“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” – RUMI
When we are grieving the loss of a loved one, while juggling the emotional calamity, the mental and physical stress of attempting to operate at a functional level at work and at home, it’s easy for us to unknowingly slip into self-sabotaging habits on our journey to becoming whole again.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, there is no standard time for healing from loss. For some, it could be 1 year, for others, it may take 7 years. And at times, it will feel like we have taken 1 step forwards, and 2 steps back. But you should still see some level of progress.
“Progress” meaning there’s at least some indication of the progression towards a peaceful acceptance. Some signs of progress include: feeling physically and mentally lighter, more functional while performing daily tasks, and you remember what it feels like to laugh wholeheartedly, even if only for a brief moment.
If you have been wanting to move forward on your healing journey, but for some reason, are finding it difficult to move forward in life. Or if you feel as if you are sinking deeper into depression, and are feeling worse than at the time of initial loss. Then you might be “stuck” in grief.
Signs you are stuck in the mourning process, or are self-sabotaging your healing from grief are:
- Experiencing chronic, unexplained (after seeing a Physician) physical pain
- Feeling heavy, lethargic, or run-down most days
- Lack of mental, or visual clarity
- Inability to concentrate, or form coherent sentences
- Unexplained, or unintended rapid weight gain
Developing some degree of self-awareness will help us catch and observe ourselves from a higher perspective when we do slip into these sabotaging habits. Though if, and when you do notice yourself engaging in these sabotaging habits, do approach it with “unconditional loving-kindness” for yourself.
Avoid judging, or shaming yourself because you have unknowingly slipped into these habits. It’s not the end of the world. Simply practice patience, self-love, and compassion with yourself.
Here are the ways that we are sabotaging our pilgrimage to healing from loss:
1. LETTING LONELINESS STEER YOUR BOAT
When we have spent so many years with our spouse, and to one day wake up to an empty bed, knowing that our home will never be graced with his/her presence again, is quite a hard pill to swallow.
In those moments of deep loneliness, particularly if we have unresolved abandonment issues, it’s quite natural, and only human, to crave physical and emotional intimacy. Especially at the level of connection you’ve had with your loved one.
But just know that no matter how lonely you feel at this moment – no other human being would be able to substitute your late spouse. Firstly, the love connection and the relationship shared between you both are unique to only the two of you. The second factor is time. You would not be able to form as deep of a connection with someone in such a short amount of time compared to the relationship you’ve have spent years building with your late loved one.
Therefore, wishing or expecting another human being to fulfill the temporary level of deep emotional and physical intimacy that you’ve once shared with your spouse is simply unrealistic and unfair to the other party.
CURE LONELINESS WITH OXYTOCIN
Oxytocin one of the four main “feel good” hormones that gives us a sense of happiness and fulfillment – it is the hormone released from romantic bonding, and sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy, however, is not the only means through which oxytocin is released.
Our body can also release oxytocin through any sort of meaningful connection such as friendship, sisterhood/brotherhood, parent-child, or through hugging your pet. As long as we feel a sense of belonging, and being cared for, we can still experience the feel-good hormonal effects from oxytocin without having to engage in romantic relations in the meantime.
2. SUPRESSING OR RUNNING AWAY FROM PAIN
In the same respect that we are motivated towards seeking pleasure, we are also biologically designed to run away from pain.
Another naturally human thing to do is to run the opposite direction from pain. After all, this self-preservation mechanism has ensured the survival of our species for the last hundred million years.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the only way out, is through.
Or if you’ve heard of the saying, “Whatever you resist, persists.”
Suppressing or running away from our painful emotions will only prolong our suffering. It may feel uncomfortable to just sit with our pain, with our emotions, to be with it. But it IS the only way out.
This is where mindfulness and self-awareness comes in to play. As soon as we notice the urge to run the opposite direction of our pain, we should practice dropping even deeper into the pain.
Yes, it is going to hurt. It may feel uncomfortable, for a while. You might “bleed” from the expansion of your heart. But beneath all the pain and the heartache, you will soon be able to feel a profound sense of peace. The sense of peace is the home of our Soul.
And this sense of peace is tender enough to heal the deepest of wounds if you are willing to stay.
It may take several attempts, several failed attempts. But nevertheless, as long as your intention is to heal, this journey will do more than healing your grief. It will show you what compassion is, what self-love is, what unconditional love is, what courage is, what strength is, what joy is, and what freedom truly is.
3. RESISTANCE – NOT WILLING TO LET GO
When we are in resistance to “what is,” or to our current reality, or current emotional state, we are exerting a ton of our vital energy to hold on to the fragments of the past. In other words, we are building up a wall between ourselves and life due to our non-acceptance to the natural flow.
We are spending all of our life force to maintain this wall, unwilling to let go of situations, or people we need to let go of.
Another way to look at it is, we are fighting tooth and nail to swim upstream as opposed to flowing with the Universal current of life.
As a result, we invite a lot of suffering in our resistance to “what is.” The resistance may manifest itself as physical pain, or as visible weight gain. The weight gain is due to your body having to expand itself to hold more of the pain, and your resistance to the pain.
WEIGHT GAIN DUE TO RESISTANCE
The unexplained, and unintended rapid weight gain has proven true for me along my self-healing journey. When I am in resistance to fully feeling my pain, I would visibly gain weight, even if the numbers on the scale has only varied slightly.
That’s because the “weight” gained is energetic weight, so it doesn’t affect the actual physical weight of your body.
But once I let go of any resistance, and fully surrender to my pain and process my emotions through a good cry, then I would see a substantial difference in my body weight as little as the next day. (The difference are sometimes noticed by my family members, so I know it’s not merely a subjective experience.)
4. SELF-VICTIMIZATION – ATTACHMENT TO YOUR SUFFERING
When you become attached to the identity of being a widow, or widower, wallowing in the self-victim role, and continuing to do so to get attention and love from others, you have become attached to your suffering.
There is nothing wrong with reaching out to close friends and family members for support. In fact, friendship and familial support is an integral part of healing. This is not what I’m referring to.
The attachment I’m referring to will bind you to perpetual suffering. You will exhibit some of these traits:
- Telling your story to others to gain pity and sympathy
- Focusing on the “bad” and blind to the “good” in life
- Seeing yourself as a victim to circumstances
- Developing a sense of entitlement because life “owes” you
In a way, you are holding on to the past and to your pain because it has now become a part of your ego identity.
Once you let go of your attachment to suffering and self-victimization – once you’ve taken steps to heal your wound, then that part of you will gradually dissolve. And you – or rather your ego – fear losing a part of the identity (ie. widow/widower, or victim mentality) whose mere existence is dependent on the power you give it.
We are shedding the metaphoric skin of our past. This inevitable process of death, rebirth, and transformation must take place before we are able to experience the turn of a new chapter.
Any resistance or attachment to our suffering will only inflict an endless cycle of pain and suffering unto ourselves.
HOW TO GET “UNSTUCK” IN GRIEF
The key to getting “unstuck” on our journey to healing is:
Once we catch ourselves in the act of running away from our painful emotions – whatever emotions may arise: deep sadness and longing, anger, fear, anxiety, palpitations, guilt, regret, emptiness, loneliness, sense of abandonment, etc.
It’s crucial that we resist the urge to run from these painful emotions, but instead, walk towards them, with our arms wide open.
We need to accept, surrender to, and dive even deeper into the fertile grounds of our pain. It is only through fully accepting, and letting our entire being feel the pain are we then able to let go of it.
The only way out, is through.
So whether it’s making split-second decisions based on loneliness, the automatic response to either suppress, or run away from our pain. Or if you’re experiencing energetic weight gain due to internal resistance. Or if you’ve subconsciously adopted the self-victimization mentality, where you are attached to your suffering. These are all self-sabotaging habits we should be aware of, that will hold us back on our healing journey, if we’re not careful.
The more we are able to mindfully observe ourselves in the moment of slipping into these habits, the quicker these self-sabotaging habits will naturally drop away.
But the key to overcoming this painful period is to go where the pain is. There is no other way.
What are your thoughts on this topic? What has helped you heal along the way? Share it with us in the comment section below!