Grief affects us on the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social levels.
What’s difficult for most people are the feelings associated with grief. No one wants to feel sadness, anger, fear, guilt, loneliness, despair, frustration, resentment, bitterness, hopelessness. These feelings stem from the deep sense of abandonment we feel when we experience loss.
We tend to be scared of strong emotions, that we will “lose it” and dump all our negativity on others and ruin the relationships we still have. I hear my clients say that they avoid talking about their feelings with close friends and family because they are afraid of “wearing them out” with their “complaining.”
I will tell you what I know to be true from my personal and professional experience. My mind and my emotions are only part of who I am. When I express EVERYTHING that is in my mind, in my heart, without holding back any of the scary, dark things that are in there, when I let it all come up and out, I move into the experience of reconciliation, forgiveness, and acceptance. I then have access to my inner sanctuary of peace and love.
Here Are 3 Tips to Emotionally Release Grief:
Accept All Your Feelings
Grief feels like an emotional roller coaster ride. There are good days, in-between days, and really bad ones. We want to “get rid” of these uncomfortable and scary feelings. We want to get off the roller coaster, to make it stop. When we do that, we shut ourselves off emotionally instead of paying attention to our feelings. The good news is that you can adapt to your loss and create a new normal for yourself. The bad news is that you are required to ride the ride until it’s finished.
As much as we would like to control our emotions, they have a life of their own. We have learned to approach pain in ways that don’t serve us:
- Stoicism – overriding the feelings with thinking
- Estheticism – ignoring the feelings
- Epicureanism – seeking the opposite or denying it
Each of these strategies are based on the beliefs that the body is not important, that feelings are not important. We’re using the head to bypass the emotional level. You may think that a negative feeling needs to be fixed or healed. They hate that. Feelings just want to be felt and acknowledged.
Emotions are just that, energy in motion. There are no “good” or “bad” emotions. They just are. When we meet our emotions with love and compassion, our feelings will shift. It’s like the weather. One moment it’s raining, the next sunny. If you don’t resist them, they will simply move through you and be replaced by the next feeling behind it.
Here Are the Steps to Accepting Your Emotions:
- Notice your feelings, how they feel in your body, learn to listen to them. Be honest about what you feel
- Accept that it’s ok to feel this way, breathe into it, and give it space to be there
- Name the feeling, make sure you are as precise as possible. “bad” is not a feeling. “I feel sad” is naming the feeling
- Express and release, this allows you to keep the energy moving up and out of your body. You are moving the inside experience to the external world and releasing it
- The key is to be compassionate with yourself and your pain
- And, when the feelings come up again, rinse and repeat the steps above
I work with clients using a simple exercise (*) to help them slow down their breathing, experience their inner resilience, and create more safety to simply be with the emotions they are experiencing. Focusing on the breath in an intentional way helps your autonomic nervous system create coherence in your body, mind, and emotions. Coherence leads to greater peace and well-being.
When you notice yourself reacting emotionally and want to bring yourself back into balance, follow these simple steps:
- Focus your attention in the area of your heart. You can close your eyes and place your hand over your heart to help you connect
- Imagine that you are breathing in and out through your heart. Breathe slowly and deeply, keeping your focus on the heart
- Keep breathing in this way for a minute or so, until you start to feel a shift
Breathing this way is something you can do at any time. Combining the breath with an attitude of self-acceptance and self-compassion helps you feel calmer and mitigates the impact of further stress on your body.
Keep A Journal
Journal writing invites you to pull back the lens and observe your thoughts and feelings from a higher perspective, to review your interactions with yourself and others, and also to become more conscious of your emotional reactions to situations and people. It helps you get outside yourself and adopt an observer’s perspective while you are looking at your actions, thoughts, and feelings. As you do this, you start to connect with the truth of who you are and expand your perspective to include more positive feelings and possibilities for yourself.
Journaling is especially beneficial for emotional release because it is a safe place for you to name your feelings, express them, and let them go. Your journal is the place where you can write about anything and everything. It’s a form of intimacy with yourself and can become a valuable tool for documenting your growth and healing over time.
Do you have feelings or do your feelings have you?
Having faith that you have feelings, but you are not your feelings is the key to giving yourself the space to release and heal on your way to wholeness.
I invite you to learn more information about my program, Rebuilding Your Life After Loss.
(*) This exercise is called Heart Focused Breathing, from the HeartMath Institute.
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