Sharing can help us overcome grief

There has been so much death, pain and despair recently, that I just feel so overwhelmed and want to isolate from the world. I have had my own losses and now with all this violence against women and children, I just feel I can’t take it anymore. How do I deal with this sense of grief, loss and despair?

I agree with you there has been so much pain and loss and many people are feeling overwhelmed by the scourge of gender-based violence in our country.

It is very sad indeed and I want you to know that you are not alone in feeling this deep sense of loss and anguish. Indeed, it can become unbearable to carry, especially on one’s own.

Experiencing grief is part of the human experience, unites our humanity, and thus sharing our vulnerability helps create a deep sense of connectedness to others.

When we experience something that causes us to feel shock and sadness, we may feel the urge to withdraw from life.

It may seem like remaining withdrawn will keep us protected from life’s harsh realities, but during these times it is important to reach out to those who care about us the most. Even with our best information and reasoning, we never know when someone else’s experience or perspective can give us additional information and the support we need. The universe speaks to us through many channels, and when we open ourselves up to receive its messages, we also receive nurturing support from others on life’s complex journey of twists and turns.

Grief, as painful as it can be, is part of the human experience, and with sharing our vulnerability we feel more deeply connected to ourselves and to each other.

Opening ourselves up like this gets to the core of our being, past all of our defences and prejudices.

When life seems to crack the outer shell of our world, we are both raw and open at the same time. It is then that we discover who we truly are and who is truly willing to walk with us through life’s fires.

We also see that some of those “sent” to us may not be the ones we expected to see. Regardless, we learn to trust in the universe, in certain others, in our own strength and resilience, and in the wisdom of life itself.

Sharing grief allows us to ease our burden by allowing someone else to carry it with us. This helps us process our own inner thoughts and feelings through the filter of a trusted and beloved someone.

We may feel guilty or selfish, as if we are unloading on someone who has their own challenges.

Although, if we think about it, we know we would do the same for them, and their protests would seem pointless. Not sharing feelings with others denies them the opportunity to connect with their humanity too.

We are a society that puts emphasis on denying our feelings and instead we are told to toughen up and get on with things. But this is not always helpful.

Denied feelings do not just go away, they are merely suppressed for a while and will come up in another more painful way, bursting open like a dam wall that’s been under severe pressure for too long. Instead, to allow yourself to feel into your body and heart, what this pain is about and to make space for the mourning, the sadness, the sense of loss allows for a softening toward yourself and also toward others, connecting you to others and the universal experience of grief.

Life can present us with the most outrageous and painful experiences and we can be left feeling overwhelmed, helpless, powerless and in deep despair. We all start off innocently, believing that life will be fair and if we do good, no harm will come upon us, and we are protected and safe.

When bad things happen to us and around us, this makes us question our sense of faith in life, in a higher power, in ourselves and in our fellow humans. We may feel angry that we have done our best to do good and live an honourable life yet still life throws us curve balls and painful experiences.

But perhaps these very experiences, when worked through and shared with others, opens our heart to our connection to ourselves and others and affords us an opportunity to be authentically open and connected to ourselves and those around us.

Our pain, when worked through, can be the alchemical substrate, that allows for profound compassion and tenderness to arise for ourselves first, and then transmitted to others. And this is what our world needs more ofwe need each other and cannot exist on our own.

Our pain and suffering, when shared with others, can ignite a sense of unity, togetherness and compassion which can further stir up a deep sense of aliveness and wanting to do something about the problems we face, together.

Joining forces with others is good in that you feel you are working toward a good cause and contributing toward a better society and world. Perhaps this is the whole point of suffering loss, grief and misery. I have seen many people, who prior to suffering a huge loss, lived as if in a bubble and in a space of not caring about others and living very selfish lives.

However, after a major loss, something drastic shifted inside them and started to live more authentically, experiencing a deeper sense of compassion and feeling connected to others.

It’s as if their hearts opened up and they realised that they are not alone on this planet and that they needed others and vice versa.

The following thoughts by Pema Chodrö* , a Buddhist monk, resonates with me and my work on human suffering:

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved.

“They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.

“The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Finally, if you have experienced severe trauma and losses it may be good for you to seek professional help, especially if any symptoms you have been feeling are not abating and/or are getting worse. Anxiety and depression may be part of what you may be experiencing hence getting the support from a qualified mental health professional would be important to work through any unresolved losses or traumas.

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za or send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.