Posted by fxckfeelings on November 26, 2017Share This Post
One of the many ways that grief can prolong its stay in your brain is through flooding your mind with doubts and regrets, thus expanding the potential sources of pain and frustration. Then you’re not just preoccupied with mourning one loss but all the mistakes you made in relation to it, including your inability to quiet the thoughts and just move on. If, like our reader from earlier, you’re in a state of grief that you just can’t escape, here are five common negative thoughts from grief and the ways you can fight them, quiet them, and finally begin to let your mind and your heart move on.
1) “If only I’d [done that one thing that could have saved him]. “
After almost every huge disappointment in our lives, it’s human nature to imagine what could have been done to prevent disaster and spare pain. That’s why TV is filled with all manner of sportscasters, political pundits, and general opinion-havers, paid to fulfill viewers’ basic human need to understand whatever went wrong and figure out who’s to blame. When all else fails, we’ll blame ourselves rather then accept the overwhelming, uncontrollable power that bad luck has over our lives. So don’t be surprised if your thoughts dwell on everything you could have done, but don’t listen to them, either. Remind yourself of everything you did right, knowing that there’s only so much we can do to protect the ones we love, and that no amount of self-torture will change that.
2) “It’s just getting worse when it should be getting better. “
Just as we crave reasonable, logical explanations for something as inexplicable as loss, we want to expect a predictable, healing result from something as undefined and arduous as grief. Lots of people believe that you’ll heal from loss if you’re strong and prepared to face your feelings, but most shrinks see more evidence of that’s being false than true. Grief hits different people in different ways, depending more on the usual way their personalities experience and deal with strong emotions rather than on what or how much they choose to share. Having supportive friends, a therapist, or a support group is helpful, but it’s no guarantee that you’ll feel better any time in the near future. So don’t hold yourself to some imaginary, unfair timetable for recovery, especially when doing so will just make such recovery more difficult. Instead, respect the way you get through your days that are burdened with grief and your ability to keep this uncontrollable pain from derailing your entire life.
3) “I’m in so much pain that it’s hurting everyone around me.”
In some cases, like if grief is making you mean or too reliant on drugs or alcohol, then you may be right, and controlling your behavior and preventing yourself from hurting others is your number one priority. But if it’s just that your grief is making you so sullen, quiet, and/or unlike your usual self that you feel like you’re infecting them with your sadness or driving everyone away, then stop burdening yourself with unnecessary responsibility for their feelings. Their feelings are just as uncontrollable as your own and it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect oneself from other people’s pain. If they can’t stand you when you’re in pain, they’re not true friends. If they’re your kids, bearing a loved one’s pain is something they need to learn how to do. Stay focused on managing your own pain while encouraging others to do what’s necessary for theirs, and don’t worry about bringing them down.
4) “I can’t stop thinking of all the things we never said, fights we never resolved, things we never did,” etc.
About the worst thing we can imagine in a close relationship is to have death interrupt it before certain issues or disagreements can be resolved; then you’ve not only lost someone, but you’ve lost the chance to make things right. In this situation, regret enters the picture and compounds your grief with guilt. We know, however, that there are usually good reasons for conflicted, intense feelings in close family relationships. We also know that there is often no way to resolve those feelings with words, which is why we show our love by staying connected and letting bad things pass with time, so even if you both ran out of time, there’s no reason to believe the love wasn’t always there. Don’t expect life to have the kind of tidy resolutions that movies and TV shows do; instead of obsessing over loose ends and lost opportunities, remember what held you together, how you survived the bad times and how much better your life was for the love you shared.
5) “There’s no getting over this pain.”
Not only is grief unpredictable, but it may also be eternal; to some degree, the pain of loss, especially the loss of a child, can linger forever. On the other hand, so do your memories of the one you lost, the impact he had on your life, and the love you shared. Just loving someone opens you up to a world of potential pain, but it’s also a brave, admirable act to improve and give meaning to your life and perhaps even make the world a better place. The sadness may never disappear, but neither will the meaning of your relationship or the positive influence it had on you and your world.
More advice from Dr. Lastname