Last week marked an anniversary of a significant event in my life that carries with it a tremendous amount of grief.
Anniversaries, like these, have a way of bringing up old feelings, memories, and unresolved emotions.
I had two choices: wallow in the emotions that were surfacing or use them as an opportunity to heal through another layer of grief.
Grief is difficult. And, depending on the nature of the grief, it can be excruciatingly painful. Grief is not just “a lot of sadness”…in fact, depending on the nature of the events, it can be a deep-seated, gut-wrenching, deeply painful and even traumatic experience.
The ways in which people experience and work through grief can be as varied as the circumstances themselves.
On one hand, people feel anger or rage. On the other lies deep depression. And, these emotions fluctuate and cycle often.
Some choose to completely ignore their feelings.
Healing through difficult experiences is a process…and it takes one painful step at a time.
It requires a tremendous amount of self-love, patience, and persistence.
Although it’s a process, great strides can occur when you choose to honor yourself, your process, and your grief.
If you are dealing with grief on any level, current or past, or any painful emotion or difficult time, I hope these points will help you heal.
- Honor your feelings.
When you experience difficult feelings, it’s natural to want them to “go away”. It seems easier to not feel pain, grief, heart-ache, or fear. But, these emotions are just as much a part of our life as joy, love, and peace.
The way we feel isn’t wrong or bad.
But know that feelings are just feelings…just as thoughts are just thoughts.
They don’t always represent the truth.
Allowing your thoughts and feelings to run rampant can be detrimental to your health—especially if you choose to marinate in the negative ones.
Check in with yourself. Ask, “what am I really feeling?” It’s important to honor these feelings unless they are self-destructive.
Know there may be times you feel “inappropriate-to-the-circumstances” feelings. It’s okay to feel joy, relief, and peace—even amongst a very grievous time. In fact, sometimes these feelings provide some welcomed reprieve amongst the heartache.
- Be patient with yourself.
This can be challenging. You can get impatient and wonder what’s wrong with you when you don’t just “bounce back” quickly.
Painful emotions come with many layers. When you take the time to heal through one you can get frustrated when another one surfaces. And, these different layers can take years to uncover and work through.
Even now, if I have a difficult day, I can be very hard on myself…“Really, Deborah?? Just suck it up and push through. You’ve got things to do today.” But, this approach does not honor my feelings nor is it loving toward myself.
When painful emotions arise, often triggered by memory, I stop. I take a deep breath. And, repeat, once again, step one…honor my feelings.
- Do what YOU need to do.
Everyone will offer you advice on what to do, how to feel, how long to grieve, who to talk to, if you should get counseling…you name it and someone has an opinion for you.
They share because they care but it often comes with criticism and judgment. Unfortunately, I felt judgment from people (who didn’t understand what I was going through) when I made a choice for myself that they didn’t agree with.
When feelings are especially painful, it can be hard to make decisions—even little ones, like what to eat for breakfast.
But know, that deep within you, is the answer. You truly know what is best for you.
Sometimes, it requires you to stop, be still, and check in with your inner guide. If you need guidance, seek help from a trusted advisor, friend, or counselor—someone who isn’t as emotionally invested in the situation.
- Let people love on you (even though they don’t understand).
People love you and want to help. And, when your experiences are so intense and raw, I promise that people will do and say all the wrong things.
Nobody can say the “right thing” to make you feel better…but they will try. And, even if you don’t necessarily appreciate it, people are trying to love you in their own way.
Keep in mind, that when people see you experiencing your grief it’ll oftentimes trigger memories and emotions of their own past grief.
During my difficult time, some people would want to talk about their grief, or they’d become especially distant, or want to become intensely involved kinda out of nowhere. It’s http://www.mindanews.com/buy-imitrex/ entirely up to you to decide what people you let into your inner circle.
What was helpful to me was to let people help—especially with daily tasks that seemed like huge hurdles. I had people help me go grocery shopping, do my laundry, and clean my house. Friends even volunteered to make meals for me. This helped me tremendously and it helped them to feel helpful.
- Take care of your physical body and keep to a routine.
When emotions run high, the last thing on your mind is eating healthy, exercising, or continuing to follow your routine.
Let’s be honest, some days it feels like a huge victory to get out of bed and take a shower!
The last thing you need when you felt horrible in your mind and heart is to feel horrible in your body!
Stress is very destructive to our bodies. Your body will break-down if you don’t treat it well. Although challenging at times, keeping a routine (even a simple one) can be profoundly helpful. Read more on my blog: Write A Prescription for Your Soul.
- Practice gratitude.
During my grieving, there was a period of at least 6-months when I’m pretty sure I didn’t laugh or smile once. Practicing gratitude was intensely difficult for me—because I wondered at times if I had anything to be grateful for—but I chose to do it anyway.
When you make practicing gratitude part of your daily routine something will shift in you.
Try committing to this simple practice…at the end of each day write down three things you are grateful for. Some days it may feel like a stretch to come up with three but over-time you’ll discover this becomes easier.
Read more on my blog: Gratitude: The 5 Most Powerful Minutes of Your Day.
- Talk it out.
Find someone you can talk to who will just hold space for you. This person needs to just be there for you…and let you express yourself and say whatever things you need to say.
Hopefully, they will offer no judgment or criticism and very little advice. Finding someone like this can be difficult but it’s a tremendous part of healing.
For many, the best way to find this is through a relationship with a therapist. (Many of you just cringed when I said that…I know!) A few years ago, I thought I was “too good” for a counseling. I believed I could work through my own issues and that going to a counselor was a sign of weakness. Boy was I wrong!
Therapists are gifted at listening and offering love, support, and validation.
- Stick to your own timeline.
Everyone will offer advice and share their experiences with you. But NOBODY is exactly like you and NOBODY has been through exactly what you have and NOBODY knows how long it will take to process your grief.
There will never be a day where you draw a line in the sand and are “healed”. Grief comes and goes in waves. And, just when you think you’re doing really good, something unexpected will trigger you.
People will not understand and may be surprised by how long it takes for you to heal. Give yourself as much time as you need—as long as you do so with self-compassion (and not self-loathing).
Unresolved painful emotions can be detrimental to your health, even when they are not constantly on the forefront of your mind. They provide constant, low-levels of stress on your body, and can lead to physical ailments.
Many times, patients with chronic health issues—like insomnia, weight-gain, migraines, and fatigue—admit that there are painful experiences in their past that they have not healed through.
Instead of working through painful emotions, it is easier to just choose to ignore them!
But, in order to do so, we must make ourselves numb (and in some this leads to very unhealthy self-destructive habits, like addiction). But, numbing also means we are not fully present able to experience all of life’s experiences…even the ones that bring us great joy.
Don’t let your past pains rob you of your present joys. ~Dr. Deborah Caldwell
If you are experiencing grief, painful emotions, or especially difficult times in your life, please know that you’re not alone. Reach out to those who love you. Although it may seem impossible right now, I promise that through healing and time you will experience peace and joy once again.
Many blessings to you on your healing journey.
If you feel like sharing part of your story, I’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below.