The Importance of Proper Grieving – “Feeling Our Feelings”
In the wake of the recent tragedy at Michigan State, many of us find ourselves dealing with intense emotions. Of course our hearts go out to those victims of the shooting and their loved ones, but we also recognize the far reaching impact such a catastrophic event has on so many. College students, their parents, professors, and alumni across our nation have experienced emotions including but not limited to shock, fear, numbness, anger, and sadness. So, what can we understand about these feelings and our much needed healing process?
A profound truth is found in the word “Feelings” and it is in the root word “FEEL”. Proper grieving involves our willingness to “Feel our Feeling(s)” of grief. Taking the time to be with our feelings instead of avoiding them is an important part of the grieving process. Sometimes feelings get a bad reputation and become avoided through distraction or numbing which prevents us from allowing our emotions to express and instead causes them to become in a sense trapped energy that is then stored inside our bodies. That unexpressed trapped energy can lead to additional mental and even physical health problems.
A Healing Process
It is important to remember that family, loved ones, and counselors can serve as an important means of support for us when we are stressed and grieving. Although we may wish we could achieve quick closure and move forward that is not the norm when it comes to grieving. A more appropriate focus is to seek to engage in the healing process. There is no true timeline for grief and individuals may grieve differently in their timing and in their process of learning to live with the reality of the traumatic event which has impacted their life in a very real way.
The American Psychological Association (ACA) has provided a list of tips in their article “Managing Distress In The Aftermath Of A Mass Shooting”. They noted the following:
- Talk about it. Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen to your concerns. Receiving support and care can be comforting and reassuring. It often helps to speak with others who have shared your experience so you do not feel so different or alone.
- Strive for balance. When a tragedy occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and have a negative or pessimistic outlook. Balance that viewpoint by reminding yourself of people and events which are meaningful and comforting, even encouraging. Striving for balance empowers you and allows for a healthier perspective on yourself and the world around you.
- Turn it off and take a break. You may want to keep informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the Internet, television, newspapers or magazines. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed to it can actually increase your stress. The images can be very powerful in reawakening your feeling of distress. Also, schedule some breaks to distract yourself from thinking about the incident and focus instead on something you enjoy. Try to do something that will lift your spirits.
- Honor your feelings. Remember that it is common to have a range of emotions after a traumatic incident. You may experience intense stress similar to the effects of a physical injury. For example, you may feel exhausted, sore or off balance.
- Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of rest and build physical activity into your day. Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can suppress your feelings rather than help you to manage and lessen your distress. In addition, alcohol and drugs may intensify your emotional or physical pain. Establish or re-establish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. If you are having trouble sleeping, try some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
- Help others or do something productive. Locate resources in your community on ways that you can help people who have been affected by this incident, or have other needs. Helping someone else often has the benefit of making you feel better, too.
- If you have recently lost friends or family in this or other tragedies. Remember that grief is a long process. Give yourself time to experience your feelings and to recover. For some, this might involve staying at home; for others it may mean getting back to your daily routine. Dealing with the shock and trauma of such an event will take time. It is typical to expect many ups and downs, including “survivor guilt”—feeling bad that you escaped the tragedy while others did not.
Please know that you are not alone in your grief, there are people, professionals, and groups available to help as you engage in your healing process of grieving.
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