Have you felt like you’ve been on a rollercoaster ride, emotionally, lately?
My kids are now home due to COVID. So, aside from that, and all the other things come with life, work, and business, I’m tired. And, I know I’m not alone.
One thing that I’ve found that has helped me not to lose my marbles lately is taking at least 45 minutes every morning for myself. Every weekday, I do a workout. Periodically, I give myself Reiki. One day this week, I also journaled. The point is, taking time for my body, my heart, and my mindset has dramatically kept me from lashing out in frustration.
How often, though, do we go about our day without making our body, heart, and mindset a priority? How often do we lax on our self-awareness and go about our day mindlessly? A lot.
I recall many times throughout my life, where the littlest things would set me off. This response is not uncommon to us when we feel as if we’re on an emotional rollercoaster. So, how do you suppose this quick-to-anger, being easily poked by the bear – way of being is impacting your life, work, and business if you have one?
Back when I had my first business, I was struggling in a lot of ways emotionally. I was having physical symptoms, including unexplained body aches, headaches, and hair loss. Also, I had or have never been diagnosed with anxiety. However, since having a better understanding of our energy, I look back in hindsight and recognize that the physical angst I would often feel was anxiety. Even today, when my thoughts start to tailspin around overwhelm (which I’ve come to learn is due to lack of prioritizing) and the future, I begin to have episodes of heart arrhythmia and feel like I could jump out of my skin. Again, I don’t know if this is what anxiety feels like to those diagnosed, but this is when I know I am out of energetic balance.
I’ve come to understand that grief and energy go hand-in-hand. I do feel that is why Reiki found me after going through the grief recovery program and starting to unravel the years of emotional dis-ease I had carried.
When I look back on the years when I first joined the workforce at 14 and onward, I recognize (with new awareness) what emotional dis-ease (i.e., grief) has cost me. There were many jobs I never applied at because I didn’t feel like I had a snowball’s chance in you know what of getting the job. I also got so scared about the future, finances, and all the things when it came to college. I spent a weekend in a dorm when I turned 18 to pack the car and leave before ever giving myself a chance. I gave up on myself before I even tried. And, all because of fear and money.
I did not trust myself. I did not understand intuition and how to tap into it. I always looked to the external for affirmation that I was doing the right thing or looking for permission or just someone to tell me what to do. It was this confusion, and yet, also a knowing that I could do hard things that led me to join the military. If money was the problem in attending college, well then, I found my solution. What I didn’t realize was that I still had to pay that money upfront (which, I believe, is still the case).
I’ve learned to become resourceful through struggle, but I’ve also learned how to be resilient. That said, it’s taken me decades to dig in and tap into how to utilize my resourcefulness and resiliency. You see, when we’re emotionally suffering, it’s often difficult to see potential and possibility – in ourselves. Our minds become a fog of illusion that we’re okay and fine. However, if we take a birds-eye view of our life, we often see that we have blocks that keep us repeating the same self-sabotaging behaviors. Or, we become hyper-focused on performance, results, and outcomes – all the while neglecting ourselves and those we love (hello, burnout)!
Below is a rundown list of all the ways, I believe, emotional dis-ease creates blocks and hinders our progress in life and business. These are ways I self-identify with, and I am sure there are many more I haven’t thought of that I could add. If this list resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you! I’m curious if there are others I haven’t included that you found to be true for you?
The Ways Emotional Dis-Ease Impacts Life & Business
questioning/second-guessing every decision or difficulty making decisions
seeking outside validation/affirmation
unable to see other perspectives
lack of discernment
money drama – money comes, money goes // lack of growth in account or savings
quick to anger
difficulty connecting with others
feeling like others are out to get you // victim mindset
lack of self-awareness or not conscious of your physical body // desire to “numb-out.”
The more of these that resonate with you, the more likely you’ve got some emotional weeds in your heart garden that need some tending and pulling. With each weed we pull, we’re clearing out space for more beauty to enter and unfold in our lives.
There is hope on the other side of all of this. I’ve been having some wonderful conversations with some incredible healing hearts for my podcast, Grieving Voices. And, these guests have proven this to me over and over. There’s no such thing as joy or sorrow – the two co-exist within a matter of moments of each other. However, when the scales tip further one way than the other in a way that doesn’t sit right with you, then you have a choice to do something about it.
There is no timeline for healing emotional dis-ease. However, how much time are you willing to give sorrow? How much of your life are you ready to gamble? We all reach a point where we get sick of our own crap. My friend, that’s when the magic happens. That fire in your belly for wanting more for yourself and your loved ones – it’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and we often give up on our dreams before we give ourselves a chance. We often don’t think there’s hope.
Take your life by the horns, my friend. It’s waiting for you. Will there always be painful and challenging things that put a boulder in your way? Of course. Life isn’t a fairy tale or movie. But, why write the final chapter before you’ve lived all the chapters in-between? Resiliency is learned through experience and growth, a by-product of suffering. I don’t care which way you slice it. It’s just some people are more willing to allow the unfolding than others. Fear and resistance keep the rest stuck in the past.
The future will not be found in the past. It took me 30+ years to discover this. That said, our pain often becomes our message. And, maybe that’s just a part of my walk here on earth. I don’t know. As a podcast guest stated recently, “I feel more awake now than ever.” And you know what, this woman lost her 17-month-old son suddenly. A loss I cannot even fathom. So, please don’t take it from me; tune in to the podcast and hear the stories of hope for yourself—just incredible stories I am honored to share with listeners. I feel so inspired by their faith and trust in what is possible for them. And, for a time (like myself), they didn’t see it for themselves, either.
There are gifts of grief (i.e., emotional dis-ease/suffering). Get empowered by what is possible, regain emotional control of your life (and body), and watch that list above fade into the rearview.
P.S. Need a lifeline of hope? Reach out to me. Here to serve and create more healing ripples in the world.
Do you believe you are worthy of healing? It sounds like an odd question, I know. Really, though – do you?
If you believe it’s an easy “yes,” do your actions reflect that you are?
For many years I struggled to cope with the events of loss and trauma that occurred during my childhood. Well into adulthood, my self-worth was in the toilet. During my teen years, although I was pretty thin, I would wear baggy clothes. I hid my body. I hid a lot during those years. I didn’t have a boyfriend until going into my senior year (even then, I couldn’t believe it). And, I had big aspirations for my life (travel was at the heart of every endeavor I considered).
As you know, life can be planned down to the letter. However, life always has other plans. Plans that are sometimes better than what we imagined, too.
However, what had held me back in so many ways was the fact I did not feel worthy of good things. And, even when I thought I had a good thing, I anticipated it (or them) going away or leaving, which is what happened, too. Relationships in my life were either strained or ended. I never let anyone get too close. I allowed others to take advantage of me (I didn’t know what boundaries were). I didn’t appreciate the good things I did have (including my job that I should have been fired from more than once). I even flooded out of my apartment. It was as if, if I had both shoes, I was creating chaos for one to drop, or, I was barely hanging on because I was losing one. Do you know what I mean?
It wasn’t until my now-husband came back into my life after many years of friendship, where he showed me what I was worth to him. And, slowly but surely, I began to understand my worth and how I contribute to the world around me (positive and negative). I discovered faith (and hope) for the first time, and I started to turn my life around. But, this didn’t happen until my eyes were opened to the fact that I was worthy of good things because I am, and no other reason was needed. I didn’t have to do or be anything to anyone else to be worthy. I didn’t have to perform or be someone I wasn’t to please someone else – I could be me, and that was enough. This awareness was only the start, though. Because even from this time, it took me another sixteen years (sixteen years!!!!) to put that feeling of unworthiness to bed – for good. And, it didn’t happen until I resolved all of the trauma and pain that was the catalyst for it in the first place.
Our lack of self-worth is very much tied to childhood grief. Whether your parents were divorced, a parent died, you were sexually abused (a big, big one), adopted, in foster care, you likely weren’t raised knowing you were in charge of your own agency. Meaning, you weren’t encouraged to make your own decisions (reasonably, of course, for safety reasons) and weren’t allowed to express your opinions. Perhaps you grew up in survival mode.
I’ve learned so much about the power of choice after going through what I have gone through in my life. Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same page as we raise our children, too. We do not force our children to do anything they do not want to do. And, we ask probing questions to help them come to their own conclusions about what matters to them.
Something as simple as having the ability (and choice) of not wanting to play a sport serves them well into adulthood. We don’t force our kids to do any sport they don’t want to do. However, once they start, they’re finishing. It is important to us, as parents, they learn what the word commitment means. These lessons serve them later when their friends have all gathered around and “they’re all doing it (drinking or whatever “it” is),” and they have the know-how and the conviction to say “no.” Regardless of what others may think, and because they’ve flexed their “decision-making” muscle, they can confidently stand by what they feel is right for them. I always ask my kids, “what does your gut tell you?” And, I conclude with “it will never steer you wrong.” I also tell them that nothing good happens after midnight. But, isn’t that the truth in adulthood, too? Lol!
What does the power of choice have to do with self-worth and healing?
Had I learned the skills and been encouraged to exercise my right to choose, I would have known and understood that my desires had worth. I would have grown up understanding that, what I feel in my gut, is what is right for me and would have created boundaries early on to protect myself from further pain and suffering. Instead, what happens, is we become detached from our own inner-guidance system. That muscle doesn’t get flexed, so we look to the external for all of the answers. We don’t know where to go, what to do, or why we’re here. We lose touch with ourselves. And, we base our decisions on the feelings/actions/behaviors of others.
Grief is the catalyst for lack of self-worth, and our learned behavior and generational teachings influence us like gasoline on a fire.
You want to build self-worth and heal? It takes inner-work, and it’s anything but easy.
If you don’t have boundaries in your life, aren’t sure what they are, or are reading this feeling like nothing you ever do is good enough, that you’re everyone’s doormat, and why bother because life only seems to hand you lemons? Start by digging deep, my friend. There’s healing to be done. And, you are worthy of it. Always have been, and forever will be. If only you could see it.
If your days have been feeling as though they’re all running together – know that today is FRIDAY! Woohoo! I hope you can find some joy this weekend.
If you feel like every person you cross paths with is cranky, rude, or negative – know that their emotional gunk isn’t yours. But, it may help you feel better to continue to be you. Don’t dim your positivity for the sake of making the other person feel comfortable. I’ve been on the other side of this. I’m sure you have, too. You’re in a cranky mood, and someone you speak to is just full of smiles and joy and, you wonder to yourself: “How can you be so damn happy all of the time?” And, you know what? It’s more of a reflection of ourselves. We can project our joy onto others, or we can project our pain.
And, I realize that’s the difficulty. I’ve written about telling the emotional truth about ourselves many times before. Yet, here I am saying that if you’re feeling negative, not to mention the emotional truth about yourself- not to project it onto others. However, there’s a difference between telling the emotional truth and treating others poorly because we feel – emotionally deficient.
We will not always be happy – about our life situation, the state of the world, a decision that’s been made, our health, the weather – you name it. However, if we can acknowledge, within ourselves, that which isn’t working, feeling right, or aligning our soul with joy, and meet that hurt within us with compassion, then we are more equipped to share the truth – without mistreating others in the process.
As we start to work through our emotional stuff (and continue to do so), we are less affected by others’ emotional dis-ease. And, I can tell you, I am much quicker to recognize now (because I keep applying grief recovery to my life) when I am a projector of the negative. I have learned that that’s when it’s time to step out of my head and into my heart, and know where there’s emotional work to do. As a result, this makes me a happier person – in my skin and to be around.
Life is for learning. When you feel like you’ve messed up – apologize. When you feel like you’re at your breaking point – step away, take a break, and hit the reset button. Ask yourself what you can do in the situation rather than focusing on what is out of your hands (I’ve been doing my darndest to put this one into practice as of late).
We are in community with each other whether we like it or not. So, rather than fret over others whom you can’t change, fret over a situation that’s frustrating the, you know what, out of you, and being frustrated with yourself – hit reset. Sometimes, we need to be alone – not in community with others, to do just that. When we’re in each other’s spaces, we’re also in each other’s energy. You’re doing the best you can steeping in everyone’s energy. But the most important person’s energy you need to pay attention to – is your own.
I know it’s not easy these days to manage our own energy either. I had been struggling with this, too. And, you know – I gave myself Reiki. True story. I gave myself Reiki before bed a few nights recently, and despite having fewer hours of sleep, I had better quality sleep. Another thing that feels like a reset at the end of the day? A shower. Yup. Sounds silly, as the majority of the people I know typically shower in the morning. However, I prefer to shower at night. You literally wash away the stress of the day down the drain and crawl into bed, feeling refreshed (and reset).
So today, I want you to pat yourself on the back that yes, you are doing the best you can. And, I hope this helps you to reflect on your energy and the energy of those around you. How is the energy of others affecting you? How is your energy affecting those around you, too? When I feel good, I influence those around me to feel better, also.
Even if it may seem annoying to others who project their pain on others (because they’re not tapped into their energy and their impact it has) – work on a reset for YOU. This reset is the best thing you can do this Friday and throughout the weekend, before the start of a new week.
Set the intention today for a fantastic weekend, regardless of the chaos that may be ensuing around you. Turn off the phone if you need to. Get a hotel room or an Airbnb by yourself for a night, if you need to. Take a drive on the backroads, or in the country, and photograph what you find along the way. Take a lawn chair and sit by the lake (or the ocean) and steep in the stillness.
Reset for your energy (and your mindset), so you can continue to do the best you can! And, if you need help with an emotional reset for life, reach out to me. I know the program that’s perfect for doing just that. 😉
P.S. Are you looking for support for a grieving child in your care? I am looking for four participants to walk through the NEW online group program, Helping Children with Loss. We meet on Zoom only four times – once a week, for no more than 2 1/2 hours each time. And know that there’s lots of material to cover. You won’t be a silent listener (bored out of your mind) as I lecture each week for four weeks. It’s participatory and engaging content, where you interact with others in the group, and learn some new skills and tools to utilize for the rest of your life. This program is prevention, so whether you’re a parent, daycare provider, social worker, school faculty, a child therapist looking for more knowledge around grief specifically, or work in the foster care/adoption system – this program is for you – the adult. The first group will be offered at a discounted rate, which will allow me to make sure all of my systems and processes are correctly in place and that there aren’t any hiccups—interested in learning more? Please email me at [email protected] or message via the Contact tab.
I look forward to sharing this amazing program with you – for the better of the child(ren) in your life!
In this episode, we dig into why this is and, you will learn:
How grief cuts us off from our intuition
Impact of belief systems
The root of unhappiness
8 unhelpful, often hurtful, ways society responds to grievers
Next week, the six myths of grief (and misinformation) will be revealed.
Are you wanting more content like this? Head on over to Instagram or Facebook where I share more info just like this, and say hello!
Victoria Volk 0:08 This is Victoria of the unleash tart calm and you’re listening to grieving voices, a podcast for hurting hearts who desire to be heard. Or anyone who wants to learn how to better support loved ones experiencing loss as a 30 plus year griever. In advanced grief recovery methods specialist, I know how badly the conversation around grief needs to change. Through this podcast, I aim to educate gravers and non Grievers alike, spread hope and inspire compassion towards those hurting. Lastly, by providing my heart with the ears and this platform, Grievers had the opportunity to share their wisdom and stories of loss and resiliency. How about we talk about grief like we talked about the weather. Let’s get started.
Hey there, welcome to this week’s episode where I will be talking about why and how grief keeps us stuck. If you didn’t catch last week’s episode, I discussed really define grief in probably a definition that you’ve likely never heard. So if you miss that episode, go back to that. And this is the second episode of a, what I think what will be a 10 part series we will see. I there’s so much I would love to share. So, it may be more than that, but I’m planning 10 episodes of education around grief.
So let’s get started talking about how and why grief gets us stuck, or keeps us stuck rather. In our brain is our intellect like our mind is our intellect. And if we think about like I often think about like my own intuition is like just not necessarily in my brain. Not in my mind, but kind of like, this intangible force that’s kind of out there in a way like it’s, it’s like it’s the deepest connection to my spirit that I feel – is when I feel like I am fully tapped in to my intuition. Now you might be thinking, what in the world does this have to do with grief? And I’ll get to that, but more than you may think. So, we have our intellect, we have our intuition. And then we have within our whole our hearts, our grief energy, right, within our bodies is this emotional energy that we tend to store. Because as you’ll learn as I as this series goes on, we either implode or we explode as a result of our emotional energy.
For today’s episode, I’m talking about how grief actually cuts us off from our ability to tap into our own spirit and our own intuition to this force that opens us up to our, our potential. Really, by the time we are 15 years old, we have received more than 20,000 messages of how to deal with grief. And you know, the reason why I’m so passionate about this work is and why I’m so passionate about education around grief is that it touches us all, first of all, and it starts in childhood; caregivers, parents – it starts with us at home, to send the messages that are positive and supportive and to be open to allowing children to fully express themselves. And, not labeling those emotions or whatever as bad or negative or what have you. Because all feelings are valid. All feelings are valid. So, if we consider that, we experience loss, on average statistically, every nine to 13 years; we are bound for grief like, we are born into this world as impending grievers. Right? We – there’s going to be grief. And because all relationships are unique, our feelings around the relationships are unique. You know, it’s our recovery is also unique.
Getting back to like the intellect aspect, and how we try to, first of all, you cannot heal the heart with the brain. Because if we think about our minds and our intellect, we are always right. Like, we always feel like we are always right. Because we have this belief system that has been ingrained in us, by the time we are 15. By the age of two to three, we’ve received 75% of the messages and information about grief. And by 15, we’ve received the remaining 20. And so we got 95% logic, right this, this internal logic and belief system, and then there’s this like 5% that is our intuition and our spirit force, like the guidance system that is within us, but when we resort to our intellect and logic, it’s this automatic critical response. And we’re always going to feel that we are always right. And so when it comes to grief, we will intellectually look in the past and 10% maybe fun memories 90% maybe regret. And if we’re not in the present moment, we might be in the future, right? 10% we might be planning 90% we might be worrying.
Unhappiness comes from an attempt to be in any moment, other than the present moment. That is what emotional jail is. If we are unable to live in the present moment, and that’s what grief kind of steals from us. It just it either keeps us in the past, ruminating and stewing on the stories, mostly with regret, and other other feelings that get wrapped in with grief or we’re looking to the future. With worry of what’s to come of, what if this? What if that we receive more education about simple first aid than we do about death, divorce and any other emotional loss?
There over 8 million Grievers every year, and 14 million pets die every year. And we have been taught how to acquire things, but not what to do when we lose them. My point overarching message in this podcast episode is that grief is about a broken heart, not a broken brain. So we cannot heal the heart with the head. Because it’s the wrong tool for the job. It’s like trying to paint with a hammer. It just it makes a mess. We need to stop these intellectual connections from overpowering our emotional truth. Right? It comes back to that – to the, to our brain box, to our, our minds, our belief system, our logic. And so when we translate this to – why is this keeping me stuck? When you’re focusing on the intellectual and you try and talk to others, you try to communicate about your grief to others; you’re communicating to another griever. They have their own belief system. They have their own automatic critical response. They have been cut off themselves from their own intuition because of their grief. They have received their own messages by the age of 15. They’re stuck in their own past of regret or fond memories, and worry of the future and likely are not living in the present moment either. And so we have these expectations of how another will respond to us. But expectations are planned disappointments.
What we get back as feedback instead are these intellectual responses that aren’t helpful and unintentionally, are hurtful because they don’t understand what to say. They’re afraid of our feelings. They try to change the subject. They intellectualize. They don’t hear us. They don’t want to talk about death; also professional distortions, you know, where medically you go in – you’re having some issues, feeling depressed. They want to give you a pill. I can speak to that, you know, when I had postpartum – let’s, let’s give you a pill. It’s grief.
And then there are those two that just want us to keep our faith right? But faith and feelings are two different things. Grievers need to be heard. They don’t need to be fixed. But because of all the messages that we receive in our childhood. Because of the education we receive about everything else other than grief. Because we have our own intellect, in our own grieving experiences that we haven’t dealt with many of us, is it any surprise then that we approach others in their grief, with logic and with our own lens of what we see in their grief? You know, we try to relate but that, trying to relate, only likely creates more pain for the person.
We cannot hold space and be there for somebody grieving if we have not allowed ourselves to grieve either. The capacity at which we are able to hold space and be a heart with yours is a direct reflection of our own inner work that we have done for our grief experiences. In my experience with grief, 30 plus years, I only in the last year, have felt this inner knowing that I am on the path that I’m, I’m supposed to be on. I feel like the next steps are literally shown to me, as I’ve been working through my grief and the various relationships that have felt incomplete for me or have been emotionally incomplete. For me, it’s allowed me to fully tap into my spirit, my intuition, my force, if you will. That’s, I think, when you really know you’re starting to heal. But, it’s just the beginning, right? Because this work doesn’t end because we always will have loss in our lives.
I hope this episode shed some light on why you may be stuck in your grief. Hopefully you gleaned some nuggets that will get you thinking. Because having an awareness around our emotional truth is when we realize that something needs to change. So I thank you for listening today. Next week, I will start to dive into the myths of grief. There are six of them. I have not decided yet if each one will get its own episode I yeah, not sure yet. So we’ll see. But I hope you tune in for that. Until next time, take care from my heart to yours. Thank you for listening.
If you liked this episode, please share it because sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours and if you’re hurting know that What you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love, my friend.
The body always talks. Our bodies are our alarm system to something not being right. And, when experiencing grief, our bodies definitely talk to us. When we are feeling anxious or worried, our minds often swirl the same thought patterns over and over. In response, our bodies reply to those thought patterns. For every person, the symptoms will present differently, however, may be similar as well.
Common Physical Grief Symptoms
Since I started grief recovery work, there have been similarities in symptoms that clients have shared with me that were like my own. For example, when I had my “mid-life unraveling,” I was experiencing overall body aches, hair loss, weight loss, stomach/gut issues (often with bloat), fatigue, etc.. After going down numerous rabbit holes with my doctor, what came of all of that was that my body was “Epstein-Barr Reactive.” Meaning, the mono virus was reactivated in my body, however, blood work was showing that I did not have mono. Also, around those years, I ended up having three colon polyps removed.
Grief manifests in our bodies; no doubt about it. And, because most of us will not identify ourselves as grievers, we suffer from what we believe are “medical mysteries” with no explanation, and, begin to feel a little crazy in the process. Also, “traditional” doctors are not going to ask you about your emotional state, are they? They’re not going to ask you about your “loss history,” are they? So, the mind-body connection is rarely (if ever) made in a traditional doctor’s office, even though boat-loads of medical research point to how our minds and bodies are connected in amazing, brilliant ways.
The disconnect comes where our ego is. The disconnect comes from our inability to get out of our minds and into our hearts. And, there’s this assistance of resistance to that which is painful and traumatic. We simply don’t want to “re-live” or “re-hash” what we’ve experienced. I often hear this from those who are not ready to dig deep and work through the muck. And hey, that was me, too, for a very (very) long time. But, if you would be honest with yourself (as I wish I would have been years earlier), you would see that not “re-hashing” and sitting in the muck, is only keeping you stuck in various areas of your life, negatively impacting your health and relationships, and probably taking years off of your life.
That which we don’t acknowledge (or refuse to) festers like a sore that won’t heal. And, over time, we tend to pick at the scab. However, when we’ve picked just a bit too much and it starts to sting a bit; we retreat, pull back, and leave it well enough alone. Because picking away any more is just plain painful.
A Car Analogy
Over the past five years, I have learned a lot about how my body responds to stressors. I’ve learned what I need to feel recharged, not depleted, and balanced. It’s still something I am working towards because, kids, life, work, side -hustle all require mental, emotional, and physical energy. If we think of our bodies as a fuel tank, we start to think more about our bodies as the cars we drive. We take our cars in for oil changes, tune-up’s, balance the tires, keep the fluids filled, etc.. However, this same common sense care and maintenance goes out the window when we think about ourselves and self-care. We take better care of our autos than we do our one body that we don’t get a re-do with; we can’t trade our one body in for another newer, better-equipped model. Nope, one shot – one life.
So, just as we take great care in ensuring our automobile lasts for the long-haul, so too, we need to consider how we’re taking care of ourselves for the long-haul. What is your heart needing? What is your mind fighting your heart against today?
I recently heard a pretty probing question posed by the author Hal Elrod who wrote the book Miracle Morning on a podcast episode. He said: “Is my life a reflection of who I want to be or a reaction to those who I don’t want to upset?” I bring this question up because often it is our relationships with the living that often cause us the most grief. And, this grief manifests in our bodies. What we hold in, emotionally, will always come out in one of two ways; we either implode (health issues) or we explode (emotional outbursts/anger/relationship problems/etc.). If you answer that question and, you’re walking through life on eggshells; reacting to life and attempting to not upset anyone, what do you think that this doing to your heart? What do you think that is doing to you emotionally? It likely feels like an emotional rollercoaster, filled with highs, lows, and a lot of stressors in-between. And, we all know what stress does to us – mentally, emotionally, and physically, right?
Heart vs Mind
My body responds to stress with increased heart rate, negatively impacted sleep (even if I don’t realize it), dry mouth, burning sensation between my shoulder blades (where my tension goes), anxiousness, lack of concentration, an inability to focus, and gut symptoms. I know this now about myself. I didn’t understand this over five years ago. And, that is why I believe I was led to grief recovery and energy healing. My body knew exactly what I needed. My mind (ego), however, was the one holding me back, pulling the strings, and keeping me stuck.
Where are you feeling your emotions in your body? I encourage you to consider that grief may be the cause of your physical symptoms. Whether it be high blood pressure, an ulcer, body aches, fatigue, etc., consider that it may be grief. Reflect on the losses you’ve endured in your life that involve both the death of a loved one and the losses that don’t.
Have you lost trust in someone you deeply cared about?
Have you felt betrayed in your life?
Have you experienced financial ruin?
Lost your home in uncontrollable circumstances?
Suffered estrangement as a child (from a parent) or as an adult (in relationships)?
Has your life been a downward spiral of loss of health?
Are you a caregiver to someone who is terminally ill, cognitively declining, or is cognitively delayed?
Have you survived a physical attack or accident?
Have you had many accidents throughout your life, which often occur as a result of the cognitive consequences of grief (an inability to concentrate/focus)?
All of these situations (and many more) create grief in our lives that also manifest in our bodies. The body knows. And, our one body is always talking to us. I have become so attuned to this connection that I can often look at someone and, I know something is up. Both our body language, and our physical appearance tell a story without us having to say a word. We often wear our life stories like the clothes on our backs without us even realizing it. Kids are no different. The energy that surrounds us, and we take with us out into the world, tells the story.
Heal the story, and you begin to heal the body.
P.S. Do you have a child with a story that needs healing but you’re not sure how to help them? I am looking for 8 participants for an upcoming 4-week, online group program, Helping Children with Loss. We will meet on Zoom for one session per week for 4 weeks for approximately 2 1/2 hours, in the evening (day/time TBD and flexible). This is not a program for you, rather it is a program for you to learn tools and communication skills in how to help the child/children in your care work through and process loss. And, considering Covid-19 has touched every single one of us, there is no denying children need this, even if you think they’re doing just fine. Prior to Covid-19, has a loved one or a pet died? Maybe during Covid-19, a loved one died and they didn’t get to say goodbye? There is plenty of grief to go around these days and this program is prevention. I encourage you to consider it and get in touch with me via email to [email protected] The first group will be offered at a discount!
I want to dissect these labels and terms a bit more today. Although I agreed with much of what Pauline Boss shared in the podcast interviews, even more so in the follow-up episode regarding current times, I disagree with the labels.
What is Grief?
Let’s start with the definition of grief in simple terms. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss or any change from what is familiar in life. It is the emotional response to change. It can be defined as a feeling associated with the things we wish might have been different, better, or more in any relationship. Whether it is with a person, a pet, a job, an educational experience, or even a place of residence doesn’t matter. Grief can be a result of unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations in any relationship as well.
Grief can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some people find that the confusing feelings that grief generates interfere with sleep, while others find it challenging to get up and function after waking up. Some people find that they feel sad or cry over things that never seemed to bother them before. Many find themselves longing for that relationship lost, and others find, especially when they discover that friends seem to be able to offer little meaningful help, that they lose some of their ability to trust others. Some find themselves easily irritated, while others do not have the energy to feel much of anything. For some, the memories leading up to and including the moment of loss overshadow all of their fond memories of that relationship.
Simply stated, grief can be overwhelming! Just as overwhelming can be the labels that are put on grievers and the advice that they are given.
What is Complicated Grief?
In the 1990s, a new term, “complicated grief,” was coined to describe prolonged grief associated with death. The problem with this term is that all grief is complicated in one way or another. The grief each person experiences is influenced by a variety of factors. The intensity of that emotional relationship, the amount of unfinished business in that relationship, and how we try to deal with the pain of the loss are among the primary elements. Since most people have very few effective learned behavior patterns to deal with loss, it is often challenging to deal with the impact of emotional pain. The average person tries to deal with emotions on an intellectual level. The problem is that emotions are not logical and do not respond to intellectual reasoning.
The symptoms of “complicated grief,” according to a Mayo Clinic paper, are the same as those of “normal grief.” The defining element of complicated grief is the duration of these feelings. And, I would ask: how do you feel being assigned a label for your grief simply based on the timeframe you have the feeling that you do? It doesn’t make much sense, does it? Could it even be damaging? Leaving you to feel inadequate or as if there’s something inherently wrong with you because you are “grieving too long?”
A Little Background Information
The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4), from the American Psychiatric Association, set the normal time for grieving at two months. The DSM-5, published in 2013, changed this period to one to two years, indicating that most physicians and grief counselors felt that this time frame was more realistic. The DSM-5 also included the term “complicated grief” as a mental disorder.
Time and Grief
The reality of things is that time, in and of itself, is not a factor in true emotional recovery from loss. Over time, we may become used to living with the pain of loss. As time goes by, most people simply learn to bury their feelings, rather than to take effective action to deal with that pain. Obviously, two years, rather than two months, gives you more time to bury and discount your feelings. If, after an arbitrary amount of time, you have persisting feelings of emotional pain and try to utilize medication to treat the “problem,” you are often just treating the symptoms of grief without actually doing anything to deal with the underlying problem.
How is “Complicated Grief” different that “Normal Grief?”
What defines complicated grief, according to Dr. Katherine Shear at Columbia University, is that it occurs in only a small percentage of grievers. For people that suffer from this problem, their other relationships tend to be very difficult, and they can ultimately have other health issues. Many with this diagnosis lose a purpose for living. The determination of “complicated grief” is most often reserved for those who have a family or personal history of mental health disorders.
What is Ambiguous Loss?
On her website, Pauline Boss states that ambiguous loss differs from ordinary loss in that there is no verification of death or no certainty that the person will come back or return to the way they used to be.
She’s not labeling it, per se, as a type of grief. Instead, these types of losses lead to a certain kind of grief – complicated grief, as mentioned in the podcast interview.
As I listened to Pauline describe a scenario where a woman’s child went missing and applying the label to that loss as “ambiguous,” it had me perplexed on how or why this label is helpful. Does giving it a name help someone whose never experienced it understand it better versus someone who hasn’t? I’ve never had one of my children go missing. I will never understand what that is like until it would happen to me. And even then, if I experience a similar [ambiguous] loss, does that similarity make it easier for the other griever? Does it lessen the pain they feel? Yes, I will be able to empathize in a way others cannot who’ve never experienced that loss; however, it’s grief all the same. And, my relationship with my child is, and always will be, vastly different than anyone else’s relationship to their child who experiences the same type of [ambiguous] loss.
Do you see where this label does nothing for recovery? Whether a loved one goes missing, and we’re left with unanswered questions, or a loved one dies in an instant of unexplainable death, or we watch our loved one mentally deteriorate before our eyes, these all are grief-causing experiences. Adding a label does nothing to help those who experience these kinds of losses other than giving their loss a name. Just like “complicated” grief can be hurtful, so can the label “ambiguous loss” because, truthfully – as a griever, are you going to want to educate others and explain what “ambiguous loss” means? You’re never going to describe a missing loved one as an ambiguous loss. And, in a clinical setting, being told that’s the kind of loss you experienced, does nothing for your recovery either. It neither takes away nor adds.
The dictionary meaning of ambiguous is this: unclear or able to be understood in multiple ways. The word ambiguous alone means unclear. Isn’t that how we feel in grief? Unclear! We are anything but clear-headed in grief, right? And so, to experience an “unclear loss” doesn’t add anything constructive to the experience of a griever, does it?
Therefore, I view “ambiguous loss” as just a factual, intellectual observation about a certain kind of loss. And again, when we start separating and compartmentalized losses, we’re looking at grief from an intellectual viewpoint rather than a heart-centered, feeling one.
These phrases/terms are only more labels for losses and types of grief. And the means of action that need to be taken, regardless of the kind of loss, doesn’t change when it comes to grief recovery with The Grief Recovery Method.
Grief is grief. End of story. There are no labels necessary.There are no timelines that need to be applied to call it by another name. There need not be a certain kind of loss that only creates separation and comparison among grievers – which is anything but helpful.
Does labeling your grief as “complicated” help you recover?
A label alone does not make things better. It is merely a label. Having a member of the psychiatric community assign this label to a griever may give them a reason to give up. Some people, when diagnosed with a mental disorder, will use this for justification as to why they cannot recover.
Does being told you have a particular type of loss help you recover?
No, of course not. Because you’re still going to have the feelings you have. You’re still going to attempt to intellectualize your loss and revert to the lessons you’ve received growing up in how to address grief. The kind of loss experienced does not change the fact that you’ll always return to what you know – unless you have the education and new tools necessary to complete the loss – regardless of the circumstances of the loss.
Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss.
Since grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss, doesn’t it make better sense to try to take personal responsibility to take effective recovery action, rather than to allow it to control your happiness? Most grievers want to feel better. Even if someone has suggested that you might be suffering from complicated grief, that does not mean you cannot take action to recover from the emotional pain of your loss. Grievers, do not let a label, which may or may not be accurate, keep you in misery.
The reason that people have a difficult time recovering from the pain of emotional loss is that they do not have the tools to take action. “The Grief Recovery Handbook” is a step-by-step action plan for recovery. It starts at the beginning with what you learned in your childhood about dealing with loss and why many of the “tools” learned were ineffective. You’re then given “new” tools to deal with the unfinished business in that relationship. It offers you the opportunity to deal with those things that make remembering painful safely. It will allow you to be able to enjoy your memories and share them with others, rather than finding them overwhelming.
The first loss with which I dealt, using these tools, occurred 30 years earlier. This timeframe is obviously over that two months to a two-year period for “normal grief” to persist. In actuality, I did not realize how much that loss was still impacting my life. I had become used to living with that pain. Once I took effective action with the Grief Recovery Method, I found a whole new level of happiness. As I have taken more action with other relationships, I have found that I now can truly enjoy my memories, rather than being overwhelmed by my losses.
I encourage you to do this, as well. Do not let grief define you! Do not let a label define you! By taking action, those lost relationships don’t have to cause you to revert to painful memories, regret, shame, or any other painful emotions associated with that relationship. It is possible to reflect on lost relationships with warmth in your heart again. And, know too – that if the relationship was anything but pleasant, recovery will allow you to leave those feelings in the past and give you the emotional freedom you seek. I’ve personally experienced both – it is possible.
There is hope. And, from where I sit, society could use a lot more hope and fewer labels.
P.S. Did you know I have a podcast? It’s called Grieving Voices! Every Tuesday, I share educational grief content and, give grievers the time, space, and platform to share their grieving voice. It is my mission that, as a society, we talk about grief like we talk about the weather. Check it out here!
*a portion of this blog post was adapted from The Grief Recovery Method blog.