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Facing Death, Grief And Emotions

Creating a healthy relationship to death, grief, and emotions - becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable

Death evokes a whole explosion of emotions within us. We all get born and we all die. Yet no one wants to die. When we lose someone, emotions are the first thing that come up inevitably. So, let’s start talking about emotions first.

Imagine the importance of emotions like this: You get hurt and are left with a wound. Your body reacts with pain at the part of the body, where you got hurt, in order for you to bring your awareness to this part of the body. Now it is on you to do whatever you can to heal it. For example, you clean the wound, you put a band-aid on it and you’ll take care of the area until it has healed.

Emotions work very similar, negative as positive ones. Emotions are a response to something. They want to bring your awareness to the cause of their arising.

Whenever we feel strong emotions arising, we should ask ourselves what triggered them and what they are trying to show us.

This can seem trivial but most of us aren’t used to express all our emotions or acknowledge them or feel them or let them come to the surface. That is because many of us were conditioned to believe that some emotions mean weakness or vulnerability. While feeling our emotions, being vulnerable and dealing with them is the exact opposite. It requires a lot of strength, self-awareness and self-confidence, courage. When we want to be strong and invulnerable, we start to suppress feelings the second we feel them coming up, because we were conditioned to respond this way. We learned that we are not allowed to be weak or vulnerable. Many people just act if nothing was happening. They don’t look at the root cause in order to heal and deal with it.

Remember the example I gave you above about the wound and feeling pain? Imagine you had a big bleeding wound, on your back, so you couldn’t see it and as soon as it started hurting, you were able to simply shut down the pain, so you wouldn’t have to deal with it. How do you think this will end up? Let’s say it’ll heal itself as good as it can. But as you didn’t take proper care of it, it’ll leave massive scars. It might even hinder you in your movements because of the scar tissue. Pain might come up from time to time, but you know how to neglect it. Over time it’ll cause more and more tension in the surrounding tissue as well. Until one day, you won’t be able to ignore the matter anymore. By the time you look at the wound, you see the huge scars. You find out that in order for it to heal properly, you need to open it up again and stitch it together and give it more time to heal. What I am trying to describe here as vivid as possible, though figuratively, is what happens when you suppress your emotions.

We can’t avoid being hurt, physically or emotionally. In fact, those experiences help us with our personal development and growth. Not all things that appear bad, are truly bad. They are much rather guides, showing us when we need a turn in our life. When it is time for change. 

Not only the obvious and tangible change but especially the change within ourselves. Which can only take place when we face our emotions and their triggers. No matter how painful or devastating a loss is, it is on us whether we let it destroy us or see it as an opportunity to grow through our healing journey. It takes time, but it is always possible. Countless people are proof for that.

The healing journey:

1) Be kind and patient

It doesn’t matter how much we believe that everything happens for a reason – loss hurts. And it is supposed to hurt in some way. This is what makes us human and empathetic. During the initial time, be kind to yourself or the person you are supporting during a time of loss. And patient. Knowing that we can’t change what happened and even that their souls live on, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t express our grief. We can know what’s best or right and still don’t feel good. This is ok! Be patient with yourself or the other person and don’t create any pressure about how long this process should take. The only thing that helps to heal faster is to allow it to happen in its own time and be kind with yourself, doing more of what feels good and creating space for any emotion that comes up.

2) Create space for all the emotions

One experience can trigger many stored emotions, plus grief has its different stages which also include different emotions. So it is not only sadness but for example also anger. Sometimes people experience a sense of relief, which many people feel guilty about but give it space. It is ok to feel any kind of emotion. No matter what comes up, give it time and room to feel it, acknowledge it. Then you can ask where it really comes from. Is it actually part of the loss you (or another person) experienced or did this event trigger old wounds? Sometimes it is enough to acknowledge our feelings in order to let them go. Sometimes holding and creating space for them, means we need to express them not only on an emotional level but also on a physical level. Screaming, crying, laughter and physical movement are great tools to let go of tension and express our emotions. Go in a room or outside in the woods and scream it all out. People might think you are crazy but that is the point. In our society we don’t create space for expressing many things because “one doesn’t do that”. Forget about those old rules and let’s get back to who we really are. Crying is no weakness, it is a valid and necessary reaction of our body. Some people go for a run or hit the gym. Other people need to calm themselves down through meditation, stretching or restorative yoga. Whatever you need to do in order to express your emotions, go and do that. As always in life, it doesn’t matter what people think of you. You do you.

3) Start your conscious growth

In the beginning we have a hard time thinking clearly and our emotions often rule our world. Once we are more aware of our emotions and start to work with them, there comes a point when we start to remember that indeed it all happens for a reason and that it is time for another level of personal growth.

This is when the game changes and we can start to see the chance loss is able to provide us with. There is always a lesson for us. Life is not like it was before, yet the world keeps spinning no matter what happens. How can the loss help us to gain a new perspective on our life? Sometimes, events like the loss of a loved one, rips off an unnecessary filter we were looking through. Often, we see our life from a new perspective. We see things that have been there all along, but we didn’t see them.

This phase is unique to everyone. And it can take months or years until we allow ourselves to see the lesson in what happened. Whenever we don’t see the lesson yet, there is something that losses show us no matter where we are in our lives. How volatile life is and that we should be grateful for everything we have in this now moment. If all we have is another day to live, that is already plenty, don’t you think?

I think we are completely wrong conditioned about death, grief, and emotions in general. It is all here for a reason. It is all valid. We don’t need to be scared and there is not only no reason to neglect all of those topics, but not facing those topics will eventually harm ourselves. Nevertheless, when we face death, grief or any emotion, we face life. We fully engage in life. We fully embrace life.

There are so many topics out there in the world that we ignore or simply don’t engage in because they are uncomfortable. Yet those topics affect us in one way or another. But we shy away from doing the work, even when the prize for that is a big relief of what is bothering us. Let’s have the conversations that we don’t want to have because they scare us. Let’s face the things, we try to ignore, even though they keep coming up again and again. Let’s become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Let’s be more human and more kind.

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