Hi everyone, Happy New Year!
Well, we're off - it's 2017 already! I always love the feel of a new year. I love pausing to rest; but also to reflect on what was and what is to come.
This Christmas has been a bit of a difficult time for me. Although I had a wonderful time relaxing and celebrating with my family; I have also experienced two significant losses: one very close friend has moved overseas; and just after Christmas I received the news that another friend had passed away very suddenly. The stark contrast of celebration and rest with shock and sadness was quite overwhelming at times.
Grief is not an emotion that is generally tolerated well in our society and culture. We tend to not like pain very much. If I've got a headache, I'll medicate it - I won't stop and think about why I might have it in the first place. When I think about my experience of grief - I have often not 'done it well.' I would tend to slip into my 'oldest child' role and get busy and carry on. I would unconsciously run from tears and emotion because I saw it as a weakness. These last few weeks have been an opportunity for me to do things differently - and it's been a remarkable experience.
I have this unhelpful coping strategy (I call the 'turning away') that I'd like to discuss. The more I talk to others about it the more I realize that they do it too. Often the 'turning away' is most obvious on the larger scale. If I'm in pain I'll cover it up with something: keeping busy, self medicating, being in control, pushing people away etc. However, this can work internally and very subtly as well. When I'm faced with a thought or an emotion that distresses me, I'll mentally turn away. I'll fight that thought - I'll try and stop it. I'll try and distract myself with something else. I'll do something. I'll pretend I'm fine. I'll resist that thought or feeling with all my strength. Sound familiar? It's kind of a mental 'holding my breath' until it goes away. People do it with any 'negative' thoughts - especially anxiety, worry and sadness. The obvious problem with this, is that resisting this thought doesn't make it go away. In fact, it makes it stronger - louder. I have to do more and more to keep it at bay.
Imagine you have a scary monster in front of you. Now turn away from it. How does it feel? Worse eh? Now, not only do you know it's there but you can't tell how close it is or what it's doing! It's kind of the same with these thoughts. When we avoid them we lose our power to see them and deal with them. Often, because we're avoid them they become bigger and more powerful than they actually are.
So when I catch myself jumping into mental avoidance I do the following: I Pause.....and Breathe. I turn to look at the thought. I accept it. Once I have looked at it fully, I can see it for what it is. I can give it a name. I can see where if comes from. When I can see it fully, I can deal with it. I can move through it. Now it no longer has the ability to steal my joy or direct my behavior.
In the last two weeks this has helped incredibly with the shock and pain of loss. if I don't turn and run from sadness, I can name it and accept it and process it. I can honor my friends by letting myself cry. I can go deeper into relationship with others by grieving together.
I have added a new link on my resource page discussing Loss and Grief. It's a big topic and a hard topic. The notes I have added will hopefully give a starting point for you if you are in the midst of grief - or if you are walking alongside someone else in theirs.
I'd love any feedback you'd like to give,