Tag Archive: pain

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/

Jan 26

Shocked by Suffering

Not sure how to start this blog on suffering. It’s been a while since I’ve written. The unexpected happened in our family during the holidays. It doesn’t matter how much you intellectually know that we all experience suffering in life…it still catches you off guard and knocks you flat out! Trust me…I hear suffering all day…it’s part of my job…I’ve studied it…I’ve walked through some of my own…I am not unaware of the reality…and yet when it hits close to home….it’s tough.
God's Presence in SufferingSudden suffering has a way of knocking the wind out of us. We struggle for air, shaken, not sure we can get back up.
Despite everything, I can say in the midst of sudden suffering the following things are tangibly real:
  • God’s presence is so much stronger and clearer during times of suffering and struggle.IMG_4070
  • God’s peace really is amazing and completely incomprehensible.
  • God’s people SHOW UP!
  • God’s plan is better than mine (that’s a hard one…but it is, I know it).
  • God is good despite my suffering.
  • Our world is sooooo broken.
  • I long even more for God to make all things new.
Sudden suffering looks different for all of us. It could be a serious illness, tragic accident, natural disaster, recurrence of depression, extreme panic or anxiety, or anything that knocks you down. Whatever it is, let me say this…
You are not alone.
You can walk this road.
You are stronger than you think.
You are brave to get back up.
You just have to take it one step at a time.
I don’t by any stretch have all the answers…but I feel compelled to share what I have learned (and am still learning) about walking in suffering…mainly so I can go back and read it later…hopefully it helps you on your journey too.
First, take the time you need. I mean if you need to go be with family, if you need to be alone, whatever it is you need…make sure you give yourself that time. Our schedules and daily demands can all be put on hold. It’s not selfish to take the time you need.

IMG_4064

Second, know what replenishes your cup. In counseling we call this self-care. Know how to take care of you, how to rest, and what you can do to keep going. Is it remembering to eat, giving yourself permission to sleep, time alone, time with others, whatever it is….make it a priority now more than ever.
Third, tell others what to do. Everyone wants to help in a time of crisis…they feel powerless and they love you. So when they say, “let me know what I can do”….they mean it. I get it, you don’t know what you need…but when you do…share the need. We don’t frequently because “we don’t want to bother people”. It’s okay to ask even for help with small things.
Fourth, you will feel all kinds of things at all different times and that is okay. Take time to feel what you feel.
Fifth, gather close your support system. I’ve found there are people I can be with that let me process and deal. Those are the ones I want around me. Those are the ones I ask the most for help. Those people are the ones that can help you identify what you need, will let you process, and can help you organize everyone else that wants to help.
Sixth, don’t struggle alone. Burdens are so much easier to bear in community. If you don’t have an existing support community, find a good support group or a counselor.
Remember….
You are not alone. You can walk this road. You are stronger than you think. Click To Tweet
You are brave to get back up. You just have to take it one step at a time. Click To Tweet

 

Permanent link to this article: http://counseling4hope.com/shocked-by-suffering/

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