What do you find yourself thinking? “I have to get the car into the garage. Who will drive me? What will I do without a car? It’s going to cost an arm and a leg. I don’t believe this happened.” OR “I am so proud of my daughter. Her self-esteem is going to be so positively effected by this accolade. I can’t wait till she gets home so she can call her grandparents to tell them the great news.”
Which line of thoughts occupies more of your time?
In most cases, the negative event gets more attention. It is natural to focus on negative events. To begin the challenge of overcoming negativity, practice giving yourself a time frame, a longer duration for larger events and a shorter duration for smaller events. For example, if you are annoyed by the way someone treats you, allow three hours to feel angry, sad, frustrated, baffled, retaliatory and so on. During this time think through the causes and consequences, decide if you contributed to the act, and make a decision about what action, if any, you will take. At the end of the three hours, let it go!
You’d be amazed at the power you have to do so.
Making your negative reactions have a finite timeframe will cause you to seek methods to change your focus. You may want to put on your favorite song, go for a walk, take a bath, or do whatever has brought you pleasure in the past. By changing your focus to something positive, you allow the negative feelings to lose their significance.
With bigger events (other than grief) set a longer amount of time to let go. Three days is usually enough to investigate all the nuances associated with a challenge, feel the corresponding emotions, decide on a course of action, and then move on.
What you are doing is training yourself to react to negativity in a finite manner. Since there are many annoyances and challenges that happen in life, you could easily allow yourself to be a chronically unhappy person if you did not limit the amount of time you were willing to spend overcoming them.
It takes practice. Over time, you will find that you automatically shorten your “timeframes” because you are connected to your ability to overcome frustration. This method works simply by giving yourself permission to move on.
This method can be effective in helping you to give yourself permission, without guilt, to stop grieving. Guilt can be brought on by several factors: the loved one is not around to enjoy the pleasures of life, therefore, you feel uncomfortable enjoying them. Second, you may not be proud of all of your interactions with your beloved before he or she passed, or third, you or others have expectations about an “appropriate” amount of time to grief and if you do not exceed that time frame, you feel guilty in moments of joy.
By teaching yourself how to treat reactions to problems as being finite, you are giving yourself permission to move past your grief. It does not matter if the period of time is one year, three months, three years. After an amount of time appropriate for you, give yourself permission to move on.
That means stop beating yourself up for a something you did or did not do when the person was alive. Remember, humans are not perfect and you are doing the best you can at any given moment with your level of awareness. We all have regrets, past choices we made that we cannot change. The point is that we cannot change them, we can only learn from them and move on.
Another more simple strategy for helping yourself to overcome grief is to take action. Do something you have always wanted to do. Volunteer, resume an old hobby, take up a new one. Use your imagination and take steps towards changing your focus to the positive aspects of life.
If your particular faith allows for the fact that the soul never dies, then you must also know that your loved one does not want to see you in pain. There is a great deal of evidence that soul’s who have passed to the next realm are happy, that their existence now is blissful. Allowing yourself to move on also enables your loved one to enjoy their next journey.
Although grief may bring far greater pain than other challenges in life, it is important to remember that it is a normal part of the ebb and flow of life. We are here on earth to learn and grow, not to stay stuck. Every challenge, no matter how great, is also an opportunity to increase our awareness and grow as a person.
This response is a simplistic treatment of a complex issue. If there is a chance that your grief can be diagnosed as depression, or if you or others are deeply concerned about your emotional well being, then please seek the guidance of a qualified counselor. You are not alone in your grief.