Grief Needs Feeling
Updated: Feb 9, 2020
I have to fess up - I've been ignoring my grief since my mom passed 3 weeks ago, and not surprisingly, the symptoms are showing up in my life in the form of anxiety, erratic sleep and high blood pressure. It's like ignoring my cat when he wants to be fed - he's just going to keep meowing and coming back until I put his food in the bowl!
I was walking on my favorite trail in the woods thinking about how high my blood pressure was at the doctor's today when I had this "Ah Ha" moment. I stopped, sat down on a log and began to allow myself to FEEL, right there and then. It came to me that one of the reasons I wasn't allowing myself to experience the sadness of losing my mom is because I am just emerging from 3 years of deep grieving over the death of my husband. My mind was saying, "NOOOOOOO! Not again! I don’t want to go there again. So I won’t!" It’s like I was folding my arms and planting my feet in a defensive posture against allowing any of those raw feelings of sorrow in again.
On some level, my mind is only trying to protect me, I mean, we can only handle so much, right? I KNOW the repercussions of not feeling my grief. The longer I put it off, the worse the symptoms become. There is an underlying torment brewing inside, stirring up energy. Emotions are energy. Feelings are energy. If this energy becomes stagnant it will create unwanted side effects, ranging from simple anxiety to acting out in unhealthy ways to serious physical health problems. For example, if my high blood pressure continues for a long time I may have a heart attack.
I can stop these side effects by simply taking some time out and acknowledging my feelings, being with my sadness. Did you know that most of the “bad” feelings we run away from last only about a minute and a half when we actually let go and feel them? The first time I heard that I couldn’t believe it, but after experimentation myself I can tell you it’s absolutely true. That’s not to say that we may not need to revisit those feelings for a bit of time each day, but usually once the feeling has been acknowledged it subsides and we’re one step closer to healing our grief. It’s like chipping away at it, little by little, by loving ourselves, by gifting ourselves the precious moments we need to FEEL our sorrow.
Throughout my grief recovery I’ve had many people tell me that they can’t cry, and they feel bad about it. But why? Crying is one RESULT of feeling, NOT the actual feeling. If we sit with our sorrow, yes, tears may come, but not necessarily, and that’s OKAY. Often, I just sit and breathe through the feelings. Tears may follow or sometimes I simply fall asleep. The main point is, I am accepting my SADNESS! I’m letting my sadness have its moment.
And, guess what?
I don’t die. I don’t disappear.
Quite the contrary. After I sit with the feelings and rest a bit, allowing my nervous system to reset, I always feel better afterwards – calmer, less anxious, able to function and go on with life. I’m not saying my grief is gone forever. It is a part of me, and always will be, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm me. I can feel the pain and the joy. I can feel it all.
I may have to sit with my sorrow every day for weeks or months, depending on how deep my sorrow is. Grief can be a result of the death of a loved one, it can be the loss of a job or a dream. Grief comes in many forms for many reasons, so getting into the habit of sitting with our feelings and allowing them to express (if they want to) is good for our long-term health and happiness. Grief is as much a part of life as happiness. It’s avoiding feeling it that causes problems. There is no escaping it. It will manifest one way or another in our life. We will move forward with our grief in a healthier way by acknowledging it.