, ENFJs feel most comfortable when they are in a relationship. They take dating seriously, selecting partners with an eye towards the long haul rather than the more casual approach. There’s really no greater joy for ENFJs than to help along the goals of someone they care about, and a committed relationship is the perfect opportunity to do just that!

Being Intuitive (N) helps ENFJs keep up with the rapidly shifting moods common early in a relationship, but they still rely on conversations to help keep conflict. It is not uncommon to have an ENFJ ask their partner how things are going and if there is anything else they can do to make their partner happy. The risk to this is being overbearing or needy — sometimes the only thing wrong is being asked what’s wrong too often.

ENFJs don’t need much to be happy. Just knowing their partner is happy is enough, especially if it is expressed in visible affection or verbal affirmation. Making their partner’s dreams come true is often the chiefest concern in a relationship, but this can sometimes cause an ENFJ to neglect their own needs. It’s important, then, to remember to express those needs on occasion.

ENFJs invest their emotions wholly in their relationships, and are sometimes so eager to please that it undermines the relationship — leading to resentment and even failure of the relationship. When this happens, ENFJs experience strong senses of guilt and betrayal. If potential partners appreciate the ENFJ, though, then they will make an effort to look after the needs of their ENFJ partner even when he/she is not concerned for their own well-being. In the end, ENFJ personality types believe that the only true happiness is mutual happiness, and that is the stuff successful relationships are made of.

When it comes to friendships, ENFJs are anything but passice. With some people may accept the circumstantial highs and lows of friendships, ENFJs will put active effort into maintaining connections while viewing them as substantial and important. An ENFJ will never allow a friendship to slip away due to laziness or inattention.

People with the ENFJ personality type take genuine pleasure in getting to know other people. All perspectives, no matter how vastly different than their own, are intriguing to ENFJs. They connect best with individuals who share their principles and ideals, but have no trouble talking with people of all modes of thought. ENFJs truly open up with their closest friends, though they keep their many other connections in a realm of lighthearted but genuine support and encouragement.

Other truly value their ENFJ friends, appreciating the warmth, kindness, and sincere optimism they bring to their friendships. ENFJs strive to be the best friends possible, and this is apparent when they work to find out more than just the superficial interests of their friends, but also their strengths, passions, hopes, and dreams. Nothing makes ENFJs happier than to see the people they care about do well, and they are more than happy to take their own time and energy to help make it happen.

Unfortunately, some people simply do not have the energy to keep up with an ENFJs desire to lend a helping hand. And when their efforts aren’t reciprocated, ENFJs can become offended. This typically happens with those people more interested in living “in the moment” rather than the future, as well with those who are content with who they are and are uninterested in the sort of self-improvement and goal-setting that ENFJs hold so dear.

When circumstances like these arise, ENFJ personalities can be critical. While always tactful, an ENFJ’s advice to push forward may further annoy their friend. Instead of taking such approaches with friends like this, it is better for an ENFJ to relax into an uncharacteristic “live and let live” attitude.

Usually, though, ENFJs find that their excitement and optimism produces many satisfying relationships with people who appreciate and share their vision and authenticity. The joy ENFJs take in moving things forward means that there is always a sense of purpose behind their friendships, creating bonds that are not easily shaken.

Now when it comes to finding a career, ENFJs cast their eyes towards anything that lets them do what they love most: helping other people! Altruistic careers give ENFJ personality types a chance to help others learn, grow, and become more independent. This attitude, alongside their social skills, emotional intelligence, and tendency to be “that person who knows everybody”, can be adapted to quite a range of careers. Anything that helps a community or organization to operate more smoothly such as HR administrators, event coordinators, politicians, social workers, or teaching and counseling would be good avenues for ENFJs.

I find this career advice interesting — and exciting! In 2014, when I was an INFJ, my career profile went like this: INFJs struggle to begin a career early on in life because they see ten wildly different paths moving forward, each with its own intrinsic rewards, alluring but also heartbreaking because each means abandoning so much else.

It’s more than accurate that I was lost when I thought of a career only two years ago. I had so many interests that I couldn’t focus on the future and where I would be. I hated being asked in interviews, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” because I honestly had no idea! Now, though, I can honestly say I see myself in a position that is not on the corporate career path and focused on status or material gain. Instead, I want to be working to better my community, most likely in a nonprofit sector setting for a cause I am passionate about.

All in all, I am proud to say I am an ENFJ. Though it seems like I need to make a conscious effort to develop my weaker traits and continue to add to my skill set, the idealism and vision ENFJs exhibit allows them to overcome Life’s challenging obstacles. Whether I am attempting to find (or keep) a romantic partner, stay calm under pressure, or make a difficult decision, an ENFJ’s goal is always to brighten the lives of those around them.

Ultimately though, ENFJs are genuine, caring people who talk the talk and walk the walk, and nothing makes them happier than leading the charge, uniting and motivating their team with infectious enthusiasm. There really isn’t another way I’d prefer to conduct myself in this Life…

*Sources: This information comes from in reference to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.

If you would like to take your own personality test, I recommend doing so on 16Personalities website. Click here to try it yourself! When you’re done, please come back and let me know what personality type you are and how strongly you agree with your outcome!

How Idealizing the “Good Girl” Image Teaches Women to Put Themselves Last

Okay, let me begin by saying: “Did this woman just step into my life?” I mean, seriously. Elite Daily is well known for relating to the mass majority of its target audience, but this article was almost too direct when I read it. I grew up with the type of thinking the author discusses in the following article; I grew up believing I needed to retain to my strict ideals to make all those around me happy. It caused unwarranted stress and poor self-esteem.  Being a perfectionist was not something admirable, it was something demanded. Or so I thought. I still fight against the mistaken theory that my role in Life is to please everyone else. I still wrestle with the thought that disappointing others is a true failure on my part and I should be punished. But guess what? I’m not alone in my thinking, and we all know I love to find support with similar conflicts in Life. It’s about time all us Good Girls started making our own rules. “Stop living in someone else’s world, and start creating your own.”

Originally posted on Elite Daily:

For as long as I can remember, I self-identified – internally, of course – as a “good girl.” Because of this, my middle and high school years were pretty much smooth sailing. They were not without a couple of small bumps on the road, but overall, they were pleasant and fruitful. I found that great things happened if I followed the straight and narrow of doing as I was told.

If I fit myself into the “good girl,” cookie-cutter mold, I was ensured love, attention and conventional success. Sure, this persona was often restricting, but the payoff felt worth it.

Many of my female peers expressed this same view. With time, it became more than just a mold. Being a “good girl” became an all-encompassing identity, one we did not want to lose.

I came to know all too well the kind of vigilance that such a constant fear of losing the “good girl” image requires. Messing up, even just once, ceases to feel like a viable option. Room for error evaporates.

The thought of hearing someone say he or she was disappointed in me became one of the worst possible things I could imagine. It didn’t matter whether it was from a coach, a teacher or – heaven forbid – my parents. I started going to extremes in order to avoid all forms of conflict.

The psychological cost of causing someone to be irritated with me just seemed too great. If I developed any negative feelings or resentment, it had to be internalized. If my emotions didn’t go toward earning my “good girl” image, they weren’t allowed to exist. I had to be always happy, always thankful and always smiling. I could never be angry or bitter.

This code of conduct became a real problem during the times I needed to stand up for myself and my beliefs. My fear of the slightest criticism didn’t exactly result in a sturdy front. If I felt like what I had to say was going to be unpopular, I would subconsciously counteract any attempts at assertiveness with dismissive, fluttery hand motions, insecure body posture and upspeak (which means saying a declarative sentence as if it ends with a question mark).

These undermining behaviors were designed to make me seem less threatening, so that people wouldn’t criticize or attack me. I simply wasn’t equipped to deal with that. I didn’t have the kind of internal self-esteem that could hold up to that.

My self-esteem came from other people’s opinions. It came from pleasing them by being the “good girl.”

Peggy McIntosh, the associate director of the Wellesley Center for Women, provides evidence as to why this drive to be “good” is such a gendered phenomenon. She notes that young girls’ brains develop at an earlier age. This leads them to pick up on the emotional cues encouraging them toward compliance sooner than young boys’ brains tend to.

Girls start to fall in line and behave “favorably.” First, we do it because we can. Then, we do it because we’re rewarded for it. It doesn’t take long for us to start believing we are at our most valuable and lovable when we’re following the “good girl” rules.

We start craving more and more of that approval. We gather all our eggs in one basket in order to receive it.

Our self-esteem takes another hit as we grow older. Further gender-based socialization teaches us that it’s a major gender role violation for women to be too obvious with their expressions of self-esteem. We are told that “good girl” law prohibits it.

Thus, expressions associated with low self-esteem are often presented to us as expressions of female altruism. We are socialized to feel more comfortable underselling ourselves than boasting about ourselves to a third party. We downplay our achievements in order to get the gold star of self-deprecation parading as humility. We would rather be likable as “good girls” than risk criticism as anything else, even if that means being overlooked and underappreciated.

So, while young men are trained to present themselves as confident and self-assured – regardless of the circumstances – young women are trained to be timid and self-effacing (“Who me? Oh, I’m nothing special.”)

But guess what? This behavior sticks. Every time we actively downplay our accomplishments and feign self-doubt in the presence of others, we form bad habits that will stick around, even when we’re in the presence of nobody but ourselves.

It’s only a matter of time before our brains instinctively second-guess all our decisions. But, we can’t help it because it’s one of the main prerequisites for being considered “good girls.” “Good girls” are all we know how to be.

Allow me to fast-forward and show you how this story ends. It ends with the “good girl” spreading herself out far too thin by trying to be everything to everyone. The thing about being everything to everyone is you forget to be something to yourself. In her acclaimed piece, “Being Perfect,” Anna Quindlen sums this up brilliantly:

Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere. A berm overlooking a pond in Vermont. The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. A seat on the subway. And something bad will have happened: You will have lost someone you loved or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed.

And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for some core to sustain you. If you’ve been perfect all your life and managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, the chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be.

I don’t want anyone I know to take that terrible chance.

Certainly, the fate Quindlen captures in her piece can’t be worth the flimsy status of “good girl.” Right?

The only way to avoid this outcome is to “listen to that small voice inside of you that tells you to make mischief, to have fun, to be contrarian.” Regardless of how long the “good girl” mentality has been a driving factor in your life, know that it’s never too late to go your own way. It’s never to late too late to be your own person.

Make your own rules. Stop living in someone else’s world, and start creating your own.

This article was originally written by Caralena Peterson on May 9, 2016.