Grief – letting emotions flow

bigstock-Mirror-Reflection-6607767Grief is an odd thing. One minute you are just fine and the next minute you are crying. In some cases allowing yourself to REALLY experience the pain as soon as it bubbles up, can relieve it. Let me explain.

When I think back to times of grief in my own life I see that pretending I was Ok may have made me appear to be calm and collected, but it also altered the pain into a dull ache that seemed to last forever instead of the short intense crying jag it would have been.

For me pushing the pain down and refusing to feel it while finishing up a project or waiting until it is “safe” to let it out turned the pain into a heavy dark mood that took much longer to dissipate.

(This is different from becoming involved in a hobby or pleasurable work that allows you to shift your focus from a feeling of loneliness to a feeling of involvement. That can be a wonderful coping technique, one I will likely write about in another article.)

The trick is to be with the emotions that come up, letting them run their course. They can run the whole gamut of human emotions and some of them may surprise you.

For example, I may start out feeling sad but if I let myself stay with the emotion for a couple of minutes I might find that underneath the sadness is boredom, loneliness or anger. Once I make that realization it frees me up to do something about the underlying emotion.

Or, perhaps the emotion that comes up IS just plain sadness with no other emotion underlying it. My choice then is do I stay in sadness or do I do something to bring me to another “place”? My personality and choices may be different from yours, follow your heart.

Here is one way of letting emotions flow more naturally

  • Find a place where you can be alone for at least 10 minutes. It is nice if you have the luxury of dedicating just as much time as you need to it, but even just a few short minutes of “going with the flow” good, bad or indifferent can feel like a relief. The bathroom may be the go to place if you are in a more public environment.
    • Grab some tissues and settle in
      • Take a couple of deep breaths, as you breath in, tell yourself that it is Ok to feel whatever it is you feel. Some words that may help you to relax into this could be –
        • I am aware of all the feelings and emotions that are coming up and I am strong and flexible enough to handle them.
        • It is normal and natural to feel this way.
        • This is how I feel right this moment, and I have a right to feel this way.
        • This mood may disappear just as quickly as it came.

      The idea is to give yourself full permission to feel whatever emotion is there.

    • As you breathe in, allow your muscles to relax,
      • Let your shoulders relax downwards. If you notice any muscles that feel tight take a long breath in and as you breathe out allow the tension to melt away from any areas of your body that feel tense.
      • You may find that the couple of minutes it took you get away may have already lessened the pain so you don’t feel the urge to cry anymore (yay!) If that is the case enjoy the reprieve 🙂 Or it may have sent it underground (boo!) In either case acknowledge that you are in a neutral mood and go on with your day.
      • In public places where noisy crying might be embarrassing, some things you could do to mask it is to turn some music on, or if you are in a washroom you could let the water run.
    • As you continue breathing deeply,  notice any thoughts that come up for you. Are those thoughts really true? How do they make you feel? Are the thoughts comforting,  or self punishing? Perhaps the thoughts themselves are neither bad or good, it is your reaction to them that triggers the emotions.
    • Notice how you react and know that you can choose to react differently next time. After all it is often how we react to our thoughts that cause the emotion. I find that sometimes when I am tired or hungry a thought that would otherwise pass through my brain without causing an emotion can make me feel bad. In that case perhaps simply taking care of your physical needs will help you back to a more balanced mood.

How do you know when you are finished?
It could be that you sense your mood is becoming lighter. Allow yourself to feel the lightness.

You might recognize your sadness break is over because you find yourself starting to think about what you have to do later, or maybe you become aware that sitting on the toilet is not exactly comfy and it is time to do something else.

There is a fine line between crying when you need to and getting stuck in sadness. The sadness may well hit again, so don’t hold onto it out of any sense that you are supposed to do this when you are grieving. Grief is different for everyone. Accept what is true for you.


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