Feelings of confusion, doubt, and insecurity may be lurking in the corners of your mind. We all have encountered intense changes to life as we know it. I think it’s fair to say that loss, in general, is at the forefront of our daily life – loss of freedom, of routine and daily predictability, loss of social contact, reduced or lost income/business to name a few. Added to this already heavy state of affairs, you might be experiencing loss of a relationship or loved one due to a change of heart, old age or a disease like COVID19.
This article offers assistance to dealing with feelings of loss, and the pain and uncertainty that accompany it. What you’ll find are tools for working with what you’re experiencing and hopefully find relief, as well as ideas to help you move forward.
Experiencing painful emotions isn’t a fun endeavor. It’s called pain for a reason. Mental anguish and emotional pain can register in the body as a multitude of symptoms from body discomfort, headaches, and stomach distress to restlessness or lethargy. Some of us may have difficulty getting out of bed. Others cannot sit still. Many may find themselves swirling in overwhelming thoughts; others are consumed by grief and sadness.
All physical pain and dis-ease on a metaphysical level is the manifestation of some kind of unresolved turmoil that finally finds expression in our physical form. So, if you’re experiencing physical symptoms, solving the mystery of your discomfort means getting to the root of your emotional and mental pain.
What kind of tools can you employ to begin the process of dealing with intense, uncomfortable, and distressing feelings like those during these difficult times? We’re going to look at eight tools to help you on your path. All come with suggestions for you to explore and ideas to ponder. Paper or journal is suggested to write about what you discover. The goal is to create tools for your toolbox to aid you in dealing with loss.
Tool 1 – Get Familiar With Your Internal Climate.
Our first order of business to navigating loss or challenges like those that stand before us in these turbulent times is to get familiar with your internal climate.
This means being with yourself in quiet to sit with your internal state. Seeking time away from distractions, noise, and people offers a space where you can reflect and write about your thoughts and feelings, non-judgmentally observing what’s present. Notice, I said non-judgmentally. That is very important. You can even draw a picture, paint, or find a way to express in ways compatible with your natural trends.
Begin the process of tuning into your internal climate by simply asking yourself – what am I feeling?. Keep your identification very simple with four states – mad, sad, glad, and scared. Many times, you’ll discover a mix of emotions, so spend some time with yourself and just feel what’s there, labeling every emotion. Be mindful to also notice what’s under your surface emotion as our internal climate comes with layers.
What lies on the top as the most obvious state, may be very different from what’s sitting in the lower layers. Think of it like an iceberg floating in the water partially submerged; what’s above the water in your conscious self ( the iceberg above the water line demonstrating surface self) can be quite varied from what lies under the water in your subconscious.
Next, rate what you discover by intensity – in other words, how sad are you on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most intense. Using a 1-10 rating to create an internal barometer helps us get a sense of the range of our emotions. It also offers a means to evaluate when we might shift gears or change our behaviors to prevent reaching higher, more intense emotional states that lead to overwhelming.
For example, you might contract with yourself to speak up or take a walking break when you feel your frustration reach a 5 out of 10 during a particular work situation. In addition, barometers can aid us in evaluating how we evolve and heal over time. When how we rate our reaction to triggering events, for example, we have a data point that reflects how the trigger can lessen with internal reflection and self-help.
Identifying Your Thoughts
The next step to our first tool is to identify the thoughts that accompany what you’re feeling. Emotional reactions come from the beliefs we hold about ourselves and our world. Those beliefs are thoughts powered by feelings and emotions.
When situations arise that confirm the beliefs we hold, we can become triggered even without being aware of what thoughts stand in place behind our sadness, anger, and fear. Situations that manifest in alignment your belief system keep accompanying emotions active, fueling the reason behind how you feel and confirming how we see ourselves and others.
Identifying your thoughts brings the opportunity to change your mind about any situation. So as you write your thoughts or contemplate what they are, challenge them. Ask yourself, is this true? Does it have to be this way? Especially consider, am I willing to see this differently? Then, brainstorm other ways, you could see the situation. Here are great opportunities to change long-standing personal, generational, and/or societal beliefs that cause enormous stress.
If identifying current thoughts and emotions feels illusive or cloudy, consider what’s been bothering or triggering you in the past days or weeks. Outside events are a great way to help you identify what’s really going on inside. The event itself is often a catalyst and opportunity to become more familiar with you and how you see the world. Then use the same steps that we previously discussed identifying thoughts and feelings to become familiar what’s going on inside of you.
Tool 2 – Accept What You Discover.
After getting familiar with the thoughts and emotions you are currently carrying, the next step is to acknowledge and accept them. Now I know that sounds quite elementary; however, you’d be surprised how many people get into a wrestling match with themselves because they don’t like what they discover. We cannot resolve anything that we refuse to accept.
Notice I didn’t’ say you have to like what you discover. Acceptance is about acknowledgment – a willingness to say “this is how I feel right now, and that’s OK, even if I’d rather not feel this way.”
Tool 3 – Become Aware of Blockages to Being Present With Your Feelings.
Common blocks to being present include self-judgment or self-criticism, guilt, over-doing, numbing out, and grinding away. Let’s look at each of these:
- Self-judgment/criticism is a marvellous way to try to stop your feelings dead in their tracks. Reality is that judgment or criticism directed toward yourself doesn’t really stop the feelings; it just attempts to discard your internal state, the feelings deemed inappropriate by your inner critic. This, in turn, leads to feelings of guilt or shame, our second block.
- Guilt or shame is a result of putting yourself down for how you feel. The typical order is self-criticism/judgement, then guilt/shame, followed by punishment. Guilting or shaming ourselves may be a sense of wrong-doing or present in negative self-talk that says “I shouldn’t feel this way …it’s bad.” Generally, guilting or shaming ourselves is an unhealthy learned coping skill from childhood authority figures; these are the adults that told you or implied that any feeling, but happiness is wrong. In other words, they are the “Don’t feel” introjects from parents and caregivers that leave us with the belief that our internal climate is to be feared, hidden, or punished if it’s not all sunshine and giggles. On the other hand, it may also be the voice that tries to squash unbridled joy because we were meant to feel that it’s childish or too exuberant or that playing is silly.
To address guilt or shame, we must often get to the root of old messages from our past. Then we can work past them and re-program our inner dialogue to allow us to experience how we feel, knowing it’s temporary and there to show us something valuable.
- Overdoing is our next form of blockage. It’s the way we stay so busy, so we can outrun the title wave of emotions chasing us down the proverbial beach of life. Activity is helpful and healthy; overdoing, though, attempts to push away our internal climate through movement, exercise, over-work, or multiple projects. Be mindful when overdoing sneaks up in your life and ask yourself what feeling you’re trying to escape from.
- Numbing out, our next blockage is a common defence to facing our emotions. We may use any number of activities or substances to numb out like food, alcohol, drugs, television, books, or even sleep. At times we may even discover feeling numb as if our emotions took a powder and permanently left. If you’re feeling numb, it’s a sign that you’re trying to keep yourself from feeling. Instead, gently shift to an attitude of being open and willing to experience your inner climate.
- Grinding away is our last blockage to explore. Grinding away is the mental game we play with ourselves trying to figure out what to do next, what solutions could fix our problems or the endless research as an attempt to mentally understand our situation instead of feeling our feelings. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; we all must problem solve, look at what we’ve learned, and understand our circumstances to discover new solutions. These mental tools, though, must be kept in balance. Out of balance, we spend our day grinding away at all the ways to fix our ills, spinning in a vortex of mental energy strong enough to make us physically unsettled. If you find yourself spending hours mentally turning your situation over and over to explore it from an ever possible angle, grinding away is the blockage in your way. This endeavour is an attempt to keep you from feeling the powerful feelings that are so painful…the “if only I can just figure this out” activity of the mind preventing your heart from grieving. When grinding away is your solution to intense feelings, allow time to sit with yourself without mentally attempting to figure out your situation. Time to give the space for emotions to pass through you helps shift the need to mentally manage them.
Tool 4 – Get Familiar With Your Current Needs.
Unmet needs can leave us feeling vulnerable and unnurtured. What remains unmet in us frequently becomes a source of emotional struggle. Your current inner climate – the thoughts and emotions most present – is frequently a commentary on your current needs.
For example, perhaps you discover that you’re frequently irritated. That irritation comes from the belief that you’re not getting enough help with chores around the house. As a result, the identified need is to get more assistance. You realize that you’d like your family to be more involved.
To meet this need you may need to speak up, hold a family meeting, or have your family actively take responsibility for chores, and in turn, you may see the importance being accepting of the help with less perfection with which those chores are being done or when they’re not accomplished holding the person responsible instead of rescuing them by doing it yourself.
Many of us have difficulty identifying what our needs are, having spent a lifetime of focusing on others. So, spend time identifying your current needs and what you can do to get them met, especially the needs linked with your current internal climate.
Perhaps that includes voicing your wants, setting a boundary, taking much needed alone time, or spending a night with your loved one connecting in a way that’s meaningful to you. Whatever the case, identifying your needs and figuring out all the ways you could get them met helps you view the context of your inner climate as one that you can manage and take charge of instead of that climate running you.
Tool 5 – Give Yourself Time to Process How You Feel and Time to Have a Break From It.
Resolving our discomfort doesn’t come from dwelling in it 24/7. We must find a way to balance out the desire to navigate what we feel with moving beyond it to focus on life. Time to be with ourselves and time to get out of our own way and live…this is what makes challenging situations bearable.
When we can allow ourselves a break from the energy of a situation, knowing that a solution and resolution comes with time and space, we give ourselves the respite to remove ourselves from thinking and feeling about whatever difficulty is before us and allow answers to come. So, here’s an ode to the necessary distractions:
- Simple chores
- Meals with family
- Arts and crafts
- Getting outside
- Bath or shower
- Prayer and meditation
- Watch a movie
- Play with your kids
- Talk to a friend
Making your own distraction list and posting it somewhere obvious can help when you need ideas. Don’t underestimate the benefit of washing the dishes or taking a short walk. Simple, quick, and tasks with observable results can add to the plus side of distractions from challenging emotions.
Tool 6 – Recognize That Healing Comes in Stages and Is a Process.
Processing loss comes in stages and is not linear. Everyone’s process is unique to them, and there’s no right or wrong way to make your way through it.
An excerpt from The Soul-Discovery Journal book: Volume IV outlines the five non-linear stages of loss from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler:
- Denial – This is the stage where we experience the world as overwhelming, confusing, and meaningless. Denial and shock aid our process of navigating loss to allow it to filter through our consciousness in a safe way.
- Anger – The anger stage may be filled with many, many layers, especially emotional pain, giving a sense of power or palpable experience to the overwhelming feelings of loss.
- Bargaining – Filled with “what if’s” and “if only’s”, this stage recognizes the deals we make to avoid a pending loss or to escape from our current pain.
- Depression – A typical response to a major loss, this stage shows the depth of our grieving journey, especially the emptiness.
- Acceptance – In this stage, the reality of the loss is accepted. This doesn’t mean that we believe the loss was OK or we don’t miss what we are grieving. Instead, we accept our feelings, create life anew, and move on.
Tool 7 – Consider What You May Have Gained Through Your Current Challenges.
Shifting to the recognition of the uplifting changes that occur through challenges, esp. loss helps us see the good in our life. Perhaps the death of a loved one made you really appreciate them, or maybe the isolation through quarantine helped you find new ways to communicate and be present with your immediate family.
The pandemic on a higher level was meant to change our current state of affairs – to rectify the extremes of greed and poverty, lack and abundance, to refocus the world on what’s most important, to reconnect us to people in a whole new way, to shift an over-working, money-driven focus to the greater purpose.
So, reflect on what you’ve gained in your time of loss; what changes are here to stay because they demonstrate an evolution to a more meaningful life or what benefits did you experience from putting the old to rest?
Tool 8 – You Are Never Alone.
Remember, being alone is not possible even though we can feel it as a very real void. In addition to the friends, family, and neighbours in your life, let me remind you that you literally have hordes of angels, guides, teachers, passed-over loved ones and Source as constant companions. You are ever surrounded by and held in love.
If you’re feeling isolated and separated from others, ask your angels to hold and comfort you. Call on sacred teachers to help you. Activate the awareness of God in you to carry you through this moment and give you the courage to face what’s before you, then watch how your energy shifts.
This may also be a time to reach out to health professionals, trusted spiritual teachers, counsellors, and or other groups to get guidance and support. For more about psycho-spiritual treatment, intuitive healing, and energy work, please visit the listed website for help.
We will all be travelling our own path with the changes from this pandemic and the continued effect it has and will have on our world. I hope this article has helped you face your internal climate kindly, courageously, and with loving acceptance, that it gave you pause to consider what your current needs are so you can discover how to meet them, and that you were reminded of the ways you can help yourself, as well as the support in your life. This time, as challenging as it is, is full of beautiful opportunities. I trust you will discover them all. Be blessed.
About the Author:
Motivated by a desire to help individuals overcome trauma, I began my work in 1991 at Hahnemann University through a graduate program in Group Psychotherapy and Group Process.