GriefJun 19, 2023
According to Merriam-Webster online, grief is, “A deep and poignant distress” often brought on by loss. The reality of life? We are always losing something. We lose hair every day (some faster than others), we lose objects all the time (No, I have NOT seen your keys), we lose opportunities and pets and loved ones and sometimes, we even misplace our sanity. But loss makes room for growth, whether we want it or not.
Lately, I experience grief every day as I watch my 15-year-old beloved dog, Trooper, continue his slow decline. He had a stroke over a year ago. At the time I thought, “This is it.” He is, however, as his name implies, a Trooper. He’s been fighting and struggling for over a year. I alternate among feelings of deep sadness, utter frustration, and rampant anger.
I feel these feelings as I watch him struggle to climb stairs or find his way back into his own home. I feel them as I wonder what next? What do I do? How can I help? And sometimes, I stuff these feelings.
How do I know I’m stuffing feelings?
I snap at him or buy something I don’t need or I get the “Are you still there?” from Netflix. Then I know.
Choices When Experiencing Grief
Grief from loss can be one of the most stressful times in our lives. When we suffer a loss (or are in anticipation of a loss), we have two choices:
Shut down, contract…refuse to acknowledge the loss. Stuff the feelings. Contraction and stuffing lead to lack of growth, wilting and of course, stress.
Experience grief. Let the feeling move through you. Allowing feelings is hard enough, but grief…that’s scary. What if the grief consumes me? What if I can’t recover? Who will I be?
Know this: Grief is often not about the present moment. We are either grieving a past loss or grieving a future without our loved one.
How to Handle the Waves of Grief
1. Ground your feet
Feel your feet on the floor. As you sit at your desk or at lunch, notice your feet. Even better if you can take your shoes off. Get very curious about: The bottom of your heels, your big toes, your arches. Notice your feet. Grounding reminds us we are safe and held by the earth.
2. Experience the feeling… BUT set a Timer
Notice the feeling of grief. Where is it in your body? Is it growing or changing as the day moves on? Does it have a color? Texture? Set a timer. Start with 30 seconds. Go no longer than 2 minutes. No one has ever stopped breathing because they allowed a feeling.
3. Be in the moment
As I navigate the days with Trooper, I look for grace moments. Times when he is not struggling. Times when he is sleeping peacefully. When he is awake, I look him in the eye, and experience my love for him. I notice all the life in him. It’s easy to go to the future and stress about the pain or lament the past days of chasing balls. It’s harder to stay in the present moment.
4. Watch your thoughts
“This should not be happening.” NOT HELPFUL…and not true. How do I know it’s not true? Well, it is happening, so there you have it (A favorite teaching from Byron Katie.)
Need help understanding and processing feelings? Try my course, “Stress and Overwhelm: Causes, Coping and Cures.” It contains a meditation practice designed to help you process a feeling.
Better yet, book a call. I am a stress management coach for people in health care. As practitioners, we lose patients all the time. Learning to navigate loss and grief is paramount to our mental health. I’d love to connect with you 1:1.
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