Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 177, Why You’re Procrastinating in Grief.
Do you have a to-do list of grief related items that you’re procrastinating, paperwork for the estate, ordering the headstone, that last tax return as a couple? You know what I’m talking about, right? You’re an otherwise capable person but yet you haven’t managed to get those items taken care of.
If this sounds familiar then this episode is for you. I’ll help you understand why you might be really procrastinating because it’s not what you think, so that when you’re ready to get those things done you’ll have what you need. Let’s jump in.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’ve thinking about doing this one for a while because it is such a common issue that I see where we’re procrastinating things. Maybe it’s the headstone. Maybe it’s the estate paperwork, maybe it’s the tax return. It’s something and maybe it’s a lot of somethings. And so, I’m excited to talk with you about it so that you can finally make some progress when you’re ready.
So, a little update on what’s going on in my world. So, we went to Symphony on the Lawn last weekend. I told you we were going to. It was lovely, perfect night. Kansas can be so windy. It was not windy at all. It was such a lovely night to be outside under the stars listening to amazing music. And our symphony is really, really good. So that was fun. And Chilli Fest was fun. There was a lot of chilli, you all, a lot of chilli, lots of different kinds of chilli, but a lot of chilli, but I enjoyed it.
And then Pansy Mania, oh my goodness. We planted, we got six flats of pansies, six flats of pansies. I still haven’t even planted them all. And of course, you would think that they would be easy to plant in the front area that I wanted to plant them in. But dear lord, so many rocks in that dirt, so many rocks. It took a long time to get all those pansies planted. But they look great, fall is officially here. I am excited. I just probably need to find a couple more pods to put the rest of these pansies in but I enjoyed it.
And let’s see, and today it’s my daughter’s 19th birthday. She’s in Costa Rica. She sent me some text messages of her friends, and all the balloons, and the cake, and all of the happy birthday singing. And she tells me that it’s one of the best birthdays she’s ever had. So that makes me really, really happy. And I think, you know what it is too? It’s just a reminder to me that when you show up authentically, when we show other people who we truly are, it makes us so magnetic. And that’s what I think my daughter is doing.
I think she’s just really giving herself permission to be herself and as a result of that, people are seeing who she is. And when we see the truth of who someone is we can’t help but be attracted to them, if they are our type of person. And that’s why I think it’s so easy for her to make connections is because she’s just such an authentic little human who isn’t so little anymore.
Alright, let’s talk about what you’re procrastinating. And I don’t want you to beat yourself up it. So, if you’ve been beating yourself up for it, I just give you permission to put that down right now. There’s no value in beating yourself up for procrastinating. And there’s also no value in labeling yourself a procrastinator. Your brain of course will find evidence for any label that you decide to give yourself. But there’s just no need to label yourself in that way. So, let’s just not do that. If you have a little critical voice we’re just going to put that little voice aside.
And if you’re tempted to label yourself, we’re just going to not. I’ve coached a whole lot of women over the last few years who have found themselves procrastinating things that they don’t really want to procrastinate and not really understanding why, feeling pretty frustrated about it. And while there might be to some extent some knowledge gaps, some time constraints, some concern about other people’s opinions.
For the most part the reason that we procrastinate these grief related tasks really doesn’t have that much to do with not knowing how to do the task, or not having time to do the task, or what other people might think about us doing the task. It really has so much more to do with feelings. These types of procrastination issues aren’t going to be logical. So, I don’t want you to look at logic. I want you to look at feelings. These are feelings problems.
And what I also want you to hear and then I’m going to tell you all about it is that it’s not your fault when you have a feelings problem that feels unsolvable. You simply weren’t taught how to feel your feelings. And you have a primitive brain, a very old part of your brain that wants to seek pleasure and avoid pain, and be efficient. And it does so in effort to keep you alive. So, it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. Are we good? Are you telling yourself that? I want you to tell yourself that self. I didn’t do anything wrong. There’s nothing wrong with me.
Here’s what’s really happening and why we are procrastinating. You don’t want to feel two things. One, you don’t want to feel whatever it is you’re going to feel while you do the task that you’re procrastinating. And you don’t want to feel whatever it is you’re going to feel after the task is done. So, let’s break that down. Yes, thoughts cause feelings. Yes, we can definitely change how we think to create different feelings. That is not what I want to talk about.
What I want to talk about is the easier path, the easier path is to just be willing to feel the feelings and to take the action anyway. So, let’s think about a task that you’ve been putting off. And then let’s think about what you might feel as you do that task. So maybe you want to order the headstone. And when you think about doing it you suspect that you’re going to feel sad as you do it.
Maybe you want to close an account or remove their name from something. And when you think about doing it you imagine that maybe you’re going to feel overwhelmed as you do it. Maybe you’re going to feel hopeless as you do it. So, what is something that you want to do that you’ve been putting off? And how do you imagine you’re going to feel while you do it? Have you got it?
Okay, what if you could feel that feeling and take the action anyway? What if that feeling can’t hurt you? What if you can allow it to be with you as you do the thing? What if your willingness to feel the feeling and let it flow through you is the price of getting the thing done and you don’t even have to change your thoughts about it? Now, it is useful to remind your primitive brain that feelings can’t hurt you.
It is useful to remind yourself that feelings are just vibrations in our body caused by thoughts in our mind, they can’t actually do damage. They are transitory, they will pass. And they get a whole lot easier if we just allow them to flow through us. That’s when it’s a shorter, more pleasant experience. This is why, you’ve probably heard me say this in Mom Goes On. We start with feelings because this is the truth. When we get good at feelings we don’t have to put tasks off anymore.
And there’s nothing wrong with putting tasks off by the way. It’s nothing to feel guilty about. It’s nothing to shame ourselves for, it’s fine. We just want to understand why we’re doing it. And one of the reasons we’re doing it is because we don’t want to feel the feeling that we will feel while we do it. So, if we can change our relationship with feelings, if we can get good at feelings, if we can believe that feelings can’t hurt us, and we actually have demonstrated through practice that we’re good at feelings then we can feel however it is, sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, lonely, resigned, grief.
And we can do the thing because we want to, because we see that it doesn’t have any power over us and neither do any of those feelings. So now you see there is a feeling at least related to this task that you might feel as you do it. What if you were just willing to feel it. Secondly, there is a feeling you don’t want to feel after the task is done. Now, this is perhaps the more surprising part to people, but the same logic applies.
Feelings can’t hurt you. And whatever you’re thinking about your life, and about the task, and about your loss is all something you have the ability to change if it’s not serving you. But here’s what happens and we don’t even usually know that it’s happening. We don’t really realize that once we have done the thing there’s another negative emotion perhaps on the other side of it. Now, it’s going to be caused by our thinking. So, I’ll give you an example.
If you do the thing, if you close that account, if you order the headstone, whatever it is. And once it’s done you tell yourself that that means they’re really gone then of course there’s a negative emotion waiting for you. If I move the name from the account, if I change the name, if I complete the last tax return then it’s really real. That’s what we tell ourselves. We don’t even know we’re doing it but it’s usually in there.
And here’s what I want to offer you. As long as you’re willing to feel the feeling that that thought creates it doesn’t even matter, you can keep that way of thinking. But also doing the task doesn’t make their loss any more real than it is now. They’re already gone and they’re already not coming back, it’s already real. And when we just prolong the ick by believing that doing the paperwork, or ordering the headstone, or whatever it is makes them really gone, we just make it harder on ourselves.
Because the paperwork is just taking up more space in your brain, whatever that undone task is, it’s just an energy vampire. Completing the task doesn’t make them any more gone. It just frees up your brain space so that you can start using it for something else. Do you hear what I’m saying? It’s no worse having done the task than it is having not done the task. But we can have some compassion for how easy it is to associate procrastinating as a way of protecting ourselves.
If we just keep kicking the can down the road because we think that on the other side of it is a negative emotion then that’s just us protecting ourself so that we don’t need to feel it. As long as there’s some paperwork to hide behind then we can just push off the feelings that we don’t want to feel. But I don’t want you make yourself bad about this. But I also just want to offer that you’re probably already not feeling good now.
So even though it seems like not doing the thing is pushing off the bad feeling. I just want to offer to you that it’s like death by a 1,000 paper cuts. When we’re just feeling bad about not having done the thing and we’re not doing the thing because we don’t want to feel bad, we’re just in a cycle of feeling bad. So, what if instead of doing that to ourselves if you really want to get it done, you just decide that you’re willing to feel however it’s going to feel as you do the thing. And that you’re willing to feel however you might feel after it’s done.
And remind yourself the whole time that you are the boss of what you choose to believe about yourself, and your life, and these tasks, and what’s possible for you after the estate and all of it is wrapped up. I’m constantly telling my clients this, if we’re willing to feel any feeling and we choose to see ourselves as the awareness behind our thinking then we can start shifting things for ourselves. Because when we are willing to feel any feeling we don’t need to talk ourselves into feeling better, we can just do the thing.
And when we see ourselves as the awareness behind our thoughts, we don’t need to believe every thought that appears. We can practice the skill of discernment. We can exercise choice. We’re no longer at the mercy of the thought patterns in our brain. And we don’t have to keep going with this death by a 1,000 paper cuts experience. So, whatever it is that you have been procrastinating, don’t make yourself feel bad about this.
But be honest, the lion’s share of what’s holding you back is not lack of information, it is not lack of knowhow, it is not a time scarcity problem. It’s not because you can’t figure it out. It’s because in some ways you’re believing that inaction feels better to you than action, than completion. But again, not doing it, procrastinating it, inaction, it doesn’t actually feel arguably any better. It is the devil you know, it is what you’re most familiar with but it still doesn’t feel good.
And if you want to get these items done, it’s going to be much easier if you’re just willing to feel any feeling that comes your way, and you decide on purpose what you want to think instead of just believing the thoughts in your brain because they show up. You can tell yourself so many kind things as you do hard things. You can literally do that piece of paper, whatever it is.
If there’s a pile on your desk in your office or in some back room, and it’s just an energy vampire, you’re not even in that room and that little pile of paper is haunting you, calling you. You can sit down with that piece of paper, or that pile of paper and as you do it, tell yourself how proud of yourself you are. This is hard and I am doing it. I’m willing to feel whatever is required of me to get through this, even if you’ve got to do it for 15 minutes at a time and set a timer, I don’t care.
But you can be kind to yourself, you can be your own champion as you do the things that your primitive brain doesn’t want to do because your higher brain does want to do it because you want to have it done. Because on the other side of having it done is relief. So be willing to feel the feelings. Don’t believe all the thoughts in your brain. Be your own champion as you do the hard things. And of course, I will always offer, if you want support as you do these things, come join my Mom Goes On coaching program.
I love that the podcast brings so much value to people and I love that I get emails and everyone tells me that it’s really helping them, I love that. It is great to listen to the podcast. But I just want to make sure you know, it is a whole different experience to be in the program, to actually take what you’re learning and apply it, and get coached on it, and be surrounded by other widows who are cheering you on and who get you, and who’s coaching you can benefit from is next level.
And that’s the experience I would love for you to give yourself, and frankly, selfishly, I like helping people. So, I would love to see there. And here’s the other thing I want to tell you. If you’re tempted to tell yourself to wait until after the holidays, I want to offer that you do not do that. Do the exact opposite, it’s the same thing. It’s the same thing we’re talking about. When we procrastinate because we think it’s going to be better later, it’s not, we just drag it out, more paper cuts. So go apply now.
And remember the Happier Holidays for Widowed Moms event, that’s free, it started today. It is not too late to join in on that. So go to coachingwithkrista.com/freeholidayevent. And even if you can’t attend the live portions of the event, we’ll send you all the recordings. You just have to sign up. Okay, so feel the feelings, don’t believe the stories in your brain. And be so proud of yourself as you do it. You can do it, whatever it is you’ve been procrastinating, if you’re done procrastinating, now you have what you need.
Okay, whatever’s going on, I want you to look in the mirror, I love you and you’ve got this. Take care, I’ll see you next week, bye bye.
If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so that you can move forward with confidence.
Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.