When there is so much loss across our wonderful country–Las Vegas shooting deaths, Texas church murders, floods and fires destroying lives and homes and memories–it is not uncommon for us to distance ourselves from the pain and sadness we feel. If not directly impacted some of us may tear up or cry through the news reports of survivors and the tragic loss of life, love and an accumulated history; some find ways to help through the generous offer of money; and those near by or with flexibility, may take action and show up and help where possible. Eventually, though, most people return to the demands of their own lives. That is quite naturally to be expected. However, a big question remains: What do people–directly and indirectly impacted–do WITH THEIR GRIEF once they attempt to get back on track and live their lives?
A big challenge is to know and understand that we do not really “get over loss.” The harder reality is knowing we need to GO THROUGH IT…NOT OVER IT AND NOT AROUND IT. And sadly that means facing deeply challenging and painful feelings. The tendency to “push it somewhere down inside” or somewhere “to the back of our thoughts” can feel successful–at least temporarily.
And if you’re already thinking, “what is she talking about?” It’s possibly because most of us have received very little, or NO guidance on how to actually navigate a healthy and healing and mindful grief process. And even if you know what actually helps, it still hurts more than many of us want to face. It means talking about what we feel…writing about what we feel…and even more challenging, allowing the flood of tears, the sometimes back breaking sobs…even the feeling you might throw up if you don’t just STOP IT AND GET A GRIP! And further, doing that kind of grief work by yourself can be significantly frightening…so all of us need support. That can come from friends and family who do understand grieving. And it can mean it’s necessary to seek professional support–from a therapist, a minister, a physician–when they understand “allowing grieving.”
Over the years I’ve had many individuals come to therapy after months, perhaps a year, on an anti-depressant and reporting they are starting to feel deep pain–again–over a loss at the time they began medication. My experience is that sometimes caring professionals prescribe medication that actually blocks the grieving process. Naturally there are exceptions to what I’m saying…some people clearly need medication. However, helping an individual navigate the grief process without medication…or too much medication…can facilitate healthier and gradual recovery from loss. Is it hard? You bet it is!
In the absence of mindful grieving, many people get stuck in anger. And although anger is a natural response to loss, staying in that space leads to both emotional and physical challenges. A male client who yelled loudly in my office about a tragic loss…was able, when I coached him to slow down and breathe…dissolve into tears for the first time. He sobbed, with my help, for over 20 minutes…it came in waves…and as he allowed himself to breathe and go into more of the pain, it began to subside naturally. The big take away was not just amazing relief from both physical and emotional pressure–but an awareness that nothing terrible happened when he allowed the blocked tears to flow. Yes, scary at first, but with support, most people realize that the basic outcome is more peace of mind…AND an increased ability to allow tears, without fear, when they come again…and they likely will.
If by now this sounds either worth pursuing or NOT, try just writing about the feelings of loss you are perhaps dealing with…just write in a stream of consciousness manner…words, phrases, perhaps a drawing even if it’s simple stick figures. It’s getting feelings out of your head…and your gut…to experience a bit of relief…and hopefully more of a sense of what kind of help you need. The point is to make an effort to stop avoiding the feelings. And if you’d like some reading as a STARTING pace, I’ve found a great book to suggest. Try GRIEVING MINDFULLY by Sameet M. Kumar… It even has a a short series of clear questions to ask yourself and assess your progress in the grieving process. And do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone. You CAN relieve feeling/being alone with pain if you think of one person you could simply tell: “I’m having a tough time.” And always get in touch with me via the website if you need anything. Mostly take care of yourself…and know that the WAY THROUGH is what works.