Grief and the Importance of the Anniversary of Death

Grief follows its own timeline. Although there are some things that are universal in grief, such as the stages of grief (tomorrow’s post) and the year of firsts, when it comes to the process of grief, it is a very individual process. Grief needs to infiltrate our very cells, it needs to integrate loss into the experience of having loved.

The anniversary of our loved one’s death is a tough one. Very often, in the weeks preceding that day, we begin to feel more weepy, we have increased sensitivity, we report feeling on edge; sometimes to the point where we may feel that we have taken some steps back in our grief. I would advise that in grief, there are no steps back. Rather, it is the non-linear process of grief that we experience; it is simply grief’s way of reminding us of our loss and therefore our love.

It becomes important to recognize that day in two ways. The first is to come up with a way to honour our loved one; it can be a visit to the grave site, releasing balloons with prayers inside, gathering as a family at their favourite restaurant, creating a memory jar and so forth. Doing something along these lines will help us to integrate experience and feeling. The second important task for that day is self-care. If you need to be with your family that day, take the day off work. If you need to have the morning to yourself so that you can cry as much as you want, do that. If you need to feed your comfort system with a bath and by cooking your favourite meal, then that is okay too.

By honouring both our loved one and ourselves, we allow grief its due course; continuing our journey towards the assimilation of loss and love.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Fabrice Nerfin on Unsplash

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The Final Word (for now) About Anger

Following up on our last two posts is an article entitled “The Wisdom of Anger” by Melvin McLeod and featured on Lion’s Roar. In it, McLeod talks about the energy of anger: “What defines aggression is ego. Aggression is the energy of anger in the service of all we define as “self,” ready to attack anyone and anything we deem a threat. But when anger is released from its service to ego, it ceases to be aggression and simply becomes energy. The pure energy of anger has wisdom and power.”

Drawing from Buddhist wisdom, McLeod also points out that:

  • Anger is the power to say no.
  • When not driven by ego, anger brings good to the world.
  • The practice of mindfulness can help us to take advantage of the brief gap in the mind between impulse and action.

And as to the wisdom of anger, he states, “We all experience the wisdom of anger when we see how society mistreats people. When we have an honest insight into our own neuroses and vow to change. When we are inspired to say no to injustice and fight for something better. This wisdom is a source of strength, fearlessness, and solidarity. It can drive positive change.” 

The wisdom of anger; what a wonderful way to begin looking at the feeling that is at the ready, to be a useful, guiding and healthy emotion.

An article well worth reading:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Jarl Schmidt on Unsplash

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Living with a Moody Person

Is not easy. It is our natural human tendency to react to other people’s moods as we have an inherent predisposition to internalize. This puts us into a reactive position, which in turn can affect our own mood, becoming surly ourselves. We are much better served to be in a proactive position; let’s set up the scene:

  • House hold member comes in the door acting like a bear with a sore paw; our keenness for non-verbals tells us this before they even say a word.
  • Is it our responsibility to say something? Absolutely. Caring as to why your loved one is upset is an emotional bid that allows them to feel held. Once they have settled in, asking “Is everything okay, you seem quiet” is a good way to test the waters.
  • They will most likely say that everything is fine. Part of that is their surliness and desire to withdraw; part of it might also be their inherent need to protect you from their bad mood (albeit, it doesn’t work.)
  • Give it a bit of time and ask again. Yup, I always recommend we ask twice as it opens a door to communication.
  • If they respond by telling you what affected them in their day, great! Just listen; they may not need advice but rather just a sounding board.
  • If they say that everything is fine (even though it clearly isn’t), then take them at their word and from here on in, act as though they are in a good mood. This may take some practice, as our tendency becomes to feel irritated and withdraw ourselves, but acting as though everything is fine is the proactive piece as it sends the message “Your mood is not going to affect mine.”

It may not change our loved one’s propensity to act surly at times but it can help us to regulate our own mood; giving us a greater sense of control and autonomy.

The Relaxation Response

Yesterday we talked about how we have a fear response that can trigger the fight-or-flight mechanism in our brain when we are faced with true (or perceived) danger. But what about our relaxation response? Our comfort system? Just as our body is attuned to danger, it is also modulated by safety. When we feel secure, we feel less vulnerable and more capable of handling life’s challenges.

Our comfort system is about a feeling of peace; you may find it outside when the sun is shining warmly on your face or the white snow is gently falling around you. You may find it when you are curled up in your cozy armchair with a good book in your lap and the fireplace on. You may find it sitting across from a good friend, as you laugh and catch up, your hands around a warm cup of tea. You may find it in the top of your child’s head when you kiss them a final goodnight as you head to bed. You may find it in the space of your partner’s hand as you take a walk on a city street to look at shop windows. However you find your peace, it is through those moments that our comfort system is nourished and helps to balance life’s stressors and its subsequent burdens. To nurture and sustain our comfort system is a proactive approach to keeping ourselves both physically and emotionally healthy; take time today to go find your peace 🙂

Photo credit: Me! (and Cricket 🙂 )

4 Steps to Being Worry Free

We are pre-programmed to worry. It comes from our days on the plains when we had to concern ourselves with things such as food, fire, and shelter. Fast forward to today where our basic needs are being met, but worry remains; it can still function for us but at times can take up too much space and energy in our lives. Sometimes worry is a learned behaviour; often times we identify with a parent that has had a history of it.  The good news, is that it doesn’t have to be like that forever; we can give ourselves permission to “unlearn the worry.” This involves 4 steps:

  1. Ask yourself, “What am I worried about?” in order to identify what is occupying your thoughts.
  2. Is this a true alarm or a false one? (This can trip people up as all worries feel like a true alarm; emotion trumps reason after all. Focus instead on the facts of the worry:what do you know right now?)
  3. Is there something I can do about the worry, at this moment? If the answer is yes, do it. Direction and plan always help process.
  4. And if there is nothing you can do about the worry right now, give yourself permission to back burner it. Put it on a shelf in a box that says “Will worry about this later.”

In the beginning, writing it out often helps as worrying is a pretty ingrained behaviour so it will be important to practice. Using these four steps can help bring yourself to a place of worrying less and feeling more settled.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Emotion Defined

The definition of emotion in my Webster’s dictionary is as follows: a strong feeling (such as wonder, love, sorrow, shame) often accompanied by a physical reaction (e.g. blushing or trembling).  In my Dictionary of Emotions by Patrick Michael Ryan, he states, “Emotions are subjective. Emotions help define our internal and external condition and experience.” 

Two rather interesting definitions of emotion that I found online at Urban Dictionary (a website where people upload their own definitions of words) was 1. by Mareena who stated “emotion: something that should be locked up in drawers, or simply kept in your pockets and 2. by RockandRollbabe who states “an inexplicable thing that makes you do stupid stuff that you will regret for the rest of your life.” Both appear to have originated from experience 🙂

And yet another definition is the Latin root word for emotion which is “to move.” The notion that no matter what you are feeling, there is an element of motion to it, a stirring up, a responsive sensation to an event or experience. Perhaps the idea we can take from this is in giving ourselves permission to allow for the flow of emotion, to simply accept our emotions as they come and go and not as a definition of who we are.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Brynden on Unsplash


Happiness Revisited

In an article entitled “How I Stopped Chasing Happiness and Started Enjoying My Imperfect Life” by Mai Pham, featured on tinybuddha, Mai explores the assumption that achievement equals happiness. She talks about her own experience of having set goals, often driven to perfection, and upon achieving those goals felt ordinary when she expected to feel extraordinary. She noted “I blamed my achievements for my dissatisfaction—that they were not tremendous enough for me to feel happy. So I thought I had to do more. I found a new goal, and I fell into the trap again.”

She makes an interesting observation that in the process of trying to achieve success in order to find happiness, she lost sight of the most important goal of all which was to enjoy her life.

Very often, we are pulled into a frenetic pace, lulled into the dull belief that the more we have the happier we will be. If this becomes the driving force to our goals, we unfortunately miss out on the richer experiences and connections our life has to offer. I especially resonate with her statement that “Happiness is the direction we choose and the way we live our lives,” for it implies a slowing down of sorts; a choice to create goals that are less achievement oriented and more experience oriented; a balance between work and play, a shifted focus on self-care and the quality time we spend with the people we love. Happiness then, becomes less about achievement and more about contentment, enjoyment, peace.

To read the full article:

Photo credit: http://Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash