Someone on Facebook said ‘my dad passed away this morning at 3.30am. I’m so relieved he isn’t in pain anymore. I’m so sad at the same time’.
Is it really possible to be feeling two such strong feelings at the same time?
Once upon a time I would have said no. Now, especially since my husband died, I know it is indeed possible. But how is that?
Grief is a tiny, weeny word that we use to cover a vast array of emotions.
While we are familiar with the more common ones (tears, fear, sadness) there are others that happen too, that can be quite discombobulating.
Laughter, happiness, numbness, terror, rage – just some of the feelings that grief can bring that we are not so approving of.
If you are a griever at the moment, you’ll probably recognize this. Here’s the infographic from my website that shows just some of the myriad of words we associate with grief. It can feel overwhelming at times. So how best to cope?
Don’t judge yourself, or others.
You or they will likely be feeling all over the place, up one minute, down the next, not to mention going round and round at the same time. It’s important to know this is normal.
How best you can deal with it is to let yourself feel whatever has come knocking at your door. Even if it is numbness, feeling nothing, or several feelings all at once. That is just as valid as the tumultuous emotions some people feel.
When a feeling arises in us that we don’t like, or that doesn’t feel nice, we tend to push it away. Here’s an example:
Dorothy, a client, was recently bereaved and feeling very angry with her husband for abandoning her by dying. At the same time, she felt guilty for feeling like this. Not one, but two feelings she would rather not have had.
However, they were knocking at her door. I encouraged her to open the door AND the windows, and just let the feelings be there. At the same time I asked her to open the back door of her metaphorical house, so that the feelings could easily leave when their time was up.
When you do this – when you have the courage to let the feelings be there, they will go. They only hang around in the garden (trying to be fully felt) when you lock the doors and windows and effectively do your best to push them away.
Ultimately, this does not work because emotions arising in the body will stay in the body in one way or another if they are not allowed to leave.
The action of opening both doors is an action of acceptance. And although you may say ‘I don’t want to accept this (whatever feeling it is)’, that is the path to suffering.
Whenever we bash up against something that is happening that we don’t want, don’t like, or simply wish was different, and we continue trying to not have the experience, we suffer.
This is why the great spiritual teachers speak of ‘accepting what is’ or ‘being here now’, or in my words ‘stopping interfering in what life is showing me’.
Because the irony is, when we are willing to fully accept what is, in the moment, then in all likelihood, it disappears. Sometimes it takes a bit of time, but disappear it does.
Now, in relation to someone actually dying, this does not mean they will not die. It does mean that the anxiety and fear that cause so many to have treatments in the last weeks/months of life can simply dissolve. Then from a place of clarity and presence, a decision can be made as to whether treatment is appropriate or not.
But it’s all only possible when the front door AND the back door are kept open, and we welcome in whatever emotion is wanting to visit.
Whether you are grieving or not, this applies. Watch yourself the next time a feeling comes along that you wish was different. Imagine yourself just opening the doors instead of locking them. Play with it. See what happens. Let me know in the comments.