Once upon a time, 2016’ish, to be more precise, I thought I was doing pretty well emotionally. I had officially closed my boutique photography studio, started a blog, and was writing regularly about what I had learned and experienced throughout the previous two years. I had also hired a life coach, was reading a lot of self-help books and landed a job that matches my desire for flexibility and variety. Things were on the up and up and, I was optimistic about my future. However, for two years straight, I felt like a trainwreck.
During those two years, as my health declined, and I felt like I was never going to do anything meaningful with my life (being a mom wasn’t enough for me), it was a discovery process of what I needed to address emotionally, what wasn’t working in my life, and what I needed to change. This was also on the heels of unaddressed post-partum depression. And ultimately, what started to happen was decades of unresolved grief started to manifest in my business and life during that time, too.
Fast-forward to 2017, after three years of personal development work, an opportunity fell into my lap and the book that I longed to write was starting to come to fruition. My dream of one day writing a book was actually becoming a reality! Nearly every weekday morning, for two months straight, I got up at 5:30 AM to write. Then, while in the editing phase of the book, I would be hit with a loss that would bring up the deepest, unaddressed wound I had – the loss of my dad. My dad’s only living brother, and the one whom my dad was closest to, had brain cancer. And, the moment I heard the news that he was in the hospital, I decided right then I needed to see him, despite the thirty years that had passed since my dad’s funeral, which was the last time I ever saw him. So, the same day of receiving the news, I went to see him; not knowing if he’d want to see me, recognize me, or even if he was well enough to have a conversation. With a knock on that hospital door, the trajectory of my life would change, solely on that one decision, to knock on his hospital door. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and yet, I felt with every intuitive bone in me, that was exactly where I was meant to be.
The visit was incredibly healing, and the timing divine, because within fifteen minutes of my arrival, his daughter and niece arrived, neither of whom I’d seen since a kid. We were all shocked to see each other there and it was a moment I will never forget. And, the months that followed, were the greatest gift to my heart, as I would be gifted with several more visits with my uncle, and with his passing, I had felt we both received a gift we hadn’t expected, and one that would have never been possible had I not chosen to put my ego aside, risk my own heart, and knock on that door.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, grief makes us feel like we don’t have choices. Let this story illustrate to you that we always, always have a choice. And, doing nothing is a choice, too. That one act led to me realizing that I wasn’t okay. The inner-work that I had been doing up to that point, albeit not wasted, hadn’t actually addressed the root of all of my issues – the grief! It was that experience with my uncle that prompted a Google search that landed me on The Grief Recovery Institute website, which led to me registering for certification that was later canceled (I couldn’t believe it), that led to me booking a flight to Austin, TX to do my training there scheduled for the same time. I knew what I needed and I wasn’t about to let anything stop me at that point. Again, I had another choice to make. Do I take that cancelation as the end-all, be-all option? Or, do I find the resources to make, what I knew I intuitively was guided to, happen no matter the extra cost? I obviously chose the latter. Again, I had a decision to make; I could choose to live in my grief another year, which is what it would’ve been before another training within driving distance would’ve taken place, or answer the call of my heart. Thankfully, I chose wisely and, my heart has not been the same since.
It was not until after grief recovery where I knew I was healing. Surprise! But, it’s absolutely the truth. Because, for the first time in my life, I was able to have conversations I had never been able to have with the people closest to me, and not find myself a wreck for days that followed. The more I utilized the tools and knowledge of grief recovery, the less I looked to others to give me what I needed to be giving myself (love, affirmation, validation, etc.). My confidence started to grow and my self-awareness was through the roof. It was as if the veil of grief (which I’ve spoken about on my podcast) had been lifted and, I was seeing my life (past and present) with new eyes. I had the most life-changing experience when I went through the grief recovery method. And, it’s in knowing how hard it is to do the work, how emotionally and physically taxing it feels in the process, that I can guide others through the same process. It is anything but easy. And, it brings up stuff that you thought was long buried. However, in grief, you’re already suffering. You may as well be suffering and moving your feet. You may as well be moving one foot in front of the other, knowing that week by week of going through the process, you’re shedding another layer, and lifting that veil of grief higher and higher, until you, too, see clearly. Grief recovery is a clarifier of your life, a purifier of your heart, and allows you to be an emotional processing plant rather than the emotional storage tank you have been.
10 Ways You Know You’re Healing Emotionally
You find yourself changing your behaviors. Where you used to get angry about something someone said/did, you can step back from the situation and consider why that reaction provoked you. You may also be choosing healthier options in food, drink, or even friends.
You’ve discovered what your boundaries are and have implemented them in your relationships and life.
You’re no longer a pile of tears in the fetal position after you start talking about a story of loss or something that happened to you.
You no longer feel the need to share the story with anyone who will listen. By this, I mean that you’re not sharing with the intention of needing or getting something in return: sympathy, validation, affirmation, etc. You find yourself sharing because 1. you were asked 2. because you have found your way beyond the pain and want to share to inspire and connect. You understand grief because you’ve been there. You understand life beyond it, too, though, because it no longer dictates your life either.
When other people share their emotional stories, it doesn’t bring up your emotional pain thereby, causing an emotional reaction in you.
You see opportunities where there was once fear.
You feel hopeful about your future.
You find yourself pausing, bringing awareness to your feelings, before responding to situations or people with your emotions. The phrase I tell myself, “I don’t know what I don’t know” is my go-to to help me with this one.
When wounds from the past, that you long thought you buried, come up out of the blue, rather than resort to the same behaviors you used to, to feel better at that moment, you sit with all of the feelings, and seek support or help to work through it.
You ask for help. We do not heal on an island. We heal in community with others; with support, guidance, and a heart with ears.
I hope today’s blog post provided some good insight into healing; that it’s a journey of self-discovery and every choice you make can either make or break your path to healing your heart.
We go to the doctor when we have a broken bone. We go to the dentist when we have a broken tooth. And yet, when we have a broken heart, we somehow think we can intellectually and logically heal hearts.
You can’t heal the heart with the head. You must tap into your heart. It is necessary to dig up the past if you want to heal it. Those that feel differently about that are likely not ready (or willing) to face what has long been emotionally unresolved within themselves.
My word of caution to all those hurting today reading this: be careful who you take your advice from; it could potentially be more harmful and hurtful to your healing. Many people value freedom. However, where most people miss the mark is understanding that the most difficult prison to break free from is the prison of one’s own mind. Being attentive to your heart will bring you the kind of freedom that can’t be bought. The caveat? You have to choose to do the difficult inner-work to get there. And, doing that is also choosing a more fulfilling, emotionally stable, and joy-filled life.
P.S. TODAY, 6/11, is the ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of my podcast GRIEVING VOICES!!! 📣🥳Thank you so much for listening, sharing, reviewing, rating, being a guest if you have been one (or are upcoming), and overall support! I am a one-woman show when it comes to the podcast, and I’ve definitely learned a TON along the way. And to think, I was hesitant and unsure right away because I wasn’t sure anyone would want to share their stories. And now, people wanting to be guests pop up left and right. And, if you are wanting to be a guest, and share your story, please head HERE and fill out this form. I don’t care if you’re an expert in a field or not; the premise of the show is to share your grieving voice and story. Everything beyond that is secondary.
In my work with clients in grief recovery over the past few weeks, my clients and I have talked a lot about the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations. And, anything they wish would’ve been (or would be) different, better, or more.
So many people believe that grief is only an experience after someone dies. When in reality, no one has to die for you to grieve. Recently, during a consultation, the client shared that after listening to my podcast episode about the myths of grief, they realized that their life experience was, at the root of it all, grief. And, they had plenty of grief-causing experiences, too. And, another area of grief that’s come up with my clients lately has been how, in their relationships (and we all do this), both they and their significant others are bringing their luggage of what they wish had been different, better, or more in their lives, well before the relationship even started.
What happens when you have two people get together that both have unresolved grief? You get a simmering pot of unexpressed anger, sadness, resentment, fear, insecurities, you name it, that all come together. Circling back to the luggage analogy, and as I shared with my client, it’s as if you both dump your bags of luggage onto a bed, and your stuff mixes with their stuff and then something happens that shakes up the relationship, so you go to grab your stuff again, however, by that point, it’s hard to know what’s yours and what’s theirs anymore.
If every person who’s had a past that’s created emotional dis-ease and emotional restlessness and discontent were to address the grief itself (and calling it for what it is – grief) at the root, before getting into an intimate relationship with another, then we’d have happier and more emotionally stable homes, communities, and world. And more importantly, the children of our world wouldn’t become the byproducts of adult emotional pain.
I challenge you to look at who you are today and consider how the wounds of your past have shaped the decisions and behaviors you’ve resorted to, in an attempt to feel better, and how those decisions and behaviors have impacted others throughout your life. When we’re overcome with a long-standing undercurrent of grief, we easily become stuck in that “woe is me” mindset. As that quote goes, we can’t see the label from inside the jar. In other words, take your blinders off and look at what you’re trying so hard not to see.
What do you wish would have been (or would be) different, better, or more in your life?
A big hug from me to you, my friend. 💛
P.S. On 6/23 at 8 PM CST, I will be offering up a FREE, live event! It will not be recorded, so you must attend live! If you want to make sure you don’t miss the announcement or the opportunity to register, my email list will be getting the info FIRST (and spots are limited) next week Wednesday (6/9) when my newsletter goes out. Want a heads-up sneak peek? Sign up HERE. 😊
Today we are going to talk about taking 1% responsibility this one actually, is one of my favorites because it was the hardest for me to learn. But it’s one of the most important that I wish to share. And I’m sprinkling in some personal stories. But I want to get started with this as being one of the hurdles of grief. Because we have this incorrect belief that other people or events are responsible for our feelings, we might say things like so and so made me so angry, or so and so ruined my day. I think all of us could say this about COVID right now, couldn’t we? Actually just told someone today that they had asked if I had taken a vacation or went away on vacation and I said: “Nope, COVID ruined those plans,” which COVID did. But the only thing I have control over and the only thing you have control over when it comes to COVID is our reaction to it. And I’m pretty sure we all agree that there are a lot of people not handling it very well. And as a result, treating other people quite poorly, actually which is incredibly unfortunate. But this brings my whole point in this episode of why this is so important for us to understand as it applies to grief. Because as the whole world replies and responds and reacts to this pandemic, we’re all responding differently.
Many of us, myself included, have a really difficult time taking ownership and how we react and how we feel about it, right? Another comment that people might say is, if so and so hadn’t done such and such to me, I would be okay. Like you did this. Now I feel this way. These are very common responses. And when it comes to grief, this is what keeps us stuck. When we don’t take responsibility for our feelings and our actions we suffer. And this influenced learning, you guessed it begins in childhood. As I’ve talked about before and several of the previous episodes, what we learn in childhood about grief is what we resort to when we are adults. So as children, If dad or mom said to you, you make me so happy, or you make me proud or don’t make your father mad. I heard that one many times. So what we learn in growing up as children and hearing these things, is that the actions that we take cause the feelings of others. And if I can make them feel something, then they can make me feel something. And I bet you’re just like, oh yeah, you’re listening to this and you’re like that’s so true, because it is, it is so true. And this keeps us stuck in this victim mentality.
I have a whole chapter about victim mentality in my self-published book, the guided heart moving through grief and finding spiritual solace, which I published in 2017. And it’s on Amazon if you’re interested. But I have a whole chapter devoted to this because it was truly a huge struggle for me. And at times, I find it can be still, Eleanor Roosevelt has said: “No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission,” and I wholeheartedly agree. But growing up in hearing these messages and growing up and not understanding, as an eight-year-old child, when I lost my father, how to process those feelings and then really had been a difficult child, in a way, because I cried a lot. Actually, my family got together recently and my brother said to me, “You cried a lot.” And, I did. I think I was truly a very sad child. And I would go to hide to cry. Because it was shameful; I felt ashamed for crying, for having the feelings I had. And that’s why I wanted to hide them. I didn’t feel safe expressing those feelings. We give all of our personal power away when we allow others or events to be 100% responsible for our feelings. And in doing this, we also make them responsible, are those events responsible for ending those feelings as well, for making us feel better, or for making the situation right in our own minds, right? Like, we look to that person, then, to fix it. Like, “you screwed up, you made me feel this way. And now you need to fix it.”
Grief Keep Us Stuck
And in loss, we may reflect back on all of the things through our childhood, or young adulthood, depending on the loss that occurred. And think back at all of that, what we feel are offenses that were done towards us to make us feel a certain way. And we will continue to look at that person that they need to fix this. They need to own what they did. What happens if they never do? What do you do, then, if you are hanging your happiness hat on what someone else does or the way someone else responds to your pain that you feel they inflicted, that’s a lot of power you’re giving away, folks, when you realize that that’s never gonna happen. You either then accept it and move on and process those feelings. But if you are not able to do that, you’re stuck in emotional jail. And this is why grief can keep us stuck.
Let me give you an example to illustrate this point a little bit further. So let’s say someone is sitting at a red light. And I’ve done this I’m sure you have to where you kind of daydreaming and not really paying attention to the light. Well, then it changes. And that person behind you just blares their horn and you get startled and what do you do right away? What is your knee-jerk reaction? Are you going to roll down your window and say hey thanks, thanks for letting me know the light changed, I was just daydreaming, or you likely going to give them the bird in the rearview or curse under your breath? It’s more likely the latter. We are the architects of our own discomfort. And we fail to recognize that we are responsible for the feelings that result from our attitudes and actions. Let me ask you another question. What ruins the picnic, the rain, or our reaction to the rain? You cannot do anything about the rain. However, what you do have control over is your reaction to it. The same is true for almost all losses. For example, losing my father – what was causing my grief? Was it the loss or my reaction to the loss over the course of the next 30 years? Well, it was both. And although I couldn’t undo what had happened, I could do something about my reaction to it. And I’ll tell you what, it took me 30 years, more than 30 years, to do something about it. And for a lot of years prior to that most of those years actually. I felt like a victim. I felt like a victim of that loss. I felt like a victim to the circumstances that I was then after that loss, I felt stuck. I was absolutely stuck in my grave.
But what we can do is we can acquire skills to help us complete our relationship to the pain and the heartache caused by what happened. You see, over time, we develop all of this influenced learning. We develop an automatic critical response toward others or circumstances that we hold responsible for our feelings. So rather than examining ourselves, which I was not doing to be honest, until grief recovery. I take that back, about 2014 when I started to really dive into personal development that’s when I really started to do some self-examination. But prior to that, I had that critical response where I was examining the thoughts and behaviors, and actions of others who I held responsible for my happiness.
When it comes to the past, we can only control our current reaction. Otherwise, we will forever feel like a victim. We sustain and recreate the pain of the past through our own memories as well. People may say, “let it go move on, you can’t change the past.” However, they are likely holding on to the same belief system about personal responsibility that you care about something in their life, nothing changes until you take responsibility for your recovery. And so the idea is to take 1% responsibility, which can open your head and your heart to a new way of thinking and challenge those old worn-out belief systems and patterns of behavior that are keeping you stuck in your grief.
The Power of Choice
So the next time you find yourself in traffic, and you feel yourself just boiling up with emotional anger, consider that you have the power of choice at that moment, or at any other time that there is a stimulus. And you have a thought, which then leads to a feeling and then to a reaction or an action that you’ll take. Think of that loop? The stimulus, thought, feeling, action loop, and think about this podcast episode. How do you get off that loop? How do you get off the hamster wheel of being and feeling like a victim to the circumstances and to the other people in your life who make you feel a certain way, where you believe, make you feel a certain way.
My husband has a favorite phrase that he uses and says to our kids, he’ll say: “There is no such thing as try; you either do or you don’t.”And I would like to say that we can also apply this to grief that we either take 1% responsibility or we don’t. But we very much can try, right? It’s recognizing when we’re on that loop of stimulus, thought, feeling, action, loop, that is not serving us that is keeping us stuck in these old thoughts and patterns and behaviors. That keeps us stuck in certain relationships. Think about this episode. As you move about your day, the circumstances that come across your path, the people that perhaps influence your feelings throughout the day. And know that if you’re allowing that to dictate your feelings, even the rest of the day, we can have something happened to us at eight in the morning and it can do rail us the entire day. I experienced this. I know what it’s like. I know, I get it. It’s life in general. It’s not easy. I totally get it. But to have the awareness when we are stuck in that pattern. That’s when we can change how we respond and react.
P.S. Catch all episodes of Grieving Voices HERE or on your preferred platform HERE. Check me out on Instagram @theunleashedheart. If you liked this episode, please share it because, sharing is caring 💛 Much love, my friend.
When we think about grief, we don’t often think about how our bodies respond. And because grief is cumulative and it’s cumulatively negative, we tend to store the emotional energy of grief within us. And over time, because grief is cumulative that emotional energy, that emotional charge that we have around a relationship that feels incomplete can bring on physical symptoms. And it can cause us to resort to behaviors that are unhelpful and probably more likely hurtful to ourselves. When we think about STERBs the short-term energy relieving behaviors, what we’re really talking about are the things that we resort to, to feel better. Some examples of that are food, shopping, exercise, gaming, running away, alcohol, violence, sleep, cell phones, smoking, risk-taking, cutting, anger, fantasy, vaping, tattoos, drugs whether they be street or prescription, sex, body art, porn, gambling, and even picking there’s actually quite a few, right? We all tend to pick some of these if not many of them. And if we ask ourselves, am I doing this to feel better? Am I doing this to avoid how I am feeling, then it is likely that we are resorting to a sterb-like behavior. These STERBS have changed obviously over time because I grew up in the 80s and of course there wasn’t vaping back then there weren’t cell phones. At least, maybe some people had big phones but you know that there were very few people. Actually to church can be, people can become obsessive helpers. Isn’t always a bad thing. But you know, we often think though that too much of anything is probably not the best either, right?
The Ramifications and Consequences of STERB Behaviors
I’ve resorted to several of these, in my years that I’ve dealt with my grief. These are all examples of behaviors that we resort to because we don’t understand grief, because we don’t understand what it is that emotionally is happening with us. And over time, and I can attest to this being a graver for over 30 years, is we either implode or we explode. And these behaviors are ways that we explode, that we expend our emotional energy, the emotional energy that grief brings us into our lives. We can also implode with physical symptoms. We can experience migraines, bowel issues, high blood pressure, ulcers, even chronic disease, chronic illnesses. There are just so many ways that over time grief impacts our bodies, our minds, and like I’ve mentioned before, shuts us off from our physical bodies. It’s like our body puts this armor up between our soul and our heart. And we just can’t break that barrier. And so we don’t know how to deal with what we are physically and emotionally experiencing. And so in a quest to feel better, we do what we can to feel better. And that is the crux of grief. And these behaviors, many of them obviously just bring on more grief, don’t they? If we resort to alcohol, we become addicted to alcohol or shopping or food. There are ramifications and consequences of those STERB behaviors. If we resort to food, which is what I’ve mentioned in a previous episode about the myths of grief, you know in early childhood, we’re often exposed to this one, when we feel bad, someone wants to give us food, here just eat this, you’ll feel better, eat this you’ll forget about it. And as adults drink this glass of wine, you’ll forget all about it, or just have a couple of beers with me and melt away the day. You know, we resort to these behaviors because we’d rather emotionally not deal with what we are feeling. And when it comes to shopping the same thing, we sit on our laptops or we are ordering from our phones. And before you know it, you’ve spent $300 on a bunch of crap you don’t need and it doesn’t make you feel any better. And actually, afterward, you probably feel shame and you probably feel anxiety and worry about maybe the financial part of spending the money that you don’t maybe have, or buying things just that you don’t need. And we can look at all of these behaviors and see the consequence and the ramifications of them. Whether it be the cell phones, if we’re always like many of us are today and a lot of teens they’re in their cell phone constantly head down in the phone. And, that’s where a lot of kids are being bullied is right through their technology in their hands that creates more grief in their lives when they’re exposed to that emotional pain that others are inflicting. And if they’re not open to communicating what is going on they’re gonna resort to these other behaviors, whether it be vaping or sex or gaming or exercise or food, alcohol even and tobacco or maybe even running away. Or how about even suicide.
How Grief Manifests In Our Bodies
This is why I’m so passionate about educating on grief because if we don’t understand the basis of why we do the things we do and get to the root of what is really going on in our lives, we will have these problems the rest of our lives and if we are unable to recognize and our children what it is that they may be dealing with, simply by looking at these behaviors or other new things that will be coming up, because what will disturbs of tomorrow be, now it’s vaping. And what will be next, that kids will resort to. So this is an important topic for everybody. One that I cannot not talk about, hence the podcast. So I want you to think about in what ways that you have been imploding or exploding. And in talking more about the imploding part about how grief manifests in our bodies. I can share that through the years, probably around 2014, that’s when I started had body aches, I just felt achy all over. I had stomach issues, I felt like any time I ate just a little bit, I felt bloated, which really just kind of exasperated the lack of nutrition because I didn’t feel like I could eat because when I did eat, I felt bloated, and it was this vicious cycle. And I ended up losing more weight than I should have in a short amount of time and my hair was falling out. It was thinning. I had headaches, I wasn’t sleeping well. These are all things that emotionally we’re manifesting in physical form. And this is the point I want to make in that look at where you may be imploding and exploding. And consider that it may not be a pill that you need. It may be that you just need direct grief recovery work. And it changed my life.
This work has changed my life. I can recognize now when I am feeling myself resort to certain behaviors. I can recognize now when I am physically experiencing the physical manifestation of what I am emotionally feeling. It’s not always a symptom, like what we’re experiencing physically isn’t always a symptom of something with a medical label. I want you to consider that very well. Just maybe grief.
And that’s not a term that you will ever, ever likely hear your medical doctor say out loud. Are you suffering from grief? No, they may tell you, well you have anxiety, you have an anxiety disorder, you have high blood pressure, which you probably maybe do. I’m not saying that high blood pressure is not a symptom of a cardiac issue that I’m not saying. But what is the cause of the cardiac issue that is then causing the high blood pressure, could it then be the stress on your heart, which is due to possibly grief. And that’s where I’m saying let’s get to the root of what is causing the physical manifestation going on in our bodies. Let’s get to the root of what is causing the outward expression of what we’re experiencing.
P.S. I hope that you enjoyed it and you glean something from it useful. If you like this episode, I would love for you to share it with others and leave a review if you would, that would be fantastic. Catch all episodes of Grieving Voices HERE or on your preferred platform HERE. Much love my friend 💛
Our society implies that we should be better, we should be feeling better, and that we need to act recovered. Academy Award Recovery is its name, but it also could be called, “I’m fine, put on your happy face.” And it can also show up as this desire and need of wanting to help others. And I can attest to this because when I really started to dig into my personal development, I started to feel a little farther along in my healing and felt this desire to help others. And it really helped me to push my book out and to dig further into my growth. It wasn’t until I had another loss of my life where I realized that I wasn’t okay. And even still, when I registered to become a certified grief recovery specialist. It was with this thought in the back of my mind that I want to help others. But what I really realized as well is that I wasn’t okay with that next loss. I just had not moved beyond the grief that I had endured much of my life. One of the reasons why as grievers we feel the need to pretend is that the comments that we hear during a loss at the time of loss, appeal to the intellect and do not encourage the expression of feelings. And such intellectualizing increases a griever’s sense of isolation and creates a feeling of being judged, evaluated, and criticized. Because of this, a griever quickly discovers that he or she must indeed act recovered in order to be treated in an acceptable manner. In an attempt to be accepted and to look recovered, then grievers then try to focus on only the fond memories and where there’s incomplete grief.
What are Enshrinement and Bedevilment?
We also see often enshrinement and enshrinement in its most damaging form can include obsessively building these memorials to the person who died. An example would be if a mother lost a child and did not change a single item in their child’s room. Let’s say even five years that the child has been deceased. Often with enshrinement, we can also hear comments like you must not speak ill of the dead. And people tend to have a difficult time looking accurately at all aspects of the relationship. Now we don’t suggest that you run around bad-mouthing anybody living or dead but the suggestion is that it’s impossible to complete the pain caused by death, divorce, or any other significant emotional loss without looking at everything about the relationship, not just the positive. The opposite of enshrinement is bedevilment. The griever has a litany of complaints derailing, a lifetime of mistreatment. They’re unwilling to let go of disappointments and anger with the devilment, the griever clings to the negatives just as the in Shriner clings to the positives, but neither views the entire relationship. The thing to keep in mind is that all relationships include both positive and negative interactions. We know that you can complete grief only by being totally honest with yourself and others.
Academy Award Recovery | Seeking Approval of Others
Academy Award Recovery behavior also keeps us seeking the approval of others. We all like praise and compliments. We all like approval, and we all want to be seen as smart, strong, and mature. We all want to feel as if we are a part of a group. This need is learned during early childhood and often reinforced to the point of obsession. Earlier it was mentioned, the large percentage of comments made to grieving people following a loss is not helpful. Grievers are advised to take actions that merely distract or convert feelings into intellectual ideas. Since approval is such a powerful aspect of our social skills, we try to conform to the ideas suggested to us following a loss. If we use the example of a miscarriage or the loss of a young child, people might say, well, you should be grateful that you can have other children or it was just not meant to be. Or how about this one, you’re strong enough to handle it? Well, intellectually all these statements might be true, they still don’t help deal with feelings. This becomes a double-edged sword because although we want the approval of those around us, we may still not feel supported by our family or friends. In an attempt to feel better, we opt for Academy Award Recovery. After pretending for so long that we’re fine, we start to believe in ourselves. If I asked you, if you like to be lied to, the answer would likely be “no”. However, if I asked you if you’ve lied about your feelings following a loss, the answer would probably be “yes”. It is very sad to realize that we have been taught to lie about our feelings for fear of being judged or criticized. The danger of I’m fine is that it does not help the broken heart. Saying I’m fine just distracts us and others, while the pain and loneliness persist on the inside. The net effect is to create a scab over an infection, leaving a mess underneath. Is it any surprise then that all of this pretending and I’m finding to everyone else around that it’s just exhausting to the point where you have no energy left? Sometimes all a griever can do is get out of bed and go through the motions of a day, a week, a month, and eventually was my case 30 years of living life on autopilot.
Unresolved grief consumes tremendous amounts of energy. Most commonly the grief stays buried under the surface and only the symptoms are treated. Many people including mental health professionals misunderstand the fact that unresolved loss is cumulative and it’s cumulatively negative. Human energy is used most efficiently when our minds and our bodies are in harmony. Unresolved grief tends to separate us from ourselves. As an example, how many times have you been driving down the road and suddenly realize that for the last three blocks, you were anywhere but driving the car, perhaps you were in your head having a conversation with someone who was not in the car? And quite often those Phantom conversations are with someone who has died. More likely than not these conversations represent an aspect of unfinished emotional business between you and someone else living or dead. Holding on to incomplete emotions consumes enormous amounts of energy. All of this pretending also leads to a loss of liveliness and spontaneity that is almost impossible to overcome. Many people fall into a trap of quiet desperation sometimes feeling good, sometimes feeling bad, but never being able to return to a state of full happiness and joy. We pay a high price for the incorrect information we have about dealing with loss. Each time a loss is not properly concluded, there is a cumulative restriction on our likeness. Life becomes something to endure. The world seems like a hostile place in which to live.
Because of Misinformation
Because of misinformation, we never had a fair chance to deal effectively with the loss events in our lives. Maybe like me, you’ve tried many things to improve your sense of happiness and well-being. And yet maybe despite all of those attempts, you still feel this emotional dis-ease within you like I had felt for so long. What do you think happens after all of this time of pretending and saying I’m fine and denying how we truly feel feeling unsafe to share how we really feel? Since we have been socialized from early on to deal with sad, painful, and negative emotions incorrectly, we end up storing that energy inside ourselves. A little story to illustrate this is let’s say a child comes home from preschool with her feelings hurt from another child on the playground. The caretaker says what happened? and the child responds tearfully that one of the kids was mean to her. And the caretaker says, Don’t cry here have a cookie you’ll feel better. Thus, setting the child up with a lifetime belief from an important authority source that feelings can be fixed with food. Upon eating the cookie, the child feels different, not better, for the moment is distracted and forgets about the incident on the playground. However, there has been no completion of the emotional pain caused by the event. The emotional pain and the feelings attached to it are now buried under the cookie, the sugar, and the distraction. If the child were to bring it up sometime later, she would probably be told, we don’t cry over spilled milk. As if to say that it is not okay to continue having feelings about the incident, so it must stay buried. Early on, we learn to cover up hide, or bury our feelings under food. It is not surprising that sometime later, we adapt that same behavior and cover-up our feelings under alcohol or other drugs. We may have learned to do so by observing family members at funerals or wakes, consuming large amounts of food and alcohol. Consuming food or alcohol in response to the emotional energy created by death or divorce does not help us discover the source of the energy or complete the relationship affected by our loss. Therefore, we are participating in an illusion that the short-term relief offered by food or alcohol gives us long-term relief from the pain caused by the loss. Food and alcohol are obvious and typical short-term energy-relieving behaviors.
There are many other short-term behaviors that have the same life-limiting and damaging consequences. In grief recovery, we call these stir herbs. And I’ll be talking more about these in the next episode. I hope with the education in this episode about Academy Award Recovery, you can now see that saying I’m a fine which really means feelings inside not expressed is not only damaging to yourself but also sends a message if you’re a parent to your children that pretending and not being honest and truthful about how you feel is acceptable and expected. I hope from now on in your relationships with your children with others that you feel you can share the emotional truth and be an example of doing so in your relationships.
P.S. Catch all episodes of Grieving Voices HERE or on your preferred platform HERE. For this Episode 5, you can listen HERE. Did you find this episode helpful and informative? Rate, Review, or Share it with a griever you know and love because sharing is caring 💛
If you had a choice between blissful or miserable, which would you choose?
I imagine you thought to yourself, “That’s a silly question!’ It’s a no-brainer – blissful!” Who would choose to be miserable?
Whatever you’re feeling deprived of – it’s the highest goal to attain it—feeling deprived of feelings of bliss? It will be your highest goal to attain bliss.
When deep in grief or otherwise, we often do what is necessary to move toward pleasure and away from pain.
Reaching for something to feel better, you may resort to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, television, fiction/fantasy books, surfing the internet/Facebook/social media, etc.
The Shame Game
You may feel better briefly, but what you’re most likely left with are feelings of shame. And shame makes us feel anything but blissful.
According to Merriam-Webster, shame is:
a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
b: the susceptibility to such emotion
2: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute
3a: something that brings censure or reproach also: something to be regretted
b: a cause of feeling shame
I need to write a blog post all about shame. It causes a lot of grief in our lives. Where there is shame, there is grief. Likewise, where there is grief, there is also shame. They go hand-in-hand. In my book, I have a chapter dedicated to shame titled The Shame Game.
Because shame and grief are so tightly interwoven, the patterns of behavior one may resort to (running toward pleasure) to avoid pain create more shame, becoming a cyclic pattern of behavior.
Grief makes you feel like you don’t have a choice when caught in this vicious cycle.
But, you do. Our minds are a powerful force to be reckoned with and are undoubtedly taken for granted when it comes to transforming our lives. We often don’t feel like we have a choice in our lives because we get stuck in the vicious cycle. We want to feel better. We don’t know how to break free and don’t know what to do first.
The first step in breaking cycles is to understand you have a choice and then decide to do something about it. I know many situations leave individuals where they are because of fear. I know that a person in a domestic violence situation is often groomed by their abuser. I understand that individuals or families living in poverty haven’t been given the tools and access to make their way out of poverty. Even in these situations, fear is often the stronghold on the mind. And, fear can be a beast of a feeling. Fear can paralyze you.
However, even in the most fearful situations, there have been true accounts of people surviving (even thriving) following terrible situations and circumstances. I’ve heard many of them on my podcast. There is an episode coming up in Feb/March that is incredibly terrifying, and yet, this woman clawed her way out of fear and obtained her Ph.D. The hero’s journey is something common to copywriters and those who write stories/scripts. Through my podcast, I hear stories like this on the regular. They are triumphant and inspiring stories of people, just like you and me, who, against all odds, realized they had a choice and decided. They held on to hope.
Sometimes, your circumstances or situation allows the fear to take hold, but if you hold on to hope, you’ve got something worth holding. Hope is a beacon. Hope is the light of a lighthouse you see in the distance when you’re in a small boat on a big ocean. If you want to feel some hope, take a listen to my podcast, Grieving Voices.
If you’ve made it out of the vicious cycle but feel as though your life isn’t heading in the direction you desire, or emotionally, the past still has a grip on your present, I encourage you to consider working with me.
I am sending you heaps of love + light! Thank you for reading and sharing with someone you know or love.
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