"When Grief Gets Complicated."
Brett/Pathway/Leave a Comment
When we fail to move past the Emotional Abyss and progress along the Pathway Through Grief, it gets very complicated. Some folks even talk about it as a bi-polar experience. Hot/cold, happy/sad.
Emotional regulation problems like crying all the time or bursts of anger, mood swings from happy to sad, irritability, and long running despair can result in getting "stuck" in grief.
Some time ago, I had a client come to me who had been dealing with wide mood swing that impacted her daily functioning. Her highs were very high. Elation, joy, even becoming a bit too free with spending and play. Then she would crash into a deep depression often lashing out at those around her. She really thought she was going crazy.
As we explored the issue, it became clear to me that she was stuck at the transition from emotion and bargaining, and crossing over to acceptance and Life With Loss. She was not alone. Many get stopped here.
Without a guide and mentor, the Emotional Abyss can be very difficult to traverse. The mental and emotion shut down that loss has on us often requires help from an outside source to get through it.
When we feel alone, unheard, confused, and like we are lost in a fog it can be easy to hunker down and seek refuge. When someone is retreating into complicated grief they often begin to retreat - physically, mentally, and emotionally. They start to hold their emotions - often out of confusion of what to do with them, or protection of others who they fear can't handle the emotional expression.
Below are some ways to determine if someone is struggling to cross over and a few suggestions to assist you (or a loved one) in crossing over to becoming a Loss Manager.
1. They have a wide degree of emotional variability. That means that they might be happy and "okay" one minute and a total wreck the next. These swings can be sudden and short lived, or a day or two apart.
2. They are emotionally volatile. When we are stuck at the Abyss, it can be hard to contain the emotions that are pressing up against us. Holding it all in leads to excessive emotional pressure and when the pressure is too high, or they feel safe with someone...the valve can blow.
3. They withdrawal deep into a depression or just become sullen and quiet, then explode with emotion for no explained reason or greater than you would expect for the moment.The opposite can also be true.
4. There is an unstable cycle of bargaining (if I..., If this..., Because...., When I, they, we...) comments. and then a retreat into withdrawal or burst into emotion. To learn more about what bargaining is refer to the Good Grief - Really eBook. You can download it HERE.
So...what can you do to cross over?
1. Become comfortable talking about and identifying emotions. The more we discuss openly our feelings, the less impact they will have on us. Increasing our emotional vocabulary will decrease the uncertainty of the Emotional Abyss.
2. Give them, or yourself, permission to be emotional. Believe it or not, most people have been raised with a barrier to emotional expression. "Stop crying, or I'll give you something to cry about", "babies cry. Are you a baby?", and "big boys don't cry" are still prevalent in our society. These attitudes keep grievers trapped in their emotions and stop their progression. It is okay, in fact it is necessary to cry and release the emotions that naturally occur. Give yourself permission if no one will give it to you. I am giving you permission.
3. Get the Pathway Through Grief masterclass on grieving. Module 5 is specifically tailored to Complicated Grief and how to move past it. Pathway Through Grief will help you walk through the Emotional Abyss and come out into coping and acceptance of your new Life After Loss.
4. Get professional help locally. Seek out a skilled therapist who is knowledgeable in how to release trapped emotions. Neurofeedback has been a great source of help for many of our clients. Whatever you do, seek support and counsel fromm trained professionals who can help you past the Emotional Abyss.
When we break free from the darkness of Complicated Grief and the storms that rage inside with it, we are finally able to find our way across the emotions. We understand them, and no longer fear them.
I look forward to taking that journey with you, and seeing you in your Life After Loss.
Brett M. Judd MSW