Responding to the Painful Emotion of Grief
The loss of a loved one creates a void that can never be filled, but you can determine how you will allow that void to impact your future.
When someone who you love dies, grief reminds you that the person is physically gone. The resulting emotions can be difficult to face. You may try to avoid them or channel your energy into tasks that will keep you busy so as not to deal with the emotions.
But ignoring your feelings will not help and busyness will not placate your soul.
I Can Relate to Your Feelings
I have lost many family members in the past. When my grandmother died, my response was different; I was paralyzed by grief. I did not know how to deal with it.
I thought that there was a specific way to grieve that I was completely clueless about.
So I ended up punishing myself for not knowing what to do with my feelings. I was in college at the time and my grades plummeted. I became depressed and lost my way.
Because I had a history of depression, this response did not play out well for me. I fell back into old habits and stayed stuck there for quite some time.
Three years after my grandmother died, I lost my father.
I was closer to him and took his death much harder, but over the three year period, I had gained some skills that turned out to be quite helpful.
Because I had grown spiritually, I used prayer and scripture reading to help cope with my father’s death. This helped tremendously, but there were still overwhelming emotions present.
An Approach to Negative Emotions
I refused to tumble back into depression. I made a radical move; I took small steps towards my feelings.
- When I felt angry,
- I acknowledged my anger, wrote about it, and participated in kickboxing aerobics and other exercises to release some negative energy.
- If I was sad and/or mildly depressed,
- I watched television or laid in solitude thinking of all the reasons why I was sad and how valid each cognition was for me.
- When a happy thought would come to mind,
- I celebrated that memory and allowed myself to laugh.
These are just a few examples of how I approached grief, but what is most important is for you to allow your feelings to be (as long as those feelings don’t involve hurting others – which would be counterproductive).
You Can Choose How to Respond to Grief
You have the right to ask yourself, “What can I take away from this painful experience?”
You do not have to disregard your feelings or cover them up. This many sound crazy, but you can embrace them and think about what they may teach you.
- You have permission to:
- Sit in silence,
- Cry for hours on end,
- Rest your body and think of absolutely nothing,
- Look at pictures that remind you of the good times spent with your loved one,
- Talk to friends, family,
- Scream furiously,
- Watch movies that will help you express your feelings,
- Ignore phone calls,
- Visit a therapist,
- Express your emotions as they come, and most importantly,
- Grieve at your own pace.
I am sure that you can think of approaches to add to this list according to your needs and personality.
Inspirational Christian Books:
What Have I Learned from My Father’s Death, You Ask?
My dad’s death was sudden. He was literally here one day and gone the next.
I spoke to him on Sunday, three days prior to his death and intended to call him each day thereafter. I decided that I would definitely call him once I finished washing my hair on Wednesday.
That time never came because as I finished washing my hair, my sister received a call from our aunt that our father was being rushed to the hospital.
He was nonresponsive when paramedics arrived and had transcended this earth before my sisters and I made it to the hospital.
I find joy in knowing that he exited the earth as we know it, doing good deeds for others, attending prayer groups, and growing spiritually each day in spite of past mistakes.
As I navigate life in his absence, I am learning to:
- Allow God to fully guide my life,
- Be grateful to God for every moment that I am alive,
- Use each of my gifts and resources to the best of my ability to serve others,
- Embrace every aspect of my life – the good and the bad,
- Allow every memory of my dad to enter into my mind and linger around for as long as is needed, and
- Consider the legacy I might leave for future generations.
As I grow each day, this list grows accordingly.
I invite you to step into grief – psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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