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Letting our grief move us towards each other

I’ve been thinking a lot about how emotions shape us, particularly when navigating grief. After loss we can find ourselves spilling out everywhere, all of our feelings leaking out of every pore of our beings. In these moments we find ourselves randomly weeping in the grocery store or yelling at someone for taking a parking space. Sadness and irritability come and go quickly. Emotions run wild and we don’t recognize ourselves or our reactions. We can feel completely out of control. But then there’s another thing that can happen. We can go inside ourselves, pull down the curtains, and lock our emotions away.

Why do we do this?

Well mostly to survive I suspect. Loss can wreck us. Breathing and existing become almost unfathomable in moments of grief. One response to this suffering is to try to rein it in. To try to make it hurt less (nothing will make it better). But our minds try to tell us that if we pull in, if we control a bit more, maybe then we’ll have a handle on our emotions. Maybe we can breathe a bit.

What are the consequences?

We may be able to get through the day. We may even appear somewhat successful in our lives. Perhaps if we are able to lock the emotions away deep enough we might look like we are “back to normal”. The thing is that usually boxing up one’s emotions isn’t a long term solution. Typically those feelings, those parts of us that are trying so hard to be “ok” come out. People around us may feel disconnected from us, because what they are experiencing when they’re with us isn’t really us, it’s a mask we’ve put on to appear ok. We aren’t connecting with those around us in real and authentic ways.

Can we make it better?

Yes, I think we can. At least the emotions part. The loss part is always going to suck. So first let’s acknowledge that, grief is going to shape who we are and how we navigate the world. But that doesn’t have to be the end. In connecting with others there is an opportunity for healing, which can bring hope. Accessing our emotions and exploring ourselves allows us to make space for others. When we reflect honestly what is happening for us we are able to find empathy, love, and hopefulness. This can help us to experience our emotions without feeling completely overwhelmed by them.

Grief counseling can help with that too, by creating a space for you to explore, process, even rage if necessary while being connected with someone else. Grief can be isolating, walking with someone on your journey helps. Reach out if you'd like to talk further.

Thanks for reading,

Dr Wolff

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Kara E. Wolff, PhD
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