Insights: The Process of Grief

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A friend asked me today if it is more painful to have money issues or a broken heart?  Neither is easy and they tap into the core of who we are. Both make us feel vulnerable and unstable in our lives.

When we are under a lot of stress we tend to obsess about our losses and play through our pain over and over. It is very difficult to stop that obsessing. It is important to allow yourself to feel the pain rather than obsess.  A little bit of obsessing is okay, that is simply the shock of the situation. In some ways over thinking your situation is trying to stop the pain.

So allow yourself to grieve, whether it’s crying, journaling, regrouping, therapy, getting angry (appropriately), or talking about it. These all allow you to process the grief.

Grief is an important part of any loss, yet we often dismiss it and judge people for going through it.

Grief can be for small things, and even positive things. For example, when selling a house and buying a new one, you will still grieve the old one even though you are excited about the new house. We can hold both grief and excitement at the same time.

During your grief and afterwards, it is important to be gentle with yourself.  Do not make any large decisions or changes in your life. We are not in the place to emotionally deal with logically making decisions. We need to make sure our emotions are calm.

Next it is imperative to take extra care of yourself. Quiet walks, massage, yoga, meditation, talking with a friend, hot cup of tea, and exercise are just a few ways of caring for yourself.

And do not forget to breathe. Yes, breathe—take some deep breaths.

Once you feel you have regrouped, it is now time to go into the cognitive part of your recovery. This is where your self-talk comes in. Be your own best friend.

My favorite saying when I am going through a difficult time is asking what this is inviting me to learn. Do not ask yourself this question when you are in the emotional stage, as you are not in the place to learn.

This is also when you can set some new goals, even explore from a cognitive place what happened and how it can be repaired.

In my life I can get stuck in the grief because I am trying to rush the process, and that only makes it last longer. Or I get stuck in the “what if” mode. That is a waste of energy.  People sometimes react to their grief by wanting to lash out and say or do things that they may regret due to their pain. If I am doing something out of emotion, I make sure to sit on my decision for at least 24 hours to make sure it is truly what I want to do or say.  When we get hurt, we tend to go into the amygdala part of the brain, which is more focused on survival than it is on growth. However it feels like we may not survive at times, that is just our pain.

So no matter if it is a heartbreak or the loss of your finances, pain is pain and it is imperative that you allow yourself all the steps to get through a loss.

Grieve, be gentle with yourself, regroup, and reinvent yourself.

Author Walter Anderson wrote, “Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at [email protected] or


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