I received an email recently from a man who is grieving that his marriage is not what he had hoped it might be. He referred to my blog post, How to Grieve for the Relationship You Didn't Get, as a good reflection of what he was experienced, and then asked the question about what the things are that I do to deal with my grief. This is a big, big topic and many of you experience feelings of grief intermittently or even regularly.
How I work through feelings of grief
I acknowledge my grief. Recognizing it is there, and allowing myself to feel it, is the very first step to dealing with one's feelings. Much better than hiding your feelings of grief – when you do this, they may fester and grow. Acknowledging you are feeling grief may be uncomfortable at first, but stick with it. Allowing that it's okay to feel any emotions you have can be a healthy way to start to both understand and deal with them better.
I seek parts of that grief that might lead to personal growth. Grief, particularly if you let yourself feel it, is not ‘bad’ – it’s just an acknowledgment that you had expectations that aren’t being met in some way, and that makes you particularly sad. Many people go into their marriages believing they will live a fairy tale, only to discover that lots of life is drudgery or that there is something quite different than they expected, for example their partner is less attentive or more angry than they expected. If your partner has emotional outbursts or you find you feel confined or resentful, the gap between expectations and reality grows, and so might your grief. There is an opportunity here, though. Were your expectations realistic? Were they based in childhood trauma that needs to be explored? Do others share your concerns? Would you benefit from counseling? Is there a way to look at your life (or your partner) in a different light? What would it take to do this? Look into your feelings of grief to see if there are paths that lead to a better outcome.
I keep a journal about my feelings, in order to get them out. This is not for everyone, but I happen to find writing cathartic. And a journal is a great BS meter. If I write something and I am trying to fool myself or convince myself of something, a little voice in my head says “well, Melissa, that’s not really true…try again!”
I have an active gratitude practice with which I also seek to put my grief into perspective. There ARE good things happening, too, and if I ruminate too much upon my grief I find that I miss seeing the good. On any given day I might be grateful for a particular person in my life; for the sound of the rain; for a great book; for a nice thing my partner said. You don't want to miss out on all of the good parts of your life just because you are feeling grief, too. Furthermore, practicing gratitude has been shown to ‘rewire’ one’s brain to more easily see the positive. This is a good way to counter feelings of grief.
I talk with others. I’m working through some significant feelings of grief at the moment. It really helps to talk with sympathetic friends and also a counselor to explore my feelings and situation. My non-ADHD support groups also provide an excellent venue for people to explore their feelings, including grief.
I exercise and don’t drink too much. Alcohol is a depressant. Exercise is a mood enhancer as well as being good for your entire body (and brain.) ‘Nuf said!
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