NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Allowing Room for Grief

Experiencing grief, especially when it involves the loss of someone close to you, can be very painful.

For many people, the emotional pain of grief can be so painful that they try to push away or push down their feelings to avoid feeling the sadness and loss.

Allowing Room for Grief:  Some People Try to Push Away Their Feelings

While it's understandable that people who are going through grief might be tempted to deny or push away their feelings, it's important to make room for grief so, eventually, these painful feelings can be worked through.

Pushing Away Grief

People often try to avoid or distract themselves from feeling grief by:
  • denying to themselves and others that they feel sad
  • zoning out in front of the TV
  • binge watching videos
  • playing video games for hours
  • surfing the Internet for long periods of time
  • drinking excessively
  • abusing drugs
  • engaging in compulsive gambling (see my article:  Overcoming Grief Gambling)
  • engaging in compulsive sexual activities
  • overeating
  • overworking
  • engaging in sexual affairs
and so on.

What Are the Possible Negative Consequences of Not Making Room for Grief?
When you try to avoid feeling grief, not only are you shutting yourself off to painful emotions--you're also shutting down to positive feelings.

Allowing Room for Grief

Whether you're numbing yourself by denying your feelings or distracting yourself in any one of a myriad ways, you're also numbing yourself to all of your other feelings.  

After a while, emotional numbing can make you feel out of touch with yourself as well as your loved ones.  You can start to feel that you're just "going through the motions" in life rather than living your life in a meaningful way.

Making Room for Grief
"The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:  room for grief, for relief, for  misery, for joy."
 Pema Chodron

No one wants to feel sad and upset all of the time, but it's important to make time, when you're ready, to feel your feelings, whether you do this on your own, with a trusted friend or in therapy.

Allowing Room for Grief:  Take Time and Space to Connect With Your Feelings

Here are some suggestions for how you can do this during quiet times when you have privacy (you can consider as to whether they would work for you or not):
  • looking at pictures of your loved one
  • taking time and space to connect with your feelings
  • remembering good times together
  • writing down your feelings in a journal
  • engaging in creative arts related to your loved one (drawing, making collages, etc)
  • revisiting places that were important to the two of you
  • listening to music that brings back happy memories
  • meditating on your feelings about your loved one
  • attending or creating a spiritual ritual that is meaningful to you
  • hearing positive stories about your loved one from family members or friends
and so on.

Grieving is an Individual Experience
No two people grieve in the same way.  It's a very individual experience.

In our society, we tend to rush people to "move on" before they're ready.  Not only is this unhelpful, it can also make the person who is grieving feel ashamed, as if he or she is abnormal in some way.

Although people close to you might have good intentions, don't let anyone tell you that you should be "over it" already.

Allowing Room for Grief

There's a difference between avoiding grief and taking the time that you need to deal with your grief.  So, even though I've provided some suggestions above about what many people find helpful, if you're not ready to look at pictures, listen to music that was meaningful to the two of you or engage in any of the activities mentioned above, trust your intuition about this.

At the same time, it's important to be honest with yourself.

So, for instance, if years have passed since your loved one has died and you're still holding onto his or her clothes or keeping a room as a "shrine" to your loved one, as painful as it might be, you need to ask yourself if you're refusing to let go of your grief.

Letting go of grief doesn't mean that you don't care about your loved one.  It means that you're accepting the loss and, hopefully, finding other meaningful ways to integrate this experience into your life.

Allowing Room for Grief:  Finding Meaningful Ways to Integrate the Experience

Many people discover that when they've gone through the hardest part of their grief and they're willing to be open to what comes next, they realize that they still feel a deep and loving connection to their loved one that allows them feel close to him or her.

Getting Help in Therapy
Many people find that their grief is too overwhelming to deal with on their own or they feel stuck in the grieving process.

If you're struggling with your feelings of grief on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in helping clients with bereavement issues.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

Helping clients to deal with grief is one of my specialties.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also see my article:
Grief in Waiting
Inconsolable Grief After a Mother's Death