Good Grief: Four Tips to Navigate GriefSep 30, 2021 07:00PM ● By Nea Dalla Valle
One side effect of living through a global pandemic is experiencing a significant loss. Many deaths have been a tangible and reasonable experience of pain, sadness and grief. What one may not think about as loss or even grief-worthy may be impacting their sense of well-being and security in profound ways, including losing a job, job insecurity, lack of routine, and loss of closeness and trust with family and friends. These are all ways that one experiences a sense of loss which impacts feelings of safety, security and normalcy, and collectively, we have been going through this for over 18 months with no clear end in sight.
There is a popular metaphor of boiling a frog where the water temperature increases slowly and steadily over time, and the frog does not even realize it is in hot water. In many ways, living with this level of continuous stress, uncertainty and loss begins to feel normal, and one gets used to the experience. The only problem is that no matter how well they get accustomed to the constant stress, it does not address the mental, emotional and physical toll it has on the well-being of the person.
A Few Thoughts on Grief
Most think that grief accompanies tragedy, unexpected catastrophe or death. Yet, no matter how reasonable it may be to experience grief, culturally, it is difficult to know how to address it. The grieving process derails routine and everyday life and makes simple tasks difficult to accomplish. It is messy, time-consuming, uncontrollable and unpredictable, and worst of all, there is very little that can be done to bypass or circumvent the experience.
There is also another less obvious and less acknowledged type of grief. This kind of grief is anticipatory. It is what happens when someone is aware of an impending change. More often than not, this kind of grief gets mixed up with worry, making it harder to recognize. In many ways, this is the kind of grief that has been experienced throughout the pandemic. The pain, loss and tragedy of what is being lost lives in the imagination and becomes a weight on the heart.
Imagination is a powerful tool. What is held in the imagination can generate emotions, stress and hormonal responses in the body. Imagine having a nightmare. One will wake up feeling scared, the heart racing, perhaps there is sweating, yet nothing has actually happened. The body responds to what is imagined the same as it reacts to what is real. So, when feeling worried, insecure and unsettled, one will often imagine the worst, which creates a stress response.
What Can Be Done
The experience of grief is overwhelming and can show up and interrupt life at the most inopportune time and in the most unexpected ways. Therefore, learning how to face this kind of emotional chaos is not only helpful but necessary. Below are four tips that have helped many people face this emotional chaos with a new level of self-compassion and grace:
1. Acknowledge the grief: It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to wish that everything and everyone could just go back to the way it was. But to be okay, one must first acknowledge that this is happening. Consider what is causing the sadness, what is desired to be different, what is missing or longed for, and what is upsetting. Write it down. Think it out. Talk about it.
2. Lean into the emotions: When the emotions rise up—the anger, grief, frustration and sadness—lean into the feelings. Imagine a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, kicking the floor, screaming, tossing herself around, and crying so hard she is choking. At that moment, she does not want to answer questions about what is wrong; she needs to let it play out. She needs to know that someone is there, listening, keeping her safe, giving her space to feel it all.
Grief is like that, too. It is not reasonable or rational. There may be a trigger and there may be no trigger. What is for sure is that the mind/mental body will not help one figure it out, but emotions will.
3. Reduce the pressure: The most common complaint about the grieving process is how inconvenient it is to get back to normal. The response is to just power through, to get busy with work or tasks to muscle through the experience. Unfortunately, this can result in prolonging the grieving experience. Instead, create space in the day to let the pressure of emotions release.
Look at one’s schedule and add time to sit quietly, listen to music, journal or just be in nature. Do something enjoyable—perhaps curling up in a quiet corner with a blanket and a cup of hot tea or walking your dog. The key is to make room in the day for grief and self-care.
4. Talk about it: Finally, this may be the most obvious, but talking about the grief is essential. Speaking is a powerful tool for processing complex and challenging emotions and experiences. When spoken, the thoughts spinning take shape and move through the voice into the world where one can hear what is being experienced. It makes everything more real. Friends, family, counselors, coaches, therapists and support groups are all great resources to hold space and hear what is being said.
While none of these actions will reduce the pain or discomfort of grieving, they support in honoring oneself and what is being experienced. When given the time, energy and attention to feel the feelings, one will find their way through the uncertainty and back to feeling good.Nea Clare DallaValle is an activation coach and spiritual teacher who supports her clients in accessing their personal power, innate creativity and inner wisdom to create a life they love. With over 20 years of coaching and development experience, she helps clients discover and live their resounding YES! For more information, visit NeaClare.com.
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