Dear Dr. Ted: I feel like I'm in this crazy spin of fear, sadness, irritation and discomfort. Any thoughts?
Dear Dr. Ted: I have had some very intense losses lately and I have noticed that I am very fearful of things that usually don't bother me. I also see how I keep hoping that someone will "rescue" me from my discomfort, and I also get mad when someone tries to help. I feel like I'm in this crazy spin of fear, sadness, irritation and discomfort. What really surprises me is how much fear I have of situations that usually I feel comfortable with. Any thoughts? Steve
Dear Steve: It appears you are tracking your process very closely and that is a healthy action to healing from loss. As you are aware of your grief process, you will be able slowly to center yourself and calm down the high level of disruption you are feeling. One of the tendencies that happens after a profound loss is the feeling of loss of safety. This makes sense due to when you have a loss, your unconscious realizes that you have no control over the that loss and this causes your normal emotional baseline about safety to be disrupted causing the brain to become protective and hypervigilant. When the brain is in this protective state, it is telling you that almost everything is dangerous and to be wary of your entire environment. As time goes on and healing from your loss is normalized and integrated into your everyday life, the brain reestablishes and normalizes situations to be safe once again.
While you are in a state of emotional hyperarousal and everything seems dangerous, you may find yourself highly irritable, angry and just not your "regular self." You may find you are angry at people who are trying to be helpful and at the same time, angry at those people who do not reach out. It is almost like a baby with colic for whom no matter what someone does, it doesn't take away your distress. Slowly there is a conscious or unconscious realization that an external source cannot take away your pain or grief. But it is an internal process: the work must come from you and your healing process emotionally, physically, mentally and possibly spiritually.
Understanding that the emotional waves of fear and other emotions is normal can help calm the brain and allow you to navigate the emotional upheaval that arises from loss. Knowing that this is normal, and that it is not forever, may help normalize the process and let your brain calm down. This allows levels of safety to be reestablished as you step back out into the world and life begins to seep back into the void that your loss has caused, as your old way of life was disrupted. Doing your best to be gentle to others as well as yourself while slowly rebuilding your foundation of who you are and your sense of safety is an enormous part of the grief process. Being conscious of the healing process from a loss helps normalize healing and settle and calm the brain to work with you rather than keep you in a state of fear. Thank you for the question. I wish you well. 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 at GWR@newmex.com.
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