“Don’t cry.” “Keep a stiff upper lip.” It’s tough when you’re experiencing grief in a society that tends to define strength as stifling and bottling up emotions. Though everyone has their own grief experience, and some people don’t process much emotion externally, addressing and accepting your emotions when they come up is an essential part of natural grief.
At any given time your emotional response to grief may not be tears, maybe it’ll be anger or frustration, or ironically, it could be apathy. I know you don’t need my permission, but I’m going to give it to you anyway:
You are entitled to your feelings. You’re allowed to cry, or be mad, or to laugh. Whatever you’re feeling, no matter what it is or what anyone else says, it is valid because the feeling is true for you.
Now, the repercussions of openly expressing some of these feelings may make them not worth acting on, but that doesn’t make the feeling invalid. No feeling is “wrong,” it just exists, it’s then up to you to decide what you’re going to do with it.
If you’ve got something you’re feeling that may be better left unshared, one way to privately keep tabs on where you’re at emotionally is to write it down.
I know that everybody suggests journaling as an emotional outlet, but you don’t need to make a big production out of your journal. It can be as simple as rating your day on a scale of 1-10 and possibly making a comment.
Dec 12th – 5 – didn’t sleep well but happy I finished a project at work, i wanted to slap my boss in the head, a little lonely at dinner
(See how some feelings are better left NOT acted on, but rather privately expressed?)
If you’re up for it and want to end your day on a positive note, you can also keep a gratitude journal where, before you go to bed, you simply list three things you’re grateful for, or good things about that day. There is scientific research supporting that over time this habit can improve your mood and outlook.
June 24th – Sunny day, My brother called, Still have all 10 toes
Or you can keep a journal that’s just doodles.
Whichever way you do it, journaling can be a safe place where you can say anything you need to. It can also help you better identify and understand your emotions. Often, just identifying something strange and daunting, like emotions related to grief, can make them less powerful—it can help you regain a sense of control.
If you’ve ever been in the woods at night and heard a sound but couldn’t see what it was, you understand how scary not knowing can be. But once you identify what the thing is, it makes it less frightening and more manageable. So take some time tonight to name the way you’re feeling and help make the forest of grief a little less shadowy.