Grief and Loss and Its Role in Our Mental Health (Part 2 of 2)
The key to understanding your grief is to pay attention and not judge your emotions. Allow them instead to ebb and flow throughout your life
By Jackie Frasch RPC, CGCS
When dealing with grief, like any explorer, you will need to embrace the exploration required to navigate the unknown successfully, to allow yourself to navigate through confusing emotions.
Welcome and embrace the thoughts behind your loss, ideas about your pain, and places you encounter. They may produce strong and uncomfortable feelings, but when you do so, these moments will only serve to support you in the quest to become more aware of what you are feeling and to learn to identify what your feelings are.
If you feel angry, sad, frustrated, depressed, or annoyed, ask yourself, how is that showing up in my life? Where do I feel it in my body? What is my behaviour around these feelings? These are some of the questions that will help you discern why you’re feel what you are feeling as you embrace and explore.
Initiating curiosity will support you in becoming aware. When you are aware, you are better able to acknowledge and identify your emotions, opening yourself to acceptance.
Acceptance will be your advocate for becoming mindful. Mindfulness is paying attention to something on purpose in the present moment, without judgment.
So, the key to understanding your grief is to pay attention and not judge your emotions. Allow them instead to ebb and flow throughout your life.
What is unusual in life is often usual in grief. Will you always feel this way? Probably not.
When you are willing to open yourself to your loss and face inward, you learn how to reconcile with, instead of trying to get over or resolve, your pain.
Reconciliation is the process of making consistent or compatible.
Resolution, on the other hand, is to break off or disintegrate.
Do you genuinely want to break off all the memories you had with this person (or job, marriage, kids, friendships, pets) and act as though you never knew them? Forget all the challenges they helped you get through and supported you? All the love you gave to them?
NO! You cannot resolve the loss of someone you loved.
“Reconciliation focusses on the relationship, while resolution focusses on the problem,” said Rick Warren, author and pastor.
Awareness of your grief sets in motion reconciling to the person you loved. Staying focussed only on self for so long can lead to developing a pattern of not sharing in your grief, and depressive symptoms begin to set in.
Not sharing in your grief will stunt your healing process. Staying connected with only a few trusted people, a grief counsellor, and grief support groups will offer you the support needed to process the pain.
You may ask yourself, will I ever be normal again?
“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly,” said Morticia Addams.
The experience of our grief forever changes us. A return to normalcy after the death of someone loved is not possible.
“Mourning never really ends; only as time goes on, as we do our work, it erupts less frequently,” said Ruth Davis Konigsberg, author of The Truth about Grief.
You are learning to integrate the new reality of moving forward in life without the person’s physical presence (or job, marriage, kids, friendships, pets). It’s all about discovering more about the new you.
“There is not one great moment of arrival but subtle changes and small accomplishments,” says Dr. Alan Wolfelt, author and grief counsellor. “It is helpful to experience this gratitude for even exceedingly small steps forward. If you are beginning to taste food again, be thankful. If you mustered the energy to meet a friend for lunch, be grateful. If you finally had a good night’s sleep, rejoice!”
When you allow yourself to embrace and explore this new journey, you gain access to a new world full of opportunities. Seeking compassion for yourself will grant you peace and empathy for others who may be experiencing pain, and you have recognized that all loss is painful.
Your new map can become a lifeline to you, nourishment to your once ravaged soul. Your new map can serve as an example for others to follow when they find themselves, as you did, in the uncharted territories of grief and loss, unique to every traveller.
As the great Helen Keller once expressed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
Jackie Frasch is a registered professional counsellor and certified grief counsellor.
Get your BRAIN right and your MIND will follow!
4 Mental Health Resources to Help You During the Pandemic
- If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, CLAC has a number of resources and interactive tools available to help you at My Health and Wellness.
- Stronger Minds features videos and quick reads from mental health experts, activities to help you gain resilience, and ask-an-expert videos in response to questions.
- WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health, and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.