The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. Individuals may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat, and they will be answered privately and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
I have encountered many losses this year including the loss of a parent, the pandemic, loss of job, loss of friends, and the pain of watching a world hurting, fearing, and dividing. You have talked about compounded loss, and I am aware that is what’s going on, but I’m interested in why after a loss there seem to be no highs or lows in my world. I look out the window, and I don’t see colors I see grey. It is almost as if everything is running through a filter and not quite getting to me nor me connecting with other people, nature, pets, or experiences. I’m worried this is forever and I will just have this feeling of once removed. What do you have to say to that Doc?
Charlie’s got the Blues
This topic has been asked by many people over the last couple of weeks from so many different losses and so I thank you for bringing your situation out into the collective consciousness of loss and grief that has fallen upon so many people. When there is loss, you may become very insulated physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is as if your body has just taken a hit and is retracting from the outer world to assess, protect and analyze how you can reintegrate back into the world that appears to have just caused harm. You may also feel disassociated from yourself during this time period where it feels like you are not even in your own body. This is all very common as the brain slows down and can make you feel spacey, as though you are on some drug, even though that is not what is going on.
Disassociation is a self-defense mechanism that becomes a buffer when you become overwhelmed, and the brain is attempting to process something painful. This might feel rather strange as you may feel your body does not really belong to you and you are just watching it go through the motions or on autopilot. As the information of your loss is absorbed and you have time to process the event that has happened, you slowly start to reintegrate back into your body and become more conscious of the world around you. As the grief process continues, you are slowly able to reconnect with your outer world and connect with friends, family, loved ones, nature, and other stimuli that you connected with in the past. It is almost like you jumped into a box, wrapped yourself in bubble wrap, mailed yourself to yourself, and now you start to reopen that package, layer by layer, until you are interacting and driving your own vehicle once again.
You may feel the new you is different and connections may have changed, which makes sense, as you are not who you used to be before your loss. Moving out of the greys and back into the colors takes time, but slowly melancholy resides and life starts to seep back into your world where it may have felt empty. If you feel the “auto-pilot" is continuing, and you are not re-engaging you may wish to contact a professional to help that process happen. Sometime a fresh perspective will allow you the safety to re-engage with life. I wish you well and stay safe. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call 575-776-2024. Weekly virtual grief groups, at no charge, are being offered to help support emotional well-being. Information can be accessed through goldenwillowretreat.org.