Emotions are not something that simply moves around in the brain; They invade every cell in the body and affect the immune system. However, they are ingenious in that they convey not only our inner response to change, but equally important, and ultimately, many messages about how to deal with our current dilemma.
How we perceive a particular loss has a huge impact on the feelings that come to the surface. If we believe the loss of a loved one is inevitable, we grieve in one way. If we think the loss is unjustified, we grieve very differently.
The three most obvious emotions associated with grief are anger, guilt, and depression. Some mourners feel one or more of these feelings, and some feel none at all.
If you are currently dealing with one of the above, examine the questions these feelings pose to you. Then apply your answers by taking specific actions, and see if your grief trajectory takes a turn for the better.
1. Although anger is quite an emotion because we are deprived of something of value, it also sends the following messages to listen to carefully. Am I using my anger to cover up other feelings (such as fear, frustration, depression, dependency, or guilt)? Does this make me refuse to accept death and prolong my suffering? What do I need to get it back in order to get rid of my anger? This question asks you to think about what you should do with your emotional energy, and where you can reinvest it.
Does my anger thwart my ability to love? Love is the most powerful coping response you can generate in coping with your loss because it will open you up to a different view of your world – and the role of inevitable loss and change. Am I turning my anger into a grudge by refusing to forgive? The gift of grudge is the guarantee of continued misery.
2. Guilt usually asks for the following. Am I acting like I should be omnipotent? Often when looking back at an event that results in guilt, the mourner becomes the second guesser and says “I should have done this or that?” Guilt also says what do I need to change? Grief always forces change. And guilt suggests, I can change the way I view the guilt-inducing event.
Is this feeling of genuine cause-and-effect guilt or is it neurotic guilt (where the effect dwarfs any possible cause or no cause at all)? If the guilt is real, how can I make reparation? If guilt is neurotic, why do I feel responsible for everything? Note that most guilt associated with the death of a loved one is not actual guilt. One way to combat nervous guilt is to focus on all the many good things you have done for your loved one.
3. A mood disorder caused by depression is not only one of the most common emotions, but also the most researched. The following questions are for those experiencing acute, uncomplicated grief with reactive depression. What should I give up? The late psychiatrist M. Scott Beck defined depression as our inability to let go of the old for the new, which is a very normal human response in the face of massive change. What old habits, beliefs, approaches, relationships, or parts of your life need to be let go?
Depression raises one of the most important questions of all: What do I need to add to my life? What are the knowledge, skills, abilities or ideas? What daily spirituality will help me get over my great loss?
To summarize, you create your emotional responses when a loved one dies based on your beliefs, perceptions, and meanings associated with the loss. A careful review of the factors associated with the depth of your feelings—along with the inner wisdom your emotions may manifest in the form of some of the above questions—brings to light the unusual resource that lies within you. Let it use and play.
Study the questions carefully. It requires a lot of your time and careful analysis. The result will be that you will better direct your own course of grief work and come to terms with your great loss.