Have you lost a loved one recently? Do you feel numb, do you find yourself hypersensitive, crying for no reason? Have you lost all motivation? You might simply be grieving.
Grief is quite a complex emotion and in our society where everything has to happen fast, I believe we are not giving the right messages around grief. I have seen a few clients in the past few days who came to see me, not understanding what was wrong with them. They mentioned having a nice life, a good job, friends, “everything to be happy” to quote one of them, yet they felt sad and flat. It turned out they had lost one or both of their parents in the past few months.
How come we believe there’s something wrong with us when we grieve, especially parental figures?! what does that say about our society if we’re made to believe we’re supposed to grieve in a few days or a few weeks? GP are quite prone to give antidepressant if your grief has lasted longer than a couple of month. Are we so disconnected from our deep nature?
In traditional culture in southern Europe, they’re known for having a 2 years mourning period! So does that mean that in our fast track consumerism society, we need to learn to grieve in fast forward motion?
When it’s the loss of parents or parental figures, I believe it’s unreasonable to expect to grieve in the blink of an eye, and it’s time we actually reconnect with our core self and allow ourselves time to process that pain. In my experience, I’ve seen a lot of people needing up to 2 or 3 years to fully be back on track after losing a parent. And that’s ok! Of course you don’t want to dwell forever on it, but after all for most people losing a parent is one of the biggest pain ever felt in an entire life time.
Why do you need to allow yourself to grief?
Especially if you were very close to the lost one, you’re bound to feel a lot of strong emotions. Whether it’s sadness, anger or guilt, those emotions are completely normal and part of the grieving process.
If you repress those emotions and don’t allow yourself to process them, they won’t disappear by magic. They will be stored in your mind and body and might manifest themselves in different ways. Repressed anger or guilt for example tend to find ways to come up through physical discomfort or illnesses, or through behavioural patterns.
I have seen many people with back pain for example, that when explored realised they were holding on to a lot of anger ; Or people who never addressed guilt feelings from earlier on in life, and found themselves feeling guilty when trying to put themselves first or saying No. Sounds familiar?
Unfortunately repressed anger and resentment are very often present in serious illnesses such as cancer or fibromyalgia. As I said, anger isn’t a feeling that goes by itself unless you deal with it.
As for sadness, which is unavoidable in grief, if not fully acknowledged and expressed, it can turn easily into depression or self-destructive behaviours. So better allowing yourself to grieve now rather than paying a higher price later…
So how do you allow yourself to grieve?
You may be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denying reality, anger, bargaining to try to lessen the pain, depression and finally acceptance. Those stages can happen simultaneously or one by one, and we tend to revisit them through the entire grieving period.
This is a good model that’s worth keeping in mind, but the question is how do you do that?
I believe there are a few things that help:
- Accept first of all that you’re going through a grief, instead of fighting it with thoughts such as “I should be fine by now” or “I’ve got a good life, I shouldn’t feel bad” or “Some people have it worst than me”. Those thoughts are not helpful, and at the end of the day, we can’t control how we feel so why not simply accepting fully yourself and your emotions as you’re completely entitled to them anyway? Most of the time when we fight against an emotion, it gets stronger, as when we allow and accept it, we unlock it and allow it to pass quicker.
- Express those emotions: when you feel sad, allow yourself to have a good cry ; if you feel angry with God, the universe or even the deceased, accept those feelings, they are normal, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. You may want to express how you feel by journalling, or talking to an imaginary God/universe or even write a letter to the deceased. Any release of emotion is healthy and helpful in grieving.
- Spoil yourself: You’re going through a tough time emotionally, so you need to create the best possible environment for you during that phase. So listen to your needs and desires, and ask yourself “what would help me right now?” do you need to go away? do you need to party non stop? do you need to take a break from work or your social life? You’re allowed to do what feels good for you, because in those times more than any other time in life, yourself and your needs come first. That’s what will help you to go through the grief.
- Find support: Do you have a strong support group around you? Friends, family, partner? You are likely to feel extra sensitive and vulnerable, and it’s ok to ask for help from people around you. I also have some clients who don’t feel comfortable in leaning on their close ones, which is also understandable, or even don’t feel understood by them. It is sometimes difficult to step into a mourning person’s shoes when you haven’t been there yourself…In that case, find professional support, as you need someone to hold your hand whilst you go through those painful emotions.
- And finally if you feel stuck with destructive emotions such as guilt or self-loath, you may want to try some gentle techniques such as EFT to help you release the block and continue to grieve healthily.
Grief is a natural process and I believe should never be rushed. All the people I know who grieved a parental figure loss eventually came out of it, and even in your darkest moment, remember it’s only a phase. You’ll come out the other side eventually, wiser, stronger and perhaps with a new perspective on life. When death hits closely, it reminds us that we are not eternal, and that our time here is limited. Some of my clients suddenly discovered a new taste for life, a desire to embrace life fully and if there’s one positive lesson in all that pain, it’ss perhaps this: live life fully, enjoy every moment and seize all opportunities ; let go of resentment and quarrels, life is too short to hold on to those grudges, and remember to tell your close ones how much you love them…
Feel free to get in touch if you struggle with loss or simply would like to share your own experience!