When it comes to feeling grief and loss: Death is not required
What else I'd love for you to know is that when it comes to feelings of loss and grief, death is not required.
Nobody has to die in order for you to just feel those natural feelings of heaviness, loss, concern, worry. These are things that just happen in our bodies. And, uh, it's also something that we are ill-equipped to handle as a society we know about acquiring and getting and leveraging. What we don't know is about when things leave or die or are let go of.
So we are going to focus on heart healing from loss, just like it says in the title, and grief, just to reiterate is the normal and natural and incredibly powerful emotion.
Okay, great. What else is it? Okay. It's sometimes known as the conflicting feelings caused by the end or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
So something can change and that can inspire feelings of loss or heaviness, a sense of sadness, a sense of, “Ooh, what's going to happen now?”
Maybe even uncertainty can cause feelings, of grief, of feeling a loss. So that's when patterns change when they stop, that can also be a loss.
What do I mean by that? Well, it's 2020. So we're experiencing changes in patterns of behavior. That's a change in commute. That's a change in a job that could be a change in the job flow. That could be a change in the business that you're in.
And that's just the workfront.
What else are we talking about? Change-wise, we're talking about school. School's not held the same way this year. I've been talking with parents who have been going into these schools, which are empty in order to pick up books. And they are crying in the parking lot because it is silent in these big educational buildings where they are just ready to hear laughing and lots of kids and lots of hustle and bustle.
It's not there this year. That is a change. It is a small change in the big picture, but I gotta tell you when it comes to grief and loss, according to the studies I’m reading, it all adds up and... it gets real heavy.
So if you're feeling heaviness and loss, and you're concerned that like, “Wow, why am I feeling this? When nobody I know has died, you may not know of anyone who's died from the coronavirus directly?”
You still may be feeling grief and loss… it’s entirely natural and normal. And you're in the right place.
You're in the right place.
So what else can be “counted?” (I'm air quoting, there.) What else can be counted as a loss? I don't know if you knew this or not, but there are 40 different kinds of loss events that can happen in our lives.
They can certainly include death. It could also be a divorce or a breakup. It could be the death of a pet. It could be a move. Moving is a big emotional change. Talk about your entire center of where you live... It gets different. Whether it's from an apartment to a house, even in a happy situation, there are still losses to be counted. Starting school marriage could indicate some form of loss. Graduation denotes the end of your schooling.
Although it's a happy event too. I mean, that's an achievement, but there is a change in, you know, if you're going onto another school, it's a change of curriculum. It's a change of space. It's probably a change of your schedule.
Major health changes are another form of loss. Do you know anybody who's ever experienced a loss of health? So maybe you break your leg and it gets to be a temporary thing, but that is a big change. If you're a runner, you may be grieving the loss of running for a while. Even if you know, in your brain, it's temporary and your leg is healing.
These are the kinds of losses we are talking about. And we'll continue to talk about because what's not happening is a conversation. I understand. It's scary to think about going inside and, and feeling those emotions that aren't super fun.
These are not the top 10 emotions to feel and... it's dark in there. I don't want to go in there. Certainly not by myself.
Well. that's why I'm here. And we're just going to walk together. It's a gentle approach and let's just keep the conversation open. Sound good? Okay.
So in today's conversation, what I'd love to talk about are some of the feelings that are produced when you experienced the loss of a loved one. What else? Some of the feelings that are produced when you experience the loss of a less-than-loved one. I also want to share just a little bit about what is not required when it comes to loss. First, before dig into that juicy, juicy stuff, what I want to sorta clue in on is just some terms, gentle easy terms. So we're all on the same page when we're talking about grief and loss. Let's go,
All right. So the feelings...
Sometimes it's hard to even understand and know what your feelings are. So I'm going to just break it down with a couple of examples... Check-in, and see if these resonate at all with you. Okay. Ready?
The death of a loved one can produce emotions that can be described as the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there only to find that when we need them one more time, they are no longer there. I'm going to read that just one more time:
“The feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there only to find that when we need them one more time, they are no longer there.”
Now, these feelings could come as a result of a death. They could also be a result of an estrangement, an argument, a breakup. What else, what else in your life could this be relevant to? Because that's what we're talking about. It doesn't have to be a husband/wife thing. It doesn't have to be a death per se, although it, you know, it could be in your life. And in your experience.
Part of grief, and recovery from grief, or recovery from feelings of loss, is about really coming to understand what the emotions are. So that's what this conversation is about.
It's, it's about trying to help determine or discern what it actually is that you're feeling. So that's about emotions that come up with a loved one.
What if you're working with, or smack in the middle of experiencing, a less than loved one? A loss around a less than loved one? Perhaps you had a parent or guardian who's like, you just really wanted it to be a different relationship. You longed for something different, or better, or more... sometimes, you wished for less of certain behaviors that you experienced with this person that can also summon emotions of grief as well.
And that feeling is one, maybe, one of reaching out for someone who has never been there for you. And still isn't like that whole longing of “please, be there for me,” inviting them aching for just the response that you want or need, and still not available.
In fact, if they have moved across the country or now they passed on... whatever it is, it's that, that feeling of wanting and still not being able to receive what it is you want from them.
Totally normal. Totally normal and natural to experience emotions of loss around this thing is we just don't know this. We haven't been taught this. These are the words that are needed in the world is that this is normal. This is natural. And there's a way through, Hey, before we get too much, further ahead, I do want to touch a little bit on conflicting feelings. They are totally around grief and loss as well. So let me share a little example. Let's say somebody that you love dies after a long-suffering illness, they've been in pain, they've experienced the loss of mobility, loss of health, a loss of independence all along the way.
And let's say this has happened for... two or three years. So it's been a long go of it. And they've been incrementally losing their faculties, losing just kind of their personality a little bit on the way they're grieving their own loss of health.
And let's say that you're really close to them and you're standing by and you're watching this and it's hard, and you're showing up and you're watching this and it's really hard... and it's getting harder. And then you have the diagnosis or the prognosis that says X number of days, weeks, or months to live.
There may be conflicting feelings that come up that are normal and natural. This is the thing: we want people that we love to not be in pain. We want them to be joyful and present and loving their life and in their bodies and that's not always available. And so when we see deterioration or a loss, or incremental losses, these are really challenging.
I’ve got to take my hat off to the caregivers here. Whether you're taking care of a client or a child or a spouse, this is hard. And so conflicting feelings of feeling a sense of relief that your loved one's suffering is near over. When you get that prognosis that is a part of grieving. This is something that people often talk about, beating themselves up about and feeling guilty about when it is a part of their grieving process, totally normal and natural.
And these things aren't talked about, it's the same sort of thing with divorce. There may be conflicting feelings there too. When you know, it's the right thing to do to part ways as partners, you know, whether kids are involved or not, you may have conflicting feelings because it's still a loss.
And when we go back to that definition of what grief is, it's “the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern or behavior familiar pattern or behavior”, that could totally include marriage or steady relationship.
So there may be conflicting feelings there too, yes, even though, you know it's the right thing to do, and you're going to be best for both of you. It still does count as a loss and grief may come up and conflicting feelings are just part of the bag. That's part of the bargain.
This being said, there are a couple of things that are not required when it comes to grief and loss.
Do you know what they are? Can you guess what I'm going to say?
1. Tears, or crying are not required. You can feel all the feelings and not feel tears coming on. There are several people that I've talked to who are just like, I didn't do it. I didn't, I didn't cry. And I feel bad cause I'm, I'm not sure if I did it right. I want to tell you, you did. You did it right. If tears don't come, you don't have to make them come or wait for them to come. You can just say, “Hey, that's, that's not what this is about. It's not about performing.”
It's just not. And so go with what feels right. And natural. Every relationship is totally different.
I was at my grandmother's funeral and she had an open casket there. And that was not something that was usual in our family. And I saw her and I just didn't feel it. I must've been about 12 years old and I did not feel moved to tears. I loved my grandmother. I didn't cry. I don't know why, but that's, that's what was real for me.
So if that is real for you, just go with it. You know, grieving and loss are hard enough. You do not have to pressure or judge yourself about how you are behaving. Like, feeling is plenty good enough.
What else is not required?
2. Death, actually, is not required. There's plenty of change in and around what's going on in the world for you to incur feelings of grief and loss.
It's hard enough. Like you don't have to diminish your feelings of sadness or heaviness or any of those things with what is going on just in the world around us right now, it already feels bad enough.
It's okay if nobody has died in your world. Maybe that's something to be grateful for and still honor the feelings that you have around sadness because it's real.
And it's there and normal to feel. Do we love feeling these like harder feelings? No, we don't. But feeling them is the gateway through them, getting done, and them being complete.
And it, you know, it honors what's going on around you. It's real.
3. Anger is not required during grief or loss. Anger, of course, it totally may come up. If it comes up, I recommend you go with that too. But if it doesn't come up, it’s absolutely okay.
Here’s an example: I had, I talked about this in Episode 0: it was about my dog, Otter. He was a beloved boy who was also an old man dog at the very end. I was not angry that it was time for him to go. It just didn't come up. And this could happen around losses with people too. This could happen with other kinds of losses.
Anger is not required in a grieving process. It's just not.
But the 5 Stages say so...
Maybe you have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's work around the 5 Stages of Death. The five stages that were actually assigned toward people who were dying, or who had received a prognosis of dying. And those were the stages that they go through in their process.
Well, what's happened is that people have adopted the 5 stages for those grieving and in grief (but not necessarily dying) The 5 stages are denial. anger, bargaining... then, there's the other two, depression and acceptance.
She did not ascribe it to grief as a process for us, the grievers. Her work of identifying the stages was for people who were dying.
Grief in our case is not a linear thing. This is kind of like the squiggly-wiggly road that goes from point A to point B. And sometimes it feels really messy and uncertain. That's why I'm here.
There is a way through, and I work in grief recovery. And if you want to talk more about it, please definitely reach out to me. But until then anger and death and crying or tears are not required to experience grief or loss.
Thanks again for joining me today. This is Wendy Slonaker from Heart Healing from Loss. I'm a certified Grief Recovery Method specialist and an end of life doula. For more information, please go to my website, hearthealingfromloss.com and definitely reach out if you'd like to have a call with me and we can talk about what it might be like to move forward through your grief experience and process.
Thanks again. And we'll see you on the next episode.
Grief & Loss: Why would we talk about thaaaat?
This is actually my natural state. I'm not super caffeinated right now. So, truly, when you talk to me and see me, this is what you're going to get.
Yes, Even though we're talking about what is traditionally known as a heavy topic, I am not going to come to you with this kind of podcast. It's just not who I am.
So if you are looking for a more, uh, lower-toned experience, I totally respect it, but it's just not going to be here.
What will be here in this podcast are stories about grief and loss and healing from grief and loss.
Largely, what I offer is an education about not only grief and loss, but also about methods for healing.
After you've experienced a loss event...
It's often called a loss event, what you may not know is that there are about 40 different kinds of loss events that can happen to a person over the course of life. It can be death, it can be divorce, it can be a big, bad breakup. These are the common ones that we think of when we think about grieving or heartbreak or things like that. It's breakups, it's the death of loved ones or pets who are our loved ones.
However, other big losses that make the list of 40 also include moving and graduating. There are loss anniversaries that people grieve. There are holidays that people grieve.
Lives have been impacted by myriad changes.
And so what I want to share is that even though it's not talked about very often... or very well… that's part of what this podcast is here to do is to talk about it and to offer some education, to offer some options and some stories I'm also going to be bringing in some guests.
So hooray, not just one person talking!
In Episode 0: A little bit of my story.
Why would somebody go into this kind of industry that is filled with sad things and topics? And the only thing I can share is, it's not all sad all the time. The reason that I went into this well, and it's not even a reason... like, really here's what happened.
I started studying about end-of-life types of work in terms of doula work. So I don't know if you knew this or not, but there is such a thing as an end-of-life doula, which is a companion for the last days.
And they work in tandem with hospice and things like that. So I got a certificate to do this kind of work, to just show up. I really feel like people are really scared of dying. And there are a lot of people who are dying really scared and many times alone. And then I just think that's unnecessary. So that's what I went in with.
And then 2020 happened... To everyone. And all of a sudden it was this, like, there was a lot of loss and change going on... And change can instigate feelings of loss.
And... This is normal. We don't know this is normal though... Because nobody talks about it. But it's normal and it's happening... Globally.
Right? So here we all are.
And I remember running into this awesome person named Rebecca Mullins, who is a Grief Recovery practitioner here in the same city where I live (Seattle). And so she told me about what she was doing around something called the Grief Recovery Method, which is an evidence-based method, a repeatable method to help you get complete with the pain that comes from loss.
And I thought, “Shoot, if that could really work, maybe that's something that would help me.”
And so I tried it, I learned it online. And then, uh, and then it, it kinda, I started feeling a little bit better. It was making room by just getting complete with relationships and it's different from, “getting closure”.
This is an emotional thing. What's going on when it comes to grief and loss is about heartbreak.
My brain has not been broken: it is not an intellectual thing.
This is a hard thing.
Making the trek from head to heart
So like making the, the path or the little journey that feels like about 25 miles in very hot weather or very chilly weather, like from my brain to my heart, which is pretty much like maybe 14 inches... but it feels like... 25 miles.
That's, that's what I work with. That's what I go through.
And, you know, coming from a place of heaviness and coming from a place of loss.
I will tell you about how I felt when I had a loss of my soulmate, who was a dog. His name was Otto. He was a little wiener dog. And I rescued him with my partner at the time. He must have been about one and a half, three years old… hard to tell cause he was a little rescue and this little boy had some baggage... cute as a button, red as a penny, and just a honey.
And we connected and bonded. He was with me. I was with him, I think it was 15 years. And the sweet little boy…. he does, what one animals do. He does what we do... He got to be an old man and he was grumpy a lot, but I just loved him even more.
And so he had developed a Cushing's disease, which happens a lot in dachshunds, and he needed some medication. So we went there and got medication and he developed diabetes. And he was just not the same dog. His quality of life changed... he was not a happy dog. He was maybe interested in eating, but it really started falling off. Once we started giving him insulin shots to maintain his diabetes, which came from the medication from Cushing's disease. So, so what happened was, I had an insight and intuition around, “Hey, he's not happy being here anymore in this body.
And I took him to the vet. He had been to this vet for a long, long time. And the vet knew him. He knew Otto. And, probably one of the biggest, pieces that I've found in terms of “I did really right for myself and for him by being there” when Otto died really, truly like that was, I had never shown up for a death like that where, you know, I was there, he was in my arms and I was talking to him. I did not want him to be alone.
Even though the vet knew him, I really needed to be there to let him know that it was okay. And so he died. And this was probably 7 years ago, 8 years ago. And you can tell by my voice that, wow, that loss is still totally there.
And, and I just loved this dog. Right? So loss is loss a hundred percent and we don't know how to deal with it when he died.
And I came home, things just really didn't make sense for a long time. Like, I felt numb. I didn't know how I felt, things didn't make sense.
I had a loss of focus.
I didn't know what to do next. I had very short term thinking, and I couldn't always articulate it. Right?
Like, I didn't always know how I felt.
So it was really hard for me to answer, like, “how are you doing?”
No. Probably not very good. Right? So I really get it.
And that dog gave me so much joy. When I think about him, my heart is not broken. When I think about him, I remember just like snuggling up with him and bringing him to the beach at Ocean Shores and how he fell asleep on this pink blanket.
And he looked so stinking cute with his little back feet, tucked up against his body and his front paws just covered up. Like, he's just my heart dog. And I still have an emotional relationship with him, even though I don't have a physical relationship. He's died, but I'm alive. And I have that emotional relationship with him.
So there's value. Right?
And I can talk about him and yeah, I just love that dog. And there's so much love in, in the memories and also in the things that we lose and the people that we lose that, you know, what the Grief Recovery Method has shared with me is about, is about talking with people and things and change that's happened that have happened without coming totally apart.
Like, my capacity for happiness and joy has increased because I got to have that dog. I still have an emotional relationship with this dog. There are many things I experience in days and weeks and months that make me think of him because he's my little buddy. And... at the same time he is, he has died.
So this grief and loss is a part of life.
And I want the conversation for all of us. So I do have an invitation for you. And that is what, what have you experienced that you are confused by stuck with, I'm wondering about grief and loss.
I am not a clinical person. I am not a practitioner. I am not a therapist.
I'm an educator... and I'm interested.
So if you have questions that you would like me to answer on a future podcast, or if you want to contact me directly, you are totally invited to do exactly that. My website is WendySloneker.com and you can find all my contact information there as well as my text-friendly mobile. And if you have questions for a future podcast, please share them with me.
This is for everyone.
Thank you so much for joining me.
Reach out if you feel inspired and ready for a Discovery Call with me.
Want to? :)