Guest post by Jan McDaniel
There is a terrible “loop” of thoughts that can trap people who are grieving. It can be an overwhelming process, painful and difficult to get out of. It starts with questions like “Why did this happen?” and “Could I have made a difference?” It is repetitive. Thoughts of things we could have done or things we wish we had not done seem easier to remedy in hindsight.
The truth, however, is quite different. Finding a way to minimize that kind of thinking process and move toward a healthy lifestyle is critical to healing. Face these thoughts. Write about them in your journal. Talk to a counselor or friend. Imagine what you would say to someone else in your own circumstance. Real time is very different from the frozen gaze of history. By examining what happened and by helping yourself understand that difference will allow you to gradually reduce the time spent in the loop. One way to do this is to look for truth or lies. Guilt can be a masterful and harsh liar. So can regret.
Of course we regret what happened and, perhaps, how it happened, what we did or did not do. We have a lot of control over our lives, but this is often deceptive, too. We simply cannot control everything.
Distractions work to ease our minds sometimes. Ultimately, however, there are things we cannot understand about death or about control. List what you think you should have done and what you feel you had control over. Now, list the things you wanted controlled. Mark any of those that were in your power. Most will not be marked.
Of those things we had some control over, many are matters of the moment. Our reactions to even simple things are undependable. Something as complex as life and death are more so. Why? Because we are only human.
Apply the same steps to what you are experiencing now. List things you want controlled and mark those that you have control over. Shift your perspective and think about how to solve these problems or issues. You may come up with a solution or you may realize you do not have as much control as you thought. In the latter case, the problem now becomes how to handle not being in control. But sorting problems or emotions in this way helps.
Overthinking can keep you up at night, which is the last thing your body and mind need while you are grieving. Try taking your attention elsewhere through self-talk, self-care, volunteering, going for a walk, or exercise. There is nothing wrong with seeking help from a mental health professional, who can determine if you have issue with past trauma. These require different techniques and care that grieving.
You can get out of the loop and reclaim your life. Though you may always have regrets and miss the person you lost, you can live a full and productive life, no matter what life stage you are in.
My name is Jan McDaniel. I speak grief. I also speak peace and healing. I started A Way for Hope blog and website to house projects I create that might help others who are grieving. The blog has expanded to include guest posts by my dear friends and fellow survivors who wanted to speak hope for others, too.