Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Successive Approximation (or 7 months later)

One of my favorite psychology classes was behavior modification, and one of my favorite topics was successive approximation. I had seen the technique used before and I had used it myself, but it was fascinating to find out that the technique had a name. It's a fairly simple conditioning tool: If I want my new puppy Cocoa (yes, we got a puppy) to come when I say "come," I offer her a reward for every step she takes toward me. So, I say "Cocoa, come." She looks at me as if to say "huh?" and then takes a step in my direction. I reward her with praise and a treat for that one step. With every additional step, she gets another reward. She doesn't have to come all the way to me on the first try. I just want her to move in my direction. I am reinforcing approximations of the behavior I desire from Cocoa. It won't be long before she comes when I call.

All of this came to mind yesterday when I was thinking back on these past 7 months. I remember thinking that I might not make it 3 months, much less 7. Those first few days after Isaac died, I had to remind myself to breath. I didn't sleep well. I didn't eat much. With each passing week, breathing became easier. I stopped reliving every moment of his short life. I started sleeping better.

At first, the grief was an intruder into our lives. As time passes, grief is a common companion. He's woven into every day and I accept it. I've stopped resisting. I've started enjoying the little things about life again. And each day I breath and work and eat and sleep reinforces the approximation of living. It won't be long before I feel like I really am living again. I'm finally looking forward to it.


Henninger Family said...

I am so proud of you Whitney - it takes such a long time, a long time of processing and learning to live with this grief...

Still thinking about you!


sarah s said...

I am happy that you are learning to breath again. Breathing is important! Ya'll are still in our prayers.

Jenn said...

i'm so happy you're doing so well! you have such an amazing outlook.