10 methods to assist with emotional changes in grief and life
Have you ever wanted a list of answers to life’s most difficult challenges? I have. In fact, that is the most elusive list available as we are all unique in our needs and experiences. Yet, here I am willing to offer up a list based on my own particular journey. It’s not that I have found the goldmine of answers to every possible question, but I am learning to live daily with challenges I had no control over in some life altering situations.
I have had to recognize based on my mindset in the moment, I automatically react to unpredictable situations without conscious awareness. I’ve also learned on the grief journey, I may be unique in my particular journey but not alone. This is a vast and diverse group of mourners; whether from child loss, loss of any vital relationship, job, home, business with thousands involuntarily joining daily.
Moving often generates conflicting emotions, from fear to excitement and the triggered pinging of grief against your heart with goodbyes
People make changes usually based on need or for a particular purpose. Buying and selling homes ,cars, and career changes can be enjoyable under the right circumstances, but the commitment required is far more than just financial. The chaos of change creates unavoidable internal struggles. As we sift through our collective world of material and emotional baggage, we inevitably encounter memories locked away in our subconscious minds. Grief is one of the components of change most abhorred. Grief is painful and generates exhaustive emotions.
Our minds contain a roadmap of our entire life. Every nanosecond is recorded and recall is often triggered randomly. Like putting off an important project that is critical to your success or final grade, waiting until the pressure builds enough momentum to drive into ferocious action is how I view moving. I don’t even like to pack for a trip until the last minute. Maybe I stall because I’ve moved so many times in my life. In most cases I’ve moved to another state, school, job, and country to start over for my family.
This time, there is an added element that never existed before with this move. This home is the last home my youngest son lived with me. He now resides in heaven. I see shadows of his life, our life together before I lost him, as I walk the halls and examine the items to keep or discard. This is the most exhausting mental exercise to carry. I can’t control the triggers even though I can usually talk myself through them now.
Leaving behind a world you know and moving in a new direction takes mental strength and fortitude. The upheaval of changing residence must be stressful for the most organized and minimalistic people on the planet. Moving internationally increases the need to inventory and purge my most beloved possessions and the emotional spending accumulated over time. I have stopped counting how many times I’ve procrastinated by walking away from rooms, boxes, closets, and the dreaded storage room. The accumulation of this life has not been stored neatly with only pleasant memories. I think I know what I will find, but I’m not sure of the when and where, hence the avoidance.
The clutter of our human emotions is hidden intangibly among the forgotten items gathering dust. When we are forced to look into these boxes, we aren’t always prepared to be awakened to our personal version of Pandora’s box. The onslaught of memories whether it be joy, grief, confusion, surprise, wonderment, or some combination therein, seems like we should be dressed with our own mental suit of armor before shedding light on the collection of our past.
One of the first rules of selling your home is to become emotionally detached. Removing pictures and my son’s altars were hard, but it did help me to see my house as just rooms. I feel like I’m camping with the barest necessities. I wear my son’s flannel shirt nearly every day because it is a reminder of him. I pretend he’s hugging me to comfort this awkward disjointedness of leaving this part of our life behind. I know he’s not staying here. He will watch over me wherever I live.
We are building our last home. In between the selling of our current home, we will shift to a temporary home before departing for the U.S. and once we are there we will rent a house until our new home is ready. We have a plan with several months of unknowns. I need to stay strong for the next year. At this point, I have exhausted myself enough with all the what if’s to allow myself to believe everything will work out for the best.
I keep telling myself,”I lost my son. I survived. I can do this. I am as strong as I need to be.”
For the past three months I’ve encountered different versions of myself walking, thinking, grieving, wondering and often losing sight of the reason we have decided to relocate back to our home country. So much has happened in the eleven years we’ve lived in Australia and most of those events were positive. Our life is one layer on top of the next or the previous, however you view your world. I’ve been reliving some of these layers during this reorganization. I will miss so much of the good I’ve experienced and enjoyed in this country. Every place I’ve lived has become a positive opportunity and yet I have also grieved every move to some extent.
I know you are still with me but I’m so disconnected from myself, I can’t hear or see your comforting signs
I often feel tied in knots as I sift through papers and pictures. Losing my youngest son has brought back the grief but in a different way this time. This is a new process of grief. I am keeping all that I can but there are items he would want me to let go of and give to someone in need of a warm coat, or to his friends that could use some of his gear and leave them with a reminder of my son in their lives. Regardless of how I justify keeping or letting go of these material items, my son’s energy is attached to them in some form. I have convinced myself that I am sharing him with those in need of his grace and loving nature.
I have found receipts for my son among the sympathy cards and even a cartoon he liked to draw when studying. I have to stop, read, breathe, and think about those months and now years that have passed. I ponder what he is thinking as he watches me work through this next phase of my life. I also ponder what he would be doing if he were still here and going through this with me. I imagine he would have his career started and living his dreams.
While my grief has changed over the years, missing my son is always with me. I miss my youngest son. Learning to live with him in heaven takes a tremendous amount of grace. I’m a work in progress. Everyone has something to overcome that seems impossible. I know I can get through this even if I stop and shed a few quiet tears and feel anxious at times. Recognising that I have to walk away for a few hours or a day because I am overwhelmed allows me to continue with this part of my life right now.
Whether you are grieving the loss of a child, parent, friend, job loss, or even a move, allow yourself to experience the emotions and shed the tears. You may not feel like you are healing, but this is a long journey and there are no rules on how our hearts deal with loss.We are all a work in progress. Traumatic events shape us, and change our view of the world and ourselves. We ultimately become stronger even though we often don’t feel that way. We usually don’t feel that we have a choice to be strong, but our loved ones would want us to be happy and living meaningful lives.
Part of change, grief, and moving forward in life requires purposely choosing and accepting something better for ourselves, and family. I’ve held myself back in my worst moments that lasted far longer than a few months, but for more than two years. I was barely surviving mentally and emotionally. I had to find a way to push through toward a more positive thought process on to healing myself. Medication was necessary, but it was also a temporary bandaid for my overall health. I struggled to differentiate between the physical, emotional, and mental pain. I certainly was in a spiritual downward spiral at the same time.
Everything affects everything in the worst moments and even the best moments
This has been a year of endless activity with approximately another full year ahead of more endless activity before I move permanently into my new surroundings. I won’t speculate on how long the settling in will take, but I am the only one responsible for my attitude and outlook. I have to remember to stay vigilant and mindful of my internal dialogue to make my own life easier for me during the continuously adjusting facets of change, grief triggers, and forging unknown territory.
Going through the process of eminent change has given me many opportunities for growth and I’ve learned some tough lessons along the way. As with any lesson, the learning is not over at any specific time. Opening our hearts and minds to accepting good outcomes is akin to having faith. Most importantly we need to decide to have a positive faith even though setbacks can and do occur.
When selling homes, cars, changing jobs, and/or our environment, we need to plan how and what actions we need to take. Initially, this may be scary, but it also helps to having a starting point. For every item we can mark off the list, the closer we get to successful accomplishments.
- Becoming emotionally detached helps ease the pain in any conflict or challenge
- Make a list of the positive changes in your new environment (i.e. location, growing season, family closeness, etc)
- Choose an item or several to take with you that represents the good of what you are leaving to put in your new surroundings
- Allow yourself to grieve as you become mentally and emotionally aware of the changes ahead
- Triggers of loss don’t need to make sense to you or anyone else
- Allow time to meditate to clear your mind from the constant bombardment of worry, fear, and frustrations
- Everything takes time and developing patience with yourself and others to alleviate unnecessary stress
- While we can’t control every situation, we can choose to take control over our emotions and outlook
- Read positive and inspirational material to help you through the hurdles
- Journaling your experience helps to give you perspective and insight, a place to vent and let go of overwhelming emotions, and discover a coping mechanism to see you through the changes
I have recently developed the mantra of ‘moving forward’ when facing roadblocks or potential challenges. Dwelling on the negative and downsides of ‘what ifs’ wastes energy and vital strength even though the temptation often pulls me in before I resist the temptation to fall into a bottomless spiral.
As I move forward into tomorrow, I will take with me the precious memories of yesterday and lessons learned today. Hopefully I will cull out the brightest and happiest of life’s moments to sustain me when grief, fear, and uncertainty knock upon my door. I pray for all walking an unknown path to develop their own peaceful strategy to place one foot in front of the other and forge ahead.