Why is it so painful to feel our emotions? To feel ALL of our emotions. I’m conviced that many addictions and problems in the world come from people not recognizing and accepting negative emotion as part of life.
When we lost our daughter, I did not realize that I could feel such pain in my life. But as I felt the pain I tried to lean in to it and accept it as a sign that I have loved. I have loved someone so very much and now the pain is there because I miss her. This was the first time in my life I could understand drinking. I have never drank in my life, but I often thought that if I had drank before and I knew what it was like to numb the pain it would be so very tempting to numb it. It is so painful and I did not want to feel it.
This would be the same for any other way to numb or hide our feelings. I kept telling my therapist that I had no choice to but to come to therapy and get better. I need to get better, feel this pain, and make goals for the future because I have other children to raise and a husband to love. My therapist told me, “ You keep saying that you have no choice, but you know that you do right?”
I was like “Um, no I don’t have a choice. I spend my life in therapy because I have to.” He told me, “ You are making the choice to come to therapy, I have other clients that make other choices, like gambling their house away or drinking to cover the pain”. So that was when I realized that I did have a choice. And I was choosing to try to get better.
I want to caution you, encourage you, or give you a fair warning, that if you are medicating, drugging, shopping, gambling, eating, whatever you are doing to not feel your emotions, you will just meet those emotions on the other side. You CANNOT hide from them. If you try to stuff them, they will come up again, and again, and again in your life. I remember asking my mother-in-law(who has also lost a daughter), Can I just please wake up on the other side? She told me the only way is forward and through. I know so badly you want to not feel the pain. But if you try to numb it, it will just be there when you quit numbing it. You cannot hide from it.
What I have learned as time goes on, is that leaning into that pain is so so healing. When I was dealing with an emotion like guilt. I had lots of guilt that my daughter was alone when she died, guilt that I didn’t go into the room in the middle of the night when she was crying because she stopped, guilt that I did something wrong that didn’t save her. If I were to shy away from that guilt and just think of myself as guilty, then I am sure I would still feel that way today. Instead I leaned into the emotion of guilt. I talked about it with others, got it outside of my body and examined it with compassion. Then I have been able to let go because I understand that there was nothing I could have done. Yet I think everyone has their own version of guilt that they deal with after something happens, and we need to reconcile with the guilt in order to move forward with our lives. If we don’t, it can consume and eat up the rest of our lives.
The same goes for any of the emotions that come with grief, anger, sadness, depression, numbness, anxiety, shock, regret, all of these emotions are part of grief. I don’t think any emotion is unreasonable in grief, and if you acknowledge that you are grieving and that is why you are feeling this emotion, you are able to feel the emotion and let go of it instead of it ruminating in your body and your mind for many many years to come.
…at the same time, I kind of want that pain, because it reminds me that I’m human and that I really do miss my daughter. That I really am a mother who has lost a child. It shows me that emotion is part of our world, and it feels good to cry. After a good cry is when I feel like my burden just got a little bit lighter.
For some reason there’s this idea that life needs to be happy all the of the time. I have struggled with this myself, getting frustrated when I am down or not in the best mood. It’s hard being in the dumps because it’s no fun. But when we are curious about our emotions and explore them, we can come to understand more about ourselves. I love this idea that we should shoot for 50% happiness in our life. All the other time is other emotions, negative emotions included.
I have done many things to try to be 90% happy and only 10% sad. But the truth is we need to feel the pain, sorrow, shame, in order to feel joy, happiness, and gratefulness. When I’m feeling sad or frustrated, or life feels crazy, I have to remind myself that that’s okay. That without these moments of sadness or pain, I would not know to appreciate the good things in my life. Without feeling like life is crazy and busy, I wouldn’t know to soak in when the moments are peaceful and calm.
I have noticed that as the pain of my daughters loss has gradual gotten less and less, when it does hurt it hurts SOO bad. Because I’m not used to that depth of pain on a daily basis anymore. But at the same time, I kind of want that pain, because it reminds me that I’m human and that I really do miss my daughter. That I really am a mother who has lost a child. It shows me that emotion is part of our world, and it feels good to cry. After a good cry is when I feel like my burden just got a little bit lighter.
How can you lean into your pain? How can you stop stuffing your emotions because you “shouldn’t” feel that way? Or because you don’t want to be deemed as crazy, or unhinged? What steps can you take to slow down so you have time to process what has happened to you?
Do you even want to feel your emotions? I hope you do and you will, because your life can get better, and you can learn to live with the grief and the death of you loved one, if only you allow yourself the chance to grieve.
Writing can be helpful in starting to come to understand what we are thinking, feeling, and help us process our emotions. I made a journaling practice download that you can get and start to get your thoughts out of your head and let yourself grieve.