Monday, September 11, 2017

Healing From Grief

When I realized the date my column was scheduled to be posted, I must admit I felt some discomfort at the thought. I was quite nervous about what to write. With a little advice from some good friends, I told myself to sleep on it and make a decision about it in the morning.

I woke up this morning thinking about the process of healing from grief.

As most of us do, I remember this day 16 years ago, where I was and how I felt. Unlike the many who were at ground zero, I was safe in the comfort of my home watching it unfold on TV and feeling the fear grow that my husband was at work and we were not together. I remember thinking that this could be a terror attack or the beginning of a war, and the fear of not knowing if he was safe, even though he was an hour away from New York City. He was a school teacher, and I could not reach him right away.

I am grateful that I do not know anyone who passed away there, but I do know some who were there and survived. I know some who have lost friends there. I have watched and read many of the stories of survival, heroism, courage, and pain.

I also think of those who have lost loved ones unrelated to 9/11.

Most people who know me, know that I smile and laugh a lot, and like to enjoy the moment I am in as much as possible. I have been told I smile too much and it makes them think I am not authentic. Once I was  asked, “Do you feel you are overcompensating?” I have been called some nasty words when I stopped smiling. I have had days where I inadvertently expressed emotions that were not consistent with my normal, happy, public self, and those around me were noticeably surprised.

I remember when I was in school seeing a sign that said “if you see someone without a smile, give them yours, so” and it always rang true for me, so I try to greet people with a smile as much as I can.

Yes, I like to smile and enjoy what I am doing in the moment. Yes, there have been times that there is a range of emotion behind the smile that I do not wish to share in public but I have learned that to be able to feel joy, pure joy, it is important to allow ourselves to feel the whole range of emotions we have as human beings. That includes the sadness, pain, grief, disappointment and yes, even anger. I have learned that if we suppress these “negative” emotions with a forced smile, we suppress our real joy as well.

Yes, at times, the smile I wear has been a front for some of these emotions, because I feel that out in public we should put our best face forward, and it is not helpful to take our emotions out on others. Like the Sheryl Crowe song expresses: “I have a face I cannot show…” maybe it is a face I should not show at times, especially not at the expense of others. However, it is also not helpful or healthy to suppress what we feel. What I learned is that when I have a safe place to express and embrace my so-called “negative emotions,” the joy that follows is real. The smile and happiness are real, true, full and bursting at the seams.

Healing from the loss of a loved one is not like flipping a switch, it is a process; so if you know someone who is grieving, please do not tell them to “get over it,” or that it is time to “move on.” It is not helpful or supportive. What IS supportive is to give others as much time as they need, to be understanding, to listen (as difficult as that may be) and to know that everyone grieves in their way, at their own time and their own pace. Sometimes they need assistance, sometimes it takes years, and that may be their “normal.”

Embracing our sadness, grief, and pain, is not fun. It sucks. It can be downright awful. Most of us did not grow up knowing how to deal with our emotions healthily.

I know full well what it is like.  I have also experienced what it is like to suppress these negative emotions for too long a period and to me, that is much, much worse. Suppressing them recently took me to a very deep and difficult depression that I had to work my way out of. I am grateful to have found a safe place to allow myself to feel these emotions through Unified Therapy, Jim Fazio, and Dr. Paul Canali. It is there, in this last year, that I have found tremendous healing and peace, and can feel joy and happiness again, truly and authentically.

So when you see me out in the world with a smile on my face, you can be sure it is real. I hope to share a smile with you someday.

See next month’s post for solutions to keeping bugs off our skin!

 - Marie (Natural Healing Gal)

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