Stress and Grieving – what to do about it.
Most people have been on a plane where the flight attendants have given the pre-flight demonstrations of how to secure your belt, where the life jacket is and where the exits are located. When they announce “in the event of the air pressure falling an oxygen mask will drop please place yours on first before assisting others”, this tried and tested safety procedure is never more relevant then when we have to deal with grief.
For those of us fortunate to keep going on the treadmill of life there comes a time when we all experience the loss of someone we love and hold dear to us.
For some they see loved ones go through a health crisis and have to cope, assist and be resilient for often long protracted periods of time.
As a coach I have coached 100’s of coaches an therapists and always encourage them to go there first, and by this I mean practice what we coach.
Earlier this year I had a personal experience of having to walk my talk. I am sharing this not so people contact me to let me know “I am sorry for your loss”or to wish me condolences ( I know you are!), nor to suggest we are all able to be emotion free when dealing with ill health or death.
I am sharing this post to encourage all readers to practice self-care on a daily basis because then when you really need it, it will be there for you.
The time to practice learning a useful skill or new behavior is not when you need it but before you need it.
Back in February my mother fell ill and was hospitalized for a month before finally passing away, we witnessed her going through a month of excruciating pain before finding peace; two weeks before her funeral my father who was struggling to cope with her death was diagnosed with skin cancer and then was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart condition. Thankfully he was discharged from hospital the day before her funeral. Three days before the funeral my ex wife (who I have a good and close relationship with) was taken into hospital with a suspected stroke, which turned out not to be a stroke but she had suffered brain lesions and was diagnosed (incorrectly) with a fatal neurological disorder….. not a great few months!
For nearly 3 months the focus was on supporting others to cope and deal with fear, uncertainty and loss. And throughout this period (and this is ongoing) I am eternally grateful for all I know about thinking and how it creates our emotions. More importantly I am grateful for knowing how to keep calm while in the midst of chaos.
What I recognized during this period was the raw chemical state we call grief and how it affects our thinking. Grief can feel visceral, often erupting and surprising us especially when we feel we are doing okay. We all deal with it in our own way and I don’t believe there is an expiration date on it, there is probably never a time when we should be “over it”.
Unfortunately many do not know how to deal with grief and for some they suppress the release of the emotions simply plugging up the release of adrenaline, cortisol and nor-adrenaline. At some time this will either overflow or affect the immune system as the stress chemistry wears it down.
Suppression and avoidance is a common strategy albeit an unhealthy strategy especially over a long term.
Yet how many of us have met someone who has lost a loved one, received bad news about a family or friends health and they are expected within a few weeks or a month to be back to work, business as usual.
What I noticed during the months after my mothers passing was an in ability to concentrate for the same periods of time as I used to, I also noticed that although I am generally grounded, those who k
now me often comment on how I don’t get fazed or overwhelmed by anything, I noticed that simple things which previously would have been just stuff happening seemed to take on more meaning.
Thankfully knowing what I know about wellbeing, stress, thought and emotions I recognized it was all part of the grieving process and kept things simple.
If you or someone you love has been through grief allow them to be irritable, reactive, angry it’s all part of the healing process and don’t expect them to be over it just because they are back to work, it rarely is business as usual.
Take time for yourself, practice self-care, breathe and one thing I found particularly useful was to focus on the good memories and to appreciate what we have now.
PS: my father is doing well, his heart condition is stabilized and my ex-wife is recovering during the research into finding a solution we discovered an amazing method to repair the myelin sheaths in the brain caused by an Epstein Barr Virus. We are in the process of proving the specialists wrong – more on that in another post.
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