Today’s podcast is an intellectual discussion on grief and loss. It’s intended to engage the prefrontal cortex part of your brain, which is the part where logic is stored so that you can use this information to have a deeper understanding of how to process your emotions and how to be empowered when you feel powerless.
All that is to say if you are in the depth of grief right now, this podcast may not provide much comfort. If you’ve reached the point where you are ready to move forward, I invite you to listen on.
It’s December 2020. It has been quite a year.
It’s rare that as a collective society we all experience the same experience at the same time.
This has been a year of loss & grief
For many, it’s loss upon loss. We are experiencing it now at all levels of our life
From the way we freely shop for our everyday groceries – ending of decades of traditions, certain rites of passages and religious holidays – passing of a loved one – it’s even as simple as the loss of a comforting hug from a friend
And with loss, there is grief. Today, the world is united in a process of grieving.
We’re not really taught how to deal with difficult emotions. Grief is no different. We can’t really prepare for it. We can’t truly control it, although some will try. The best we can do is manage it so that it doesn’t take us down. With a little bit of understanding, we can move through grief and come out the other side more resilient. It will never be easy, but it can be easier.
How do we do that?
The best way to manage all of the hard and heavy emotions that come with loss is to accept our life and our world as it is right now.
Acceptance doesn’t mean approving and being ok with our circumstances
It means not denying what is. It means not trying to rewrite the story of our life.
Opposite is resistance. Important to note how resistance shows up, it often doesn’t look how we expect. It shows up as arguing with reality about what has changed.
Know when phrases “should” or “shouldn’t” come through your mind.
When we think and believe those phrases we are trying to intellectually change reality. Regardless of how we try to rework reality, resisting mentally and emotionally exhausts us.
If acceptance is required to move past the pain why do we resist at all?
Because w/acceptance comes all of the tough emotions of loss and grief. We use resistance to distract ourselves. Often replacing acceptance with anger.
This is why we are so quick to assign blame. There’s an emotional release that comes with converting grief to anger by blaming someone else….or ourselves. Anger is easier to process than grief. That’s why our brain is quick to redirect our attention elsewhere.
It’s ineffective because the negative emotions do not go away when we resist. They continue to show up again and again. Now we contend with both our anger and frustration AND our grief.
Leaves us overwhelmed and exhausted.
If we allow ourselves to stop resisting, to stop denying the wave of grief that comes with loss, then it will move to us and through us and continue on it’s way.
LIke waves in the ocean, it may come right back…again and again. As long as we accept what is and allow the emotions to move through us, they will flow past us getting less and less intense as time moves on..
We are meant to feel sadness, we are meant to feel grief but we’re not meant to get stuck in those emotions.
This is because life is meant to be a balance of emotions.50% negative, 50% positive
Allowing emotions will help to maintain that balance
But we don’t allow, we resist. That’s because we have developed the belief that if we feel bad then something is wrong. That’s not necessarily true. All that has happened is that we are experiencing the balance of being human.
Intellectually knowing that we will feel negative emotions 50% of the time allows us to step into the place of accep tance By accepting, we can allow.
Being present with our emotions, sitting with the pain without trying to avoid, distract, or push it away is the ultimate form of acceptance.
There is a tremendous long-term benefit of accepting and allowing…it creates within us a base line of peace. Our base line is the emotional state in which we return. It becomes our emotional default zone.
This Doesn’t mean we always feel it, means we always have ACCESS to it
Once we allow grief and loss to move through us, we can choose to access our own peace.
Let’s not forget that the goal of life isn’t to live in a state of perpetual peace and bliss.
All emotions are valid and necessary.. They are guideposts and we feel them for a reason. They’re here to teach us about ourselves and about the way we see the world.
It’s important to remember that all of our emotions, positive and negative, have a helpful version and an unhelpful version.
Anger for example. We see injustice, anger can motivate us out of complacency to do something to prevent the same injustice from happening again to ourselves or others.
Or it can cause us to take action that is harmful to ourselves or others. It can lead to a different form of injustice. One emotion, two different outcomes depending on if we tap into the helpful or unhelpful side of the emotion.
We can do this with positive emotions as well. Our desire to feel happy can lead us to end toxic relationships and pursue our passions. It can also compel us to make decisions that ultimately work against us such overspending on unnecessary material goods or, to the extreme end, start taking drugs and medications that can’t be sustained without them.
ENDAllowing is the art of letting emotions, all emotions – good and bad, come and go. It starts with acceptance
This leads us to the question, what can we do? If life is emotionally split 50/50,
The best thing we can do is to develop our awareness of what we are feeling in that moment and how we are handling that emotion. Asking ourselves the tough questions such as: how do I feel right now? Is this the appropriate emotion for my present situation? Am I connecting to the helpful or unhelpful side of the emotion?
Once you know where you are, you can decide if you want to stay there if you’re ready to move to the next best feeling. Which doesn’t mean you jump from grief to joy. It can be as simple as stepping from grief, to slightly less grief.
Here are the questions to ask yourself to move the the next best emotion:
How do I want to feel? What does it look like to operate from the helpful side of that emotion? How will I know if I’m experiencing the unhelpful version?
I’ll link to these questions in the show notes. I invite you to create the space and time to write out the answer to these questions. You can write them digitally or on paper but the act of writing is very important because it forces us to focus and slows down our brain processes.
These questions allow us to understand what’s happening inside of our head, see our habitual reactions and decide if they are bringing us closer to a baseline of acceptance. If they’re not, we can decide what change we want to make so we can move forward to the next emotion. We can also decide that we don’t want to move to the next best emotion. Choosing to stay where we are is a valid choice.
All that ever matters when you make these decisions is that you know your reasons and that you love them.
As I wrap up this episode, I want to send my condolences to those who have lost loved ones this year. And to those who have experienced the pain of separation from those who we care about most. You are not alone in your pain and suffering. We are all united in our grief this year.
Although sitting with the pain and allowing it to exist may feel scary and difficult but it will release you from the struggle of resistance so that you can one day step move one step closer to peace.
Until next week, take care my friends.
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