It's been a hot minute since I've written in my blog, and for that I apologize! Between focusing on my health, work, a gnarly bout of seasonal depression, and life in general, my motivation to write disappeared, unfortunately. Thankfully, I'm finding extra mental energy to dedicate toward writing again, and this is a blog post I have been wanting to write for quite some time.
Grief is defined as "deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death." Of course, there are other types of grief (read: divorce, best friends parting ways, losing a home, etc.), but this post will focus on grief associated with someone's passing.
While we can logically understand the circle of life and that everyone will pass, when it is someone we love or know or had some sort of attachment to it can be very difficult to process and sit with grief and its corresponding negative emotions.
Last April, I unfortunately lost my uncle to a long battle with his health. The experience was a difficult one for my family, of course, and being one of the empaths in our crew, I found myself trying to work through my emotions surrounding my uncle's death as well as emotions I was absorbing from others.
It is oftentimes challenging enough to wade through my *very* strong emotions in situations like these, so adding energy and emotions from others to the mix can create a very tumultuous environment in my head and heart. Thankfully, I have an awesome therapist and I also have learned coping mechanisms along the way to help me in these moments.
With that being said, here are some strategies I use to work through my own grief and avoid overly absorbing emotions and energy from others.
It Is Okay To Lean Into Your Feelings
Unfortunately, we (United States peeps) seem to live in a society where repressing emotions is valued over letting your feelings fly free. Now, I'm not advocating for running around like a banshee screaming and crying (although sometimes ya just gotta get that energy out... no judgement here) and wallowing in the darkest corners of your mind for hours on end, but when you lose someone you love you need to process your emotions.
Yet, first, you may need to acknowledge that it is okay to feel how you're feeling. It is okay to be sad, upset, depressed, angry, or whatever else is coursing through you. Grief looks different for everyone, so don't judge yourself for how you're feeling. Give yourself time and space - maybe even carve out a specific time of day if you need to - to sit and listen to what your emotions are telling you.
Give Yourself Time To Process
There is no need to race through the grieving process. You don't necessarily want to get stuck there and live in that space for the rest of your life, but rushing through processing emotions after someone passes is a recipe for suppressed feelings to crop up later in life. As long as you're doing what you think is right to take care of yourself, take however long you need to translate how you're feeling.
As an empath, processing emotions can be tiring and tug at your heart strings more than the average person. I suggest creating a safe space where you can be alone (unless if you have someone who you feel comfortable enough around in these moments) to process. If you're like me, audible movie-style sobs will be a regular occurrence, so having an environment where you can let it all out is key.
Take A Timeout If You Need To
In relation to the last point, you don't want to focus so much on processing your emotions that you forget to take care of yourself in other aspects of your life. Grief can bring about stress and may even trigger PTSD in some, so it's especially important to be in tune with your nervous system and mental health so that you don't bottom out.
Ways that I practice self-care in these moments include doing yoga and meditation, taking a bath, going on a long walk out in nature, listening to music (empaths are really affected by music, so you may want to avoid sad music during this step), treating myself to a guilty pleasure (hello, entire jar of sunflower butter ^_^), or whatever else you know will make you feel happy and relaxed.
Speak With A Therapist
In my ideal world, everyone would see a therapist. We all have things we need to work on in terms of character development and working through false beliefs. But, between the stigmatization, lack of motivation to better oneself, and most frustrating, roadblocks set forth by our healthcare system, not everyone can or will see a therapist.
If you already work with a therapist, talk with them about what you're going through in an upcoming session. They are there to listen and help you work through these feelings in a safe manner. If you don't see a therapist and have the means to do so, perhaps see if a friend or loved one can provide you with a recommendation, or take to Google and look up practitioners in your area. If you are unable to work with a therapist, you may want to join a grief forum online or lean on friends and family during your difficult time. No one should have to deal with grief all alone.
There Is No Timeline That Is Right Or Wrong
I somewhat alluded to this up above in saying "give yourself time to process," and this just takes that one step further: everyone is different and there is no formula for when you should be "over" your grief. To be honest, I think grief is something that stays with us for life, we just figure out how to live with it. For instance, just the other day I was overcome with emotions that shook me to my core in relation to my grandfather not being alive, and he passed away ten years ago.
That being said, do not beat yourself up if someone else has "moved on" from their grief seemingly faster than you. In addition, don't feel bad if someone else is taking longer than you are to move through these emotions. Everyone is different - there is no right or wrong. My main piece of advice for my fellow empaths is to make sure that you aren't constantly living in a space of sadness and sorrow if possible, because that will certainly burn you out and make daily life difficult to navigate through.
Create Boundaries & Protect Yourself From Others' Grief
Now, this strategy isn't meant to come from a place of malice or to isolate oneself from others. It is a skill that has taken me quite some time to develop, and I am still working on it and probably always will be. Boundaries are difficult for empaths to create and they do not come naturally to us.
We want to take the pain away from our loved ones in moments like these and we want to fix whatever is wrong. While this is an altruistic trait to possess, it can create a lot of issues for all parties involved if lines are crossed or too much energy is spent trying to help others.
In the situation with my uncle, I was involved in the wake and the funeral and interacted with so many of his loved ones. While these interactions were all respectful and from a place of love for my uncle, they were still draining. Yet, I told myself in my head that I would open up to others and put out that energy to be there for my family and to honor my uncle.
Conversely, in situations where someone passes and you may not want to open yourself up to everyone and everything, developing boundaries are important. But how do you do that?
Grief certainly isn't easy to work through and it is a difficult emotion to sit with. If you have any strategies that have helped you work through grief please share in the comments! If you're an empath, I'd love to hear how you've worked to create healthy boundaries in your life too