First, let’s get something straight: there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no timeline or deadline. Grief pours into every crevasse of our lives; it is not a linear process. With that said, if a significant life change or a loss creates a chronic condition that won’t stop negatively impacting your emotional well-being, you probably need help looking at the deeper meaning.
A necessary part of the human experience is the inevitable pain of loss, illness, and unwelcome change. Your method of handling life events is based on your beliefs and how you perceive yourself. If, for instance, you experienced abandonment or the loss of a parent in your youth, you may be hypersensitive to loss. You may, for example, believe that those you love will eventually disappear from your life. On the other hand, your friend who has not loved and lost may grieve and appear to move on with comparative ease.
The challenge with differing beliefs is that it’s difficult to fathom the other person’s point of view. You can’t imagine your brain working that way. I remember experiencing this when my mom passed away. My heart was breaking; the loss felt unbearable. My siblings managed their emotions differently. “What did you think would happen? She was 92 years old,” one brother said to me. I viewed his remark as insensitive, and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t miss mom as much as I did.
Since then, I’ve learned that he does miss her; he simply found a different (less painful) path to acceptance. I misinterpreted his acceptance as a lack of love because I couldn’t imagine how he could love our mother and cope well with the loss. It felt as though these two experiences could not co-exist. I was wrong.
Do you find that things like loss, conflict, unwelcome change, and difficult news seem beyond your ability to manage emotionally? Does the deep pain and worry stay with you for years, often spiking, surprising you with deep, painful emotions at unexpected times? Suppose this harms your mental well-being. It may be helpful to look at how your personal paradigm was formed and whether you can shift your perspective. I’ve done this countless times over the years, and the experience is life-altering.
For me, loss has been the most challenging of life events to manage. Even the loss of one of my beloved dogs haunted me for many years. Friends who moved away, breaking up with someone I’ve dated, and most certainly the pain of loss when my husband and mother passed seemed insurmountable. I knew that my level of ongoing grief was not within normative values. It had a negative impact on my life in many ways. Something had to change, so I found help.
What I learned about myself is that loss threatened my sense of safety and well-being. My dog, Cooper, for instance, entered our lives only months after my husband passed. For five years, Cooper and I walked in the woods almost every day while I cried, vented, and created a new life for myself. Cooper was a vessel for my deepest emotions and a catalyst to my healing. On a subconscious level, I believed that losing him after only five years was a threat to my well-being and a stab in the back at my attempt to build a new life for my young children and me. He held my grief and my dreams; what now?
My mother was my best friend. We laughed and cried together. Mom rescued me from disaster on more than one occasion. Again subconsciously, losing her meant that my security and safety were next to go.
It’s natural to feel the pain of loss; it becomes a part of who you are. But when it threatens your mental health and ability to thrive, it’s a problem. However, you can create internal change that makes life more joyful and helps you find gratitude for all that is.
Remember, grief is not always attached to death. It comes from divorce, loss of a business, estrangement, loss of a job, and so many other life events. Don’t shy away from asking for professional help to assimilate your losses and find balance. Some life coaches are equipped to help you. There are grief counselors and coaches. And certainly, everyone can benefit from therapy.
What steps will you take to heal? Reach out to me; perhaps I can steer you in the right direction.