Question for Meg:
This comment comes from Leslie, who describes her intense emotional pain this way. “I don’t know if stress is the right adjective. The word is grief. I’ve lost four incredible people in the last 18 months, and it’s crippled my energy and focus and broken my heart. I wake up during the night not being able to breathe. My logic tells me they are no longer in pain or suffering. My heart tells me otherwise.”
I’ve thought a lot about how to answer this, Leslie, and I’ve decided not to ply you with things others may be telling you about grief, like, “It will pass.” No doubt you’ve already been advised to seek grief counseling, and given the magnitude of your loss I would encourage you to consider doing this. What struck me is what your suffering heart is telling you, that your deceased loved ones are still in pain. While I don’t claim to be an expert on grieving, I do know that we humans tend to confuse what our minds imagine, usually the worst, with what our hearts know.
When grief is as deep as yours, I would venture to say it’s probably your mind’s reaction to this intense pain that’s doing the talking here. When grieving a devastating loss like yours, or any loss for that matter, it’s crucial to be able to make the distinction between what you feel and what you decide about what you feel. It seems to me your mind is the real culprit here, so don’t let it get away with masquerading as your heart.
In my experience, the human heart delivers an entirely different kind of message than the one you think you’re hearing. It’s a message of hope, courage, and patience. Believe me, I understand how hard it is not to reach for some kind of explanation in painful times, but when you get right down it, there really isn’t anything that can reliably explain pain. So if your mind has an explanation, you can be pretty sure it’s not coming from your heart.
Recognizing the difference between what your mind imagines and what your heart knows is the key to moving through periods of profound pain. Listening to your mind’s message about your loved ones is a reaction to the overwhelming grief you’re feeling. Now, you may not be in a place to respond yet, but if you can, hold onto this truth. Every time you choose not to react to your pain, you put yourself in the best position to hear your heart’s message of faith and courage over the din of your mind’s harangue of anxiety, doubt, and fear of the unknown.
Right now, your first priority is to address the trauma you’ve been through. Work on getting the support you need to go all the way through your grieving process in a way that ultimately upholds your mental and your physical health.
Read my Blog Post What happens when you’re paralyzed by grief?.
Take good care of yourself, Leslie, and I hope this helps. : )