You are going through your day when suddenly with little warning, you get that call that someone is sick, or has passed, you get in a car accident, or you lose your job or your partner ends the relationship.
But what can affect us may also be what we knew was coming, such as a child going off to college, a friend moving away, a switch in job, or a change in financial status.
So often I write about how to look at the positive and embracing life. However, there are those situations that are challenging beyond just looking at things differently. The times that hit us at the core of our being, and we wonder if we can pick ourselves up afterwards.
One of the most difficult parts of grief and trauma is that when we experience it, we struggle with believing that those painful feelings will pass, but they will. They may leave a scare, but will not be as intense as the initial grief.
Then we often want to judge our pain, minimize it, brush it off, resist it. And if we do not judge it, others may with such comments as “you should be over it by now,” “you are just too sensitive,” “there are always other people who are going through worse,” just to name a few.
This dis-acknowledgement of your grief by yourself or others can often cause anxiety or depression or make your grief worse. Therefore, embrace and acknowledge your emotions without judging them.
It is easy to say “I shouldn’t feel this way.” There are no “shouldn’ts” when it comes to our feelings. They are what they are. It is what we do with them that matters. Like anything, the more we resist our feelings, the stronger they will resist you back.
Next it is essential to get support with your grief, be it talking to friends, a pastor, a therapist, a support group, a family member. Make sure they are someone you feel safe with and who can hold your emotions without judgment. This is key because if you feel “not heard,” this can cause more trauma on top of your grief, thus making the trauma more impactful emotionally.
Knowing how to help ourselves through this time is essential. This may mean cutting back your hours at work, hiring a house cleaner, adding more exercise to your day, alone time for a walk on the beach in the weekends, more quiet time in prayer or meditation. Sometimes people over busy themselves to stop their feelings. However, as difficult as it might be, allowing yourself the space emotionally to feel is key to healthy grieving. Taking time to journal can be very impactful and assists in insight and the grief process. Know that there will be a mix of emotions from shock, sadness, depression, anger, and acceptance. You may find yourself feeling these emotions all in one day and in a different order or one stronger emotion than others. Again, do not judge, allow the emotions as they arise.
Sometimes people even find themselves more manic, which can be part of the shock. Everybody has their own grief and you cannot compare how something affects you compared to someone else. Much of grief also depends on what previous traumas you have experienced and if they have been properly grieved. Do not be surprised if you thought you had finished grieving an old experience that gets retriggered. Trust yourself in knowing your own grief process. Be kind, be compassionate and know what you need.
Grief is part of life for all of us, and once through it, it is now part of who we are and is now imprinted at a DNA level. The more you can embrace and acknowledge these experiences, the happier you will feel in between the challenges.
I like those in between times but embrace the difficult times as well as part of being human.
Dr. Zavala can be contacted at [email protected] or DrZavala.com.