I had a life coach who once told me that I was not my feelings. I was not my sadness, anger, or elation. I understood what she was saying intellectually but found it difficult to stop reacting as if my world revolved around my feelings and emotional reactions. If I had negative feelings, it seemed as if they would never end, and I did many things to distract myself from feeling such as reading, working, watching movies or television, trying to “fix” other people, and so on.
When I was grieving my late husband John, the pain of the loss was so intense that I couldn’t
stop the feelings. An amazing thing happened: I learned that I did not die from my feelings. Even though the grief was so sharp that it sometimes took my breath away, I did not die from my feelings.
Writing this sentence, makes this exaggerated belief seem so silly that I can’t believe that I ever felt that way or that I have the courage to admit it out loud. However, what other belief can explain the way we as humans in this society consistently avoid feeling our feelings? We will do almost anything to except pay attention to our own feelings and have created endless distractions in food, substances, technology, screens with every kind of movement and sound, work, and activities. Constantly distracting yourself from your feelings actually prolongs the pain and for grief makes the natural process of grief take longer.
If you are grieving, I invite you to take extra care of yourself today. Notice that you are not your feelings. Each person has a unique experience of grief, but most people describe the pain like a wave. It starts rolling over you, comes to a peak (a sharp point) and then falls away and the pain subsides. It is usually a brief time of no more than 10 minutes and often only 2 or 3 minutes. Feeling your feelings is especially critical for processing your grief. You may want extra support during a time of grieving. Be sure to find a safe person who can encourage you and accepts your concerns or grief without trying to talk you out of feeling sad or seek professional resources in your community.
I am a health and happiness psychologist. I had an amazing opportunity to care for my late husband with dementia that brought everything into focus: love, purpose, healing, self-care, and living without regrets. You can read more of my story here.
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