The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

Pandemic Retreat Tip 4 – Allowing time for Daily Grief Work

on April 21, 2020

avoiding-5-stages-grief-visibility-program

Our culture has difficulty sitting still with feelings.  There is too often an attempt to keep busy and ignore the discomfort of our negative feelings. It has been my experience that many otherwise healthy people want to bypass their phases of grief and jump into positive thinking, avoiding those dark and mysterious pathways of  emotion.

Now we are faced with micro and macro levels of Ambiguous Loss and Grief.   Ambiguous Loss is when you lose someone but not all the way.  For example, you could lose a loved one to illness, such as Alzheimers Disease, Alcoholism, Cancer, Food Addiction/Anorexia. Your loved one might be lost at sea or on a mountain.

Ambiguous Loss is most painful when you live with someone who is “here but not here.”  If your loved one watches multiple hours of Netflix, or video games, and you miss them, you are experiencing Ambiguous Loss.  If your loved one is slowly deteriorating from any illness or addiction, and you are watching them slowly disappear, you are experiencing Ambiguous Loss. When you break up a relationship, divorce, move away, you experience Ambiguous Loss, “here but not here.”

Today we have the Ambiguous Loss of our culture and daily routines. By not seeing the people, places and things that make up our life, we develop anticipatory anxiety of what will come next.  The anxiety then quickly morphs into Anticipatory Grief.

What is Anticipatory Grief?

I defer to Scott Berinato who unpacks our micro and macro Anticipatory Grief so usefully in his recent article in the Harvard Business Review (23 March 2020).  Berinato interviews David Kessler, who is one of our leading grief experts, and explores Kessler’s overview of our current pandemic existence. Learn more here: That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.  

You may  think you are lonely, or exhausted, or anxious. That may be true. But I would agree with Berinato and Kessler in that you probably have unexpressed grief (and rage), which is clogging up your inner world.

It’s exhausting to repress grief and “act as if” you are perfectly fine. Yet we are called upon to buckle up and deal with life on life’s terms, so there is no binary solution here. We are asked to grieve our current losses and future losses PLUS carry on and live our lives.  So how is this possible?   By scheduling some Grief Work time into your calendar. Allowing time to release and let go will enhance your life as you release the inner pressure. Give yourself permission to unravel a bit.

Tears are the language of grief. Something I frequently suggest to my clients is  “Make some time to do your Grief Work.  Let it flow out of you.”  Most people resist this process and just hope by keeping super busy (or medicated or numbed with screen time) they can bypass the Grief Work.  Nay, nay, it must be done.  Cry now or cry later, but crying will help release those grief-balls that are jamming you up.

CS Lewis grief (2)

When we begin to honestly defrost our grief with each other and then seek solutions for our dilemmas, we start to feel a little better.  I am a fan of the stoic philosophy, but just focusing on solutions and keeping a stiff upper lip all the time is not helpful — something within shuts down and can go numb inside from repressing all that emotion.

Perhaps one of the silver linings from the Corona virus is that now, in this time of profound herd vulnerability, we will be more authentic with ourselves and each other?  Simple, but not easy. This is a practice that takes as long as it takes, perhaps lifetimes.

I have come to believe that your vulnerability is your superpower.  When you are brave enough to be vulnerable, you release, let go and successfully move on.  This is part of the multidimensional journey to wholeness and deep fulfillment💙

References:

Berinato, S. (23 March 2020). Harvard Business Review. That discomfort you are feeling is grief. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Mitchell, S. (1988). Tao Te Ching. New York: Harper Collins.

Wessan, L. (05 JAN 2019). On the “Myth of Closure,” Ambiguous Loss and Complicated Grief.  Retrieved from https://mirthmaven.blog/2019/01/05/on-the-myth-of-closure-ambiguous-loss-and-complicated-grief/

Helpful Scriptures for increased bravery and courage for your Grief Work:
Psalms 23, 31, 46, 126
Deuteronomy 31:6
Ecclesiastes 1:18
Proverbs 14:13

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.


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