Boy Talk #3: Tapping Into Grief with Self-Empathy

candle with hands

candle with hands

by Guest Author Carole DowningAuthor of Singing Beyond Sorrow - A Year of Grief, Gratitude, and Grace Grief. It can hang around us like a thick cloak or all encompassing fog. When a wave of grief comes through, it can stunt our days without respect for how much we have to do or need to show up for in our lives. And yet somehow we need to find the resources to parent our children or teach in a classroom in a way that is engaged and connected at a time when we may feel the most disconnected.We all feel grief at some point in our lives and it’s a normal and natural reaction to a significant loss. However, our culture tends not to talk about grief and so whether we are grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job or the other myriad of things that create the feeling of loss, we can feel quite alone.As a former hospice nurse and someone who has experienced the death of a spouse, the one encouragement I share for anyone experiencing grief is to acknowledge feelings and create a place of empathy. It seems logical to try and avoid grief, but often the first step to healing is to move toward all that we are feeling instead of pushing our emotions away. When we acknowledge the grief that is present, there is room for us to attend to and comfort the places that are hurting. And in attending to our own feelings, we create the possibility for the children in our lives to see a model for moving through grief.It can feel challenging to reach out for support when we are feeling lost in grief, but a powerful first step can be finding a place of self-empathy where we can move ourselves beyond the feelings and into comforting actions.Some tips for accessing self-empathy and caring in moments of grief and loss:1. Tune in to what you are saying in your mind about your current state. Are you being hard on yourself? Is there any judgment around what you are feeling? Is there room for you to be grieving?2. Accept that what you are feeling is okay. Experiencing grief in times of loss and change is a normal human response and it’s natural to be having a broad range of feelings. Underneath the intensity of grief may be feelings of anger, fear, sadness, loneliness or confusion. See if you can give yourself a moment to name what you are feeling. You may feel like you need to be showing up for your children or students but it’s okay in this very moment to feel your own emotions before moving to help others.3. See if you can hear the voice of someone who cares about you. What would they say to you in this moment? How would they comfort you in this time of grief?4. Know that in the midst of loss you are doing the very best you can in this moment. Be gentle with yourself and know that there is no “right” way to experience grief.5. Ask yourself, what is most important in this moment? What is essential to get done or attend to right now? See if you can direct your energy to whatever needs your time and attention the most rather than trying to do everything you would expect to do in times of greater balance.6. Lastly, see if there is something that you can do to bolster your self-care as you go through the days ahead. Would it be helpful to walk outside or be in nature? Can you find the depth of a long slow breath? Is there some music that helps you find your flow? Is there a friend you could reach out to for support? Trust that whatever has brought you joy in the past, even if it takes energy to do during this time, has the potential to eventually open a window to feelings of lightness and renewal.Grief is a natural part of life that we all will experience at some point and through many different experiences and times. It can be helpful to remember that the losses of our lives are a part of the larger ebb and flow that also includes joy and new beginnings. In challenging times we can remember that the waves of grief do not last forever. A wave will move through, sometimes as if an entire ocean is emptying itself over our tender hearts, but the wave does not last forever and there are steadier seas ahead.Save your seat for BOY TALKS here.

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