Grief…why does it hurt so much?
Divorce, a broken friendship, the death of a loved one, being layed off from work, a significant health change….Loss, no matter the circumstance, comes in different sizes, and with it a variety of painful emotions. It is a normal part of the human experience, something all of us encounter at one time or another.
Grief is deeply personal, produces feelings of intense heartache, and while it changes over time, it can bubble up randomly throughout our lives, and never really goes completely away. It is a long journey that can be triggered by an array of reminders, such as a place, photo, memory, other people, holiday, song, smell, or even taste, that causes the emotions to intensify once again.
I recently learned about a wonderful metaphor describing grief on twitter. A patient received this metaphor to cope with the loss of her mother from her doctor. You may have already heard about it, “The ball in the box.” https://www.indy100.com/article/grief-viral-thread-lauren-herschel-ball-in-box-analogy-death-8792541
Essentially, the metaphor suggests that grief is like a box containing a ball and a pain button on one side. In early stages, the ball is so big that it hits the pain button all the time. Over time the ball gets smaller, and there is more time to recover between hits, but the ball still hits the pain button at unexpected times. While time may heal grief, the ball never really goes completely away. So, how do we cope with it?
Acknowledge the loss.
In the beginning, our brains protect us from feeling everything at once. It’s important to acknowledge the loss and talk about it with someone you trust.
Feel the loss.
It’s true. You have to face it, and feel it to heal it. Anger, guilt, and sadness are the most frequent emotions that are experienced following a loss. The ball is big during this time and that pain button will get hit often.
Take care of yourself.
Distract yourself when you need to. Create a list of pleasurable activities, do something for someone else, practice gratefulness, make a mood-buster play-list (bright songs) for down days, push away thoughts that distress you, consider meditation, tasks, chores, or puzzles to change your thoughts, self-soothe with strategies that are meaningful and healthy for you (i.e. focus on your breath, take a hot shower, get a massage, exercise, eat something comforting, listen to music, practice mindfulness, journal, get outside in nature, go for a walk, etc.)
Make meaning of the loss.
What is your new normal now that you have more perspective? No one can tell you how to do this part. It’s unique to you, like your own fingerprint. Take things slowly. One day at a time.
After some time has passed, consider sharing your experience with others, or give back to a cause that your loved one would have found meaningful.
Need someone to talk to about your loss? Contact me at Sound Health Counseling Solutions.