When we are grieving, we often ask ourselves, “when will I start to feel better?” Seasons of grief are intense and demanding in ways that we don’t experience otherwise. The emotional burden is great, our relationships may be strained as the result of our grief, and everything feels so far from normal. It is natural and normal to long for the end of these feelings. So, what does it look like to engage our grief in a way that leads to healing?
1. Learn to Tolerate and Accept the Difficult Emotions
Grief requires us to befriend the most uncomfortable emotions. Grief emotions—shock, sadness, confusion, anger, longing, disorientation, despair—are all terribly uncomfortable to feel. And when our loss is significant, we end up feeling them for much longer than we ever expect.
We increase our grief suffering when we fight against the grief emotions—ignoring, avoiding, overcompensating, engaging addiction—these all end up heightening our emotional experience. Additionally, when we don’t tend to our emotions, they may come out sideways in ways we don’t intend.
We can help our grief process along by looking at each grief emotion that we find ourselves feeling and explore its source, its history, its message. In doing so, we are almost listening to the emotion, giving it time and space to breathe. For some, these grief emotions signal danger or threat. Take the time to disentangle these historical messages and learn to welcome each emotional character. In time each of the grief emotions will soften.
2. Notice and Name all of the Adjustments
The other major focus of grief work is making many (sometimes hundreds!) of life adjustments. Without our person in our life, we may find ourselves needing to learn new skills, take on new tasks, fill new roles. Each one of these adjustments can take an enormous amount of emotional energy, during a time in life when energy is at a minimum. It is important to be aware of these adjustments, to bring them into focus by noticing and naming them. Even better, to be talking with an understanding person about them. Sometimes, we can slow the pace and take just one or two tasks or activities at a time. Other times, we just need to keep moving forward and taking care of business. Regardless, naming the many adjustments can be very helpful in processing grief and moving forward in healing.
Notice for yourself how difficult these tasks feel. How are you navigating them today? Does your support system know you are working and healing in these ways? What can you request your people do for you as you engage grief healing? If you are in need of a skilled and sensitive grief therapist, please reach out to our team! We understand these tasks and are available to help create safety and opportunity for doing this work!