Since your loved one died, have you noticed that it takes a lot more energy to do simple things? Do you tire more quickly? Does it feel like you can’t seem to get enough sleep? This could be because grief has disrupted your ratio of spoons. Spoons? Yes, spoons.
The Spoon Theory
For those of you who have not yet heard about the “Spoon Theory,” here is a brief summary. In 2003, Christine Miserandino published an essay where a girl described what having lupus feels like to a friend of hers. The essay explained how having a chronic illness requires careful evaluation about how you use your daily energy units or “spoons.” Essentially, this essay and theory gave people a better way to explain to others what it is like to have a chronic illness, and why their ability to do things can fluctuate daily and/or even hourly.
The general idea is that every person has a set number of spoons to use for any given day. Healthy people might have 20, and those with chronic conditions may only have 12. Regular tasks and activities requiring only one or two spoons for a healthy person could take up to three or four for those struggling with a chronic illness, immune disorder, disability, and/or mental health condition. And, if a person with limited spoons has to exceed the number of spoons provided that day, the following day’s spoons will be reduced even more! So, with fewer spoons and needing more spoons than normal to do regular activities, these folks do indeed struggle.
What about spoons and grief?
Grief is not an immune disorder. It is generally not a chronic illness, disability or mental health condition, though in some cases it can develop into one of these. Nevertheless, the effects of grief on energy can be similar to the effects on energy of those with these health issues. For example, someone who is grieving might also have the desire to get up and get dressed, fix a meal, leave the house, or interact with others, but not have enough energy (or spoons) to do so. One of the main differences, however, is that for those in grief, the ratio of spoon to activity will slowly return to normal.
My kingdom for a spoon!
The good news is that even though grief appears to rob so many of their spoons, there is a way to replenish them. Resting and spending time focused on self care seems to help one or two return. It also helps if you limit your use of spoons. It is easy to forget that when grieving, you no longer have the same number of spoons as the average, non-grieving person. Cutting back on some of your activities can help reserve spoons for things you really want or need to do.
Not just for soup anymore.
The gift of the Spoon Theory is that it has greatly improved communication and understanding between those with physical and/or emotional conditions and others in their lives. By adding grief to the list of “spoon-limiting” situations, it is hoped that the grieving and their supporters will be able to better connect as well as respond more compassionately to spoon loss. Such an improvement could have a significant impact on how the bereaved ultimately heal.
So, how many spoons do YOU have right now? Are you in grief? What if you were in grief? Take a moment to think about it.
And, please always remember, we don’t have to journey alone…