The deeper I get into grief work the more I realize that grief is a part of almost every facet of our lives. There is grief every time our lives do not turn out the way we planned, the way we wanted, or contrary to our dreams.
This happens daily.
Every day we can over sleep, be late for an appointment, miss a lunch date, or not be able to eat that chocolate cake because it no longer supports our health.
Every day we are faced with little deaths that give us the opportunity to discover our own unique way of meeting grief. This is valuable information. If we know how we sort out the feelings that arise when we face these everyday setbacks, we can gain understanding of the way we grieve.
Just like there is no one else in the world like you, there is no one else that processes grief exactly the way you do. As we learn how we process grief, we also learn the resources that help us the most when faced with disappointing, life-changing events.
Knowing this about ourselves can greatly assist us when we are faced with bigger grief such as; the loss of a relationship, a divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Knowing will not prepare us for the myriad of feeling that come up because each loss is different and will bring with it a variety of feelings in varying intensities. You will however know the resources to turn to because you already know how you process grief.
The everyday deaths pave the way for the bigger deaths.
Many of us do not realize that we have this opportunity on a daily basis. Our day-to-day disappointments pile up. We may begin to feel a vague sense that something is not right. Left unresolved these relatively minor occurrences begin to snowball into more intense feelings that something is wrong. Since we cannot pinpoint the reason, we may react in several ways. We may suppress the feelings by over eating, binge drinking or telling ourselves we are “silly” for letting something so small bother us.
So how can you get in touch with these daily disappointments when they happen? And, how can you begin to learn your own unique methods for handling grief? Here are three ways to begin:
Begin to notice how you feel when things do not go your way. For example, what if are you stuck in traffic that is going to make you late for a meeting? You are already stuck so take a moment to breathe and notice how you feel. Let yourself have the feeling, all of it, exactly as it shows up. Often when we feel annoyed at a traffic jam we feel helpless, or we blame the other cars on the road, or the circumstance. In that moment, none of that helps. Instead get in touch with your feelings, slow down, breathe, and feel.
Notice the Story
Is there a story that comes up for you when you are in a traffic jam? A story about being late, or how others might judge you for being late? One of my stories was, “ Only irresponsible people are late”. Consequently I would leave my house with more than double the amount of time it took to arrive at my destination. Imagine how I felt on the occasions that traffic was so bad I was still late? Your story may give you a clue to the origin of the feelings.
Who Would you be Without the Story?
(This is from Byron Katie’s work) – What if every time you found yourself in a similar situation, rather than go back into the same story and relive the discomfort and stress of being late, and feeling irresponsible (in my example), you allow yourself to experience that particular event on its own merit, without the story from your past. What if you just happened to be in a car that was going slowly because the car in front of you was going slowly? What if this particular slow traffic day was, in the grand scheme of things, protecting you from something? What if you arrived at your destination on time, only to discover a tree fell on the place you were going to park, and instead it fell on an empty parking space?
When we allow ourselves to be aware of our feelings, to notice what else is going on, (including the story we tell ourselves about those feelings) and then meet the moment without our normal story, we are given the gift of looking at a situation we may have found ourselves in a hundred times, yet we receive a different outcome than expected. Just this small shift in perspective can make a huge difference in your entire day. Think of what is possible if you can use this technique on larger issues. Think of the valuable information you are gaining about yourself and the difference this could make in your life.
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