Finding joy during grief is possible and important

AAs a psychotherapist, one topic that I often (especially since the onset of the pandemic and widespread social acknowledgment with systemic racism in 2020) help patients navigate is how to experience joy during periods of grief, and why doing so is possible. and necessary. Many don’t realize that finding joy in grief is very possible, and only by understanding this duality can we find pleasure in pain and the strength that discovery can provide.

Still, some people try to avoid pain and grief altogether and just jump into joy, only to find that this path is paved with anxiety brought on by their authentic feelings that they are ignoring. Others think not. deserve joy in the midst of so much loss and injustice, and thus deprive themselves of experiences that can ignite positivity. Well, a news flash: Joy is not something that must be earned or can only come as a result of prior effort, and pain is not something that must exist in a vacuum and consume every moment of your life.

Psychological research maintains that two seemingly opposite feelings can occur at the same time. The things in life that bring us the most joy (our silly children, our love partners, an amazing sexual experience in our bodies) can also bring sadness or anger (our persistent children, our maddening partners, feeling dissatisfied with and in our bodies). .

Feeling alive does not mean constantly feeling happy or joyful, but rather creating space for everything that exists within you.

With that in mind, it’s clear that numbing negative emotions can also blunt positive ones. Feeling alive does not mean constantly feeling happy or joyful, but rather creating space for everything that exists within you. And, with the help of some intentional mental exercises and awareness, you can set yourself up for success and feel joy, even in the midst of pain. Certain joy inhibitors can allow grief to take up an inordinate amount of space in your life, but certain joy facilitators can help counteract that.

Below, learn about several of those inhibitors and enablers so you can work on finding joy during times of pain.

2 Common Inhibitors That Can Get in the Way of Your Joy

1. Insist on feelings of anxiety

Although the physical experience of anxiety (heart palpitations, racing thoughts) can feel extremely intense, they are actually examples of feeling of avoidance Anxiety is an evolutionary survival response; our brains have evolved to worry in order to protect our ancestors from taking risks and dangers. Anxiety does have a purpose, indeed, but if we don’t examine what difficult emotions it may be helping us hide to protect our functioning, it pulls us away from our insights, pleasures, imaginations, and courage.

2. Judge your pleasure and what makes you feel good

Many of us were not taught how to identify what feels good. We’re good at figuring out how “bad” feels, but because we resist novelty, our nervous system doesn’t trust goodness until it feels less new. In reality, pleasure can be selfish, big, messy, and exuberant. Many of those descriptors are at odds with accepted messages about what it means to be good, such as selflessness, modesty, and courtesy. the effort of be well it can prevent some from prioritizing what really feel right. Know that claiming joy is not a negative, self-indulgent pursuit, but one that you owe to yourself.

That said, if you feel happiness guilt when the people around you suffer, consider it an opportunity to reflect on your privileges and what you choose to do with them. This does not mean questioning your right to joy, but rather examining how your unchecked privileges can affect the joy of others.

4 Joy Facilitators to Use in Times of Grief

1. Feel the feelings

We know it’s healthy to feel our negative feelings, but how can we do it without opening the floodgates of pain? Part of what feels problematic to people about feelings is that they believe they are facts and therefore need to be acted upon. Feelings are the way the body communicates with us: they are clues to better understand our needs and they are constantly changing. While it’s important to acknowledge all of our feelings, even inconvenient ones like sadness, anger, and hurt, it’s not necessary to dwell on them. Freeing yourself from the burden of focusing on difficult feelings can help you find joy in times of pain.

Many of us hide our emotions, thinking that doing so will allow us to function to meet family, work, and social obligations, when, in fact, it is the suppression of these emotions that hinder us. There is a difference between compartmentalizing (i.e. having to prepare for a presentation and therefore needing to put sadness aside until the end of the day) and avoidance (never leaving room for sadness at the end of the day ). The more we run from our feelings, the less in tune we are with what they are trying to tell us.

2. Become aware of your emotions

There is a process called titling, which allows us to immerse ourselves in emotion without being overcome by it. Even if you give yourself three seconds to observe yourself without blame or the need to act, you are creating an opportunity to connect with your vitality. Examples of what you might notice include:

  • The predominant sensations (sharp, tense, stabbing, tingling) arising in different parts of your body
  • The magnitude of these sensations (small, large, forceful)
  • The temperature of these sensations (hot, cold, warm)
  • The time of day they arise
  • how long do they last
  • Thoughts, beliefs or memories that arise with these sensations (either feelings or thoughts)
  • How do you react to these thoughts, beliefs, memories

3. Share

Healing occurs in connection and pain thrives in isolation. Consider someone who makes you feel seen, calm, and safe. You don’t have to reveal everything to this person, but pay attention to these three buckets: pleasure, pain, and power. Things you might consider sharing include:

  • that brings you pleasure
  • What is triggering the pain in your heart or body?
  • What makes you feel empowered?
  • A certain thing about a wound as a means to heal it

4. make room for joy

Just as it is essential to make room for pain, we must remember that joy must be accessed with intention rather than passively experienced. To make that easier, consider designating 10 minutes per day for “dream time.” To connect with joy right now, reflect on a moment or memory that you wouldn’t change a thing. Connect with the smile that stretches beyond the width of your face when you think about what you loved to do most as a child or the moment you knew you were in love. Expect that as you immerse yourself in joy during times of pain, shadows will rise up beside you. Welcome.

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