Author and Grief Expert Paula Shaw discusses why sometimes you have to let it all out, before you can move on.
The initial moments of a loss are often devastating. Those are the “Oh my God” moments, when it feels like the world is truly going to fall apart.
The feelings are intense; shock, anger, devastation, disbelief and fear are all common. You may feel as though you don’t want to go on living, or that you have been totally forsaken by God.
One of the most important things to do when caught in the mists of these kinds of feelings is to express them. Feelings of this intensity are definitely better out than in. Not expressing your pain is a set-up to compromise your immune system, which can lead to a myriad of physical problems. It also creates problems in the psyche, which can morph into psychological disorders like depression and anxiety.
I talk about this in-depth in my upcoming book When Will This Pain Ever End? which will be released this spring. This week I want to share an excerpt from my book that I hope will be helpful if you are in the initial phases of dealing with a loss or a difficult life transition. It is a process I call The Rant. When I’m hurting, this is my favorite method of release. Believe me, many a freeway driver has sped on in terror at the sight of me screaming my head off with the windows rolled up, while I release my angry or intense feelings. Try it and see what you think.
Have you had a chance to really tell the raw truth to someone about this major change you are experiencing? Have you sat with someone and screamed and cried and cursed the fates that brought this loss upon you? Have you just let rip, not worrying about the four-letter expletives, the way your face looks when you cry, a runny nose or mascara dripping down your anguished red cheeks? Have you pounded on pillows, rolled up the windows of the car and screamed? Have you written about your agony? If not, you may find that you need to.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your home, your dog, your job, your marriage, your trust, your faith in humankind, your money or a dear loved one…you’re pissed. This wasn’t supposed to happen to you. Even if you knew it was coming…it wasn’t supposed to hurt this much. “How can this be? How will I survive? It all feels too huge to deal with.” And truth be told, at the onset of the pain, it is too huge to deal with.
At the beginning of your loss, forget social etiquette and appropriate behavior. Say it like it is. Feel the full magnitude of the pain and shout your protests to the heavens. You have the right to do so. Something just ripped out your heart and you can’t sit by quietly.
So, it’s time to let it all out. Here’s what you do:
Find a trusted person you can do this with. Tell them ahead of time that you need to express your outrage and devastation, and that you don’t know what that will look like. Tell them you will mostly need them to sit there quietly, listening supportively, perhaps encouraging you at times or asking an occasional question. Primarily, this time is for you to be present with your pain, in the moment, and to express it in any way that feels right to you. You may need to carry out this process more than once as different aspects of the loss emerge.
Some of you may find it more comfortable to write out what you want to say and read it in someone else’s presence. This part is important; something special happens when your words are heard by other human ears. If you choose to do this, try to be as authentic as possible. Be open to leaving your written words and speaking extemporaneously, or doing whatever else may come to you in the moment. Sometimes, this is where the most powerful healing takes place.
However, a word of caution: there’s a fine line between authentically expressing your feelings and becoming them. This is where counseling can be very helpful. We need to feel the feelings and express them fully, but doing that should not become a full-time job.
We have all seen that sad, pathetic person who can never talk about anything but the loss that they experienced. It colors all of their life experiences. It is the focus of their thoughts all of the time. This kind of negative thinking actually impacts the functioning of the brain.
Stress narrows perception and disables our ability to see the big picture. Negative thoughts can activate hormones and neurotransmitters that adversely affect mood. They can cause Dopamine (a neurotransmitter essential to proper functioning of the central nervous system,) to convert to norepinephrine which can raise blood pressure and precede feelings of aggression, agitation, frustration and apathy. Clearly, this is not the direction we want to move into if we are already dealing with the intensity and upheaval of the initial phases of dealing with loss.
Doing The Rant can give your system a release of the intense energy you are feeling. As we discussed previously, release is the best thing we can do with these emotions. They are chaotic and intense and usually do nothing productive for the body or the mind.
If you are dealing with this phase of a loss or know someone who is, try this process. Don’t worry if it leads to screaming or tears. That’s the stuff we want to unload.
Finally, I have found that it is always a good idea to do calming breathing exercises once you are complete with your RANT. This could be as simple as:
This is called Square Breathing and can be very focusing and calming.
If you choose to try The Rant, or if you have another way you like to release intense emotions, please respond to this blog and share them with us.
My book When Will This Pain Ever End? contains many cutting edge mind/body exercises to help you through the various phases of the journey through loss. I am very excited to be releasing it to you this spring.
PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the auther of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as the upcoming book When Will This Pain Ever End? Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair after Suffering Profound Grief and Loss, which will be released in the spring of 2015.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
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