Tag Archive: loss

Jun 13

Emotions Don’t Define Us: Reconsider Your View of Them

Emotions Don't Define Us
I’ve written quite a bit about emotions and their purpose for us. They give us information and they are wise friends who speak truth into us. Yet this morning I am reflecting on the idea that often we allow our emotions to define us. Emotions were never meant to define….that is a distortion we create when we misunderstand their purpose.
Emotions were never meant to define us. Click To Tweet
They are information givers. I love this quote I heard on Anne with an E (an awesome show on Netflix): “Emotion is rarely convenient and often intolerable but I find in the moment that I don’t mind it. Grief is the price you pay for love.”
Grief is the price you pay for love. Click To Tweet
Emotion is rarely convenient and often intolerable but I find in the moment that I don’t mind… Click To Tweet
She gets it. We don’t have to feel good to be okay. We can be okay no matter how we feel because emotions are not definitions. They indicate something has happened in our past or present that needs attending to.
Emotions indicate something has happened in our past or present that needs attending to Click To Tweet
Maybe it’s grief that is being processed to incorporate loss into life. Maybe it’s shame from abuse in the past that needs to be challenged. Maybe it’s fear telling us something is wrong and we need to look at it. These are valuable tools for growth and change. Listening to them and seeing the problem helps us grow, mature, and change.
Listening to emotions and seeing the problem helps us grow, mature, and change. Click To Tweet
I’ve walked in my own story of grief over the last two months and I am sure it will continue. I find sadness and grief come at unexpected times, indicating to me it’s time to stop and honor my memories, my sadness, and acknowledge my loss. I sit with many people whose emotions give them clues to healing and change that needs to happen.
Please don’t dismiss your emotions as invaluable or unimportant. Please don’t let them define who you are but allow them to be what they are…beautiful signals communicating to us information that we would be wise to consider. Need help understanding what your emotions are saying, a counselor can help.

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/emotions-dont-define/

May 31

Grief, A Vital Process For A Healthy Life

Grief Definition
Loss. Death. Mourning. Sadness. All these words come to mind for many of us when we think of grief. Most of us associate grief with a big loss, like the death of someone we love. In America, there is an unspoken expectation that grief happen quickly or privately. We rally around people during crisis and loss but weeks or months later the unspoken message is move on. We are a culture comfortable with surface level conversations but uncomfortable with hurt, pain, and sadness. Grief is probably the most misunderstood idea.
We are a culture comfortable with surface level conversations but uncomfortable with hurt. Click To Tweet
What is grief?
Grief is the process of incorporating loss into our lives and the acceptance of a new normal. Loss happens throughout our lives in many different forms. I define loss as any change connected to something or someone of value to us that must be accepted. Because loss is connected to what we value, loss is an individual experience. What I might consider a loss might not be a loss to you. There are universal values that we all agree fall under the loss category: losing loved ones to death, a divorce, or a sudden violent trauma.
Grief is the process of incorporating loss into our lives and the acceptance of a new normal. Click To Tweet
Any change involves some level of loss because of the nature of change. Even a good change, a marriage or the birth of a child involves change and loss: the loss of freedom or independence in a way that one had before. So even with something we universally agree is a good change there is a grief process to incorporate that change into our lives.
Any change involves some level of loss because of the nature of change. Click To Tweet
What happens when we deny the loss and suppress our feelings?
Well, emotions are signals and give us energy to act. To deny the signal is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm clock. The emotion will come again. If there is continual emotional suppression, then your body may decide you aren’t listening to the emotional signal so it will try to communicate with you physically. The brain and body are meant to express a range of emotions based on the situations we are presented with in life. Emotions help our brain and body process life. To deny this critical dimension of our bodies confuses our brain and puts it in a higher level of stress. This stress comes with heightened levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which can impact your physical well-being. I am not a medical doctor but I do know that if your body senses that it is under attack then heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tenseness, and breathing all increase in an effort to prepare us to protect ourselves. This level of arousal over time is detrimental to our body. It affects sleep, weight, immunity, energy, and over-all functioning.
Emotions are signals and give us energy to act. To deny the signal is like hitting snooze. Click To Tweet
Somehow our culture has correlated strength with no-emotionality and weakness with emotional expression. This is how we function and what so many teach our children. “Don’t cry.” “Be strong.” So when loss hits (of any kind), we feel “crazy” when we feel legitimate loss emotions….especially if the loss is not a societally acceptable loss. What is sad is we are anything but “crazy” we are functioning normally. Our mind and body is doing exactly what it was created to do.
Back to the concept of grief: learning to incorporate loss into our lives and the acceptance of a new normal. This process is critical for living in the world and facing all the loss that comes with normal life. However, delaying or denying the experience of grief actually adds to suffering instead of preventing it.
Grief is critical for living in the world and facing all the loss that comes with normal life Click To Tweet
Grief involves:
  • The permission to feel whatever you feel. Feelings are what they are. Allow yourself to identify all the feelings you feel throughout the day and take note of them. Use an emotion word list to help you (especially if naming the feeling is new to you). Take note of the emotion you feel and write them down. You will find yourself feeling a range of emotions and that is normal. No feeling is bad. Hear and accept your feelings. You may feel shock, disbelief, sadness, anger, guilt, fear, denial, relief, gratitude, confused, overwhelmed, love, lonely, or abandoned. I want to repeat….all these feelings are NORMAL. There is no right or wrong way to feel when faced with loss.

    There is no right or wrong way to feel when faced with loss. Click To Tweet

  • Connect with supportive safe people. We are not meant to live in isolation but in supportive community. I think this may be where our culture wars against us. In America, we value the independent individual over the group. The trouble is independence breed’s isolation. In isolation, humans struggle. Just look at movies like Castaway and Martian. We need each other. Especially in times of stress and trouble. Sharing our emotions and thoughts about loss with supportive safe people helps us in multiple ways.
    • Processing our pain and loss with people helps us recognize that our emotions are normal
    • We experience comfort and support from others.
    • We are better able to mentally incorporate the loss into our lives when we are able to talk about it and share with others.
  • The search for meaning. We are meaning creators. We search for meaning in everything and often this is a subtle and unconscious process. Often during loss we subtly take meaning from the experience about the world and ourselves. The danger of suppressing emotion and putting on a strong face to the world is the creation of an unhealthy meaning. Processing it alone (and only in our own heads) increases the likelihood that we will arrive at a meaning that is harmful. When we don’t share our emotions and thoughts with others, our inner critic grows and increases our shame experiences. For example: if someone loses a job to a layoff and they never grieve or share it then they may determine that there is something wrong with them and begin to question their worth and value.

    When we don’t share our emotions and thoughts with others, our inner critic grows. Click To Tweet

  • Self-Care. The grief process, although a necessary one, is an emotionally and physically exhausting process. Giving yourself permission to take care of you during this process is important. Pay attention to your sleeping, eating, exercise, feelings, connection time, and enjoyable activities.

    Giving yourself permission to take care of you during grief is important. Click To Tweet

  • Expect the process to be one that is up and down. Incorporating loss into life is not a straight-line journey but a roller coaster ride. That’s okay and normal. No matter the loss, some days will be easier than others. Expect hard days, they won’t last forever. Self-Care during hard days may look different than easy days.

    Incorporating loss into life is not a straight-line journey but a roller coaster ride. Click To Tweet

  • Compassionate Acceptance. Ultimately the goal of grief is accepting life as it is (not how we wish it were) and adjusting to the new normal. Whether it’s life without a loved one or life after retirement or life in a new town or life with a new job or life with the family we have (instead of the one we wish for) or any other reality we must accept…grief is the process that gets us here. Yet the grief journey is not one that can be undertaken without compassion…compassion for us, compassion received from others, and compassion from God. Jesus was a “man of sorrows…acquainted with grief” who “bore our grief’s and carried our sorrows”. Life is hard and pain is real. Yet, we do not have a God that doesn’t know what it is like to suffer or feel overwhelming sorrow. We have a God who can sympathize with us and wants us to “draw near…to find help in our time of need”. (Isaiah 53:3-4; Hebrews 4:14-16)

    Ultimately the goal of grief is accepting life as it is (not how we wish it were) and adjusting… Click To Tweet The grief journey is not one that can be undertaken without compassion. Click To Tweet

Life comes with loss and struggle is part of life for everyone. Grief enables us to incorporate loss into life and accept life for what it is. Grief unites us. We all experience it for so many different things. Grief brings about our vulnerabilities and drives us to others and God for comfort. To deny these realities increases your suffering. Life can be beautiful even in the midst of pain and struggle.
Life can be beautiful even in the midst of pain and struggle. Click To Tweet
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief—But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” Hilary Stanton Zunin 
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love” Washington Irving
 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/grief/

Sep 28

Deep Feelings and the Gospel

Loss hurts. Change brings fear of the unknown. Struggle is hard. Trauma changes us.
Sadness, anger, shame, and fear can feel overwhelming leaving us stuck and frozen, not knowing what to do.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5
“My tears have been my food day and night” Psalm 42:3
How much do we identify with the Psalmist? How much do we struggle with loss, sadness, anger, fear, and shame? How many nights have we wrestled and cried.
Frequently we think it is wrong to experience normal feelings or that somehow it means we don’t have enough faith.
Life in this fallen world hurts. Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans, living in a broken world.
Feelings don’t show a lack of faith but that we are normal humans Click To Tweet
The Psalmist reminds us that our souls are thirsty for more…..
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2 

deer2

The water our souls thirst for is found in Jesus. He is Living Water. Every other relationship on this earth will fail to satisfy.
Loss and hurt is a reminder of our need for Him.
Shame and the pain of trauma is a reminder of the deep brokenness of creation and our need for Him.
It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. Click To Tweet
It’s not wrong to feel. It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s human. God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. God can handle your questions. Your feelings communicate needs.
God is pained over the brokenness of the world, too. Click To Tweet
In this Psalm, the writer knows he needs to praise God and remember how faithful and loving the Lord has been to Him. He challenges his inner dialogue and reminds himself of the truth!
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock; “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:5-11
God is good. God is faithful. He has proven His love for me time and again. Remember. He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, redeeming, restoring and rescuing love.
He loves us with an everlasting, initiating, unconditional, and rescuing love. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/feelings/

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