Often in our grief journey, well intentioned family members or friends seem to press on us a bit to try to get us to open up and share our feelings. Sometimes they use the question that has become stereotypical of counselors portrayed in TV or movies (but not necessarily used routinely by all counselors). They may ask – So, how do you feel about that? I may be fine with my closest friend asking me that, but often I may inwardly react negatively, with thoughts and feelings like: “That’s none of your business!” or “That’s too personal for me to share right now!” or “I don’t want you to psycho-analyze me… I just want you to support me.” It’s much more helpful if family and friends will continue to be there, building a comfortable relationship which will allow me (not force me) to share my feelings when I’m ready. Telling me “I’m available if and when you want to talk about it” helps me much more than “So, how do you feel about that?”
After all, we believe that some feelings in grief are bad, while others (fewer?) are good – right?
Let’s go down that path for a few moments. Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil, then draw a line down the middle of the page from top to bottom. Label one side “Bad Grief Feelings” and the other “Good Grief Feelings.” Then begin working on your own list. If you’re like many, you’ll end up with more feelings in your “bad” column than your “good” one. Your longer list may include words like: anger, bitterness, fear, guilt, depression, loneliness… and the list goes on, right? You may struggle a bit to place even a few on the “good” side, but you may end up with ones like: remembering, love, peace, thankfulness, or hope. But, even as you write, you may decide to put something like remembering on both lists, since memories can evoke various kinds of feelings at different points on our journey.
Now, let’s take the next step – one that reveals my philosophy about feelings on the grief journey. Scratch through the column labels on your chart – eliminating the bad and good titles. Consider my opinion: I don’t believe that feelings either good or bad. I believe that feelings just are. We were created with a wide range of possible feelings. They are “in there” waiting to be triggered by thoughts and circumstances. Admittedly, we can do good or bad things in response to our feelings. For example, when our anger boils up in us, it would be bad to express that anger by punching our fist through a wall. We would likely have to pay for repairs, and might even end up with broken bones in our hand. Or, we could express our anger by shouting it out (in an appropriate location) or blowing it into a paper bag and popping it – and releasing it!
Here’s what adds to my belief that feelings are neither good nor bad. If some of our feelings are “bad,” when I have one of those “bad” feelings in response to my loss, I my immediately feel bad about even having that feeling. Like the person who believes guilt is always “bad” – then they feel more guilty for having the “bad feeling” of guilt!
I’m not trying to say that we will always be comfortable and at ease with our feelings. But, I do believe that even the more challenging feelings of our grief journey can be opportunities for greater awareness (asking, “Why am I feeling this way?”) and growth (deciding how to handle and express those feelings when they come to the surface).
For years I have read my favorite book about feelings to children, teens and adult in an effort to help them recognize that we are made up of so many different feelings. In my opinion, My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss is a “must read.” Now I have another favorite book about feelings to read to people of all ages. In My Heart: A Book of Feelings is by Jo Witek. You can watch a video of the book being read for the camera at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIfLgHBwYx4
I hope we can learn to be more comfortable with our feelings and the expressions of our feelings, without having to deal with people always asking – So, how do you feel about that?
Need to talk to someone about your feelings? Call The Hope & Healing Place – 806-371-8998 – and connect with one of our compassionate listeners!
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