Facts vs Feelings
In our modern culture, we tend to handle facts better than feelings. Confronted by any crisis or tragedy, people try to cope by “getting the facts”. The media has brought us constant information about what we need to know about the pandemic, the necessary regulations and instructions of how we must handle the situation, as well as suggesting many strategies on coping with life today as it now is.
But I believe that the focus of grief should not just be on our ability to understand, but on our ability to feel. That does not minimize the importance of information. It merely affirms the equal importance of paying attention to your own feelings and taking care of your emotional needs in light of the distressing news.
Counsellors generally agree that there are 6 basic emotions: these include joy, sadness, surprise, disgust, fear, and anger. I would guess that many in this current situation would identify with at least 5 out of 6 of these basic emotions!
But into this framework in the current situation, we could also weave responses like:
Where once there was relationship with family; a social life where we could meet up with friends; a good job and a nice income; the opportunity to go out to sports events, theatre, a movie or a meal together, there is now a void. The roles we had in our lives are empty, and we have to find ways to fill our lives with something else.
No-one likes to be in a position where they feel helplessness and powerlessness, but that’s where we find ourselves. The question in such situations becomes, “What do you do when there is nothing you can do?” We can follow the rules of distancing and isolation, but there is nothing you can do to heal those who are dying or alleviate the suffering of those most deeply affected. Oh, I know, some think they can do anything they like in this situation. “It can’t happen to me!” they rationalize. Well, how’s that working for you? Not well for far too many, unfortunately. What do you do when something you didn’t think could happen … happens???
- Feeling Lost
When our life changes or normal routines are disturbed, we often feel lost. In Greek, the word “lost” basically means “in the wrong place.” And maybe that is how we feel right now. We recognize we are “in the wrong place”. This is an unwelcome and difficult place, and we wish we could be in a better, less problematic place.
We are “disturbed” when our life is disrupted by circumstances. That interestingly is what the word “emotion” means. What is happening in our world is disturbing, and it is important to pay attention to our own feelings and take care of your own emotional needs.
a) This is Emotional
The Scots have a saying that some things are better “felt than tell’t” (told). Grief is one of these things. Whenever we lose someone (or something) or an attachment is broken, we experience a painful reaction. To experience grief is to acknowledge you are feeling the loss. We must recognize that our tears and emotions are not a sign of weakness, but an indication of how special that relationship or attachment was. And, now that it is gone, we miss it. To experience grief is to acknowledge that you are human.
Because we have not recognized grief in our culture, its intensity often comes as a surprise. We can find ourselves bewildered by the avalanche of emotions that can impact us. Among these reactions are numbness, shock, confusion, disbelief, anxiety, absent-mindedness, restlessness, crying, fatigue, appetite disorders, sleep disruptions, physical symptoms, anger, guilt, depression, and many more.
What other emotions can YOU think of or identify that can be connected to your sense of loss during this pandemic?
b) Every emotional reaction is different
There is no one neat orderly way to describe the grief process. Some people experience certain emotions, other people experience others. Everyone is different, and so the way you respond to your unique loss will unlike anyone else.
Let me make a confession. One of my weaknesses in life is a love of chocolate, particularly those wonderfully delicious nut clusters. After a lifetime of research, I have made an amazing discovery! (Brace yourself!!) There are no two nut clusters exactly the same. While each consists of the same basic ingredients, every single one is different. Some are round while others are “off shape”; some have a few extra nuts, others have a bigger blob of chocolate on top. The same ingredients, yet none of them are identical.
This offers us a great metaphor for grief. While each individual may experience comparable “ingredients”, grief is a cluster of emotions. Every individual has their own unique cluster, because we are all different people, with different circumstances and situations. Many may experience similar emotions, but always to a lesser or greater degree than someone else.
Grief over any loss can be a challenging experience, but not more powerful than your ability to work your way through your many emotions. Express your grief in a way that is right for you. Although the possibility of your recovery may seem distant right now, the healing process is happening.
In our 7th blog in the series we will look at the problematic emotions of guilt and blame.