Sometimes facing the anguish of loss can make you feel like you're losing your mind. It can be hard to concentrate or do everyday tasks, and you may feel heartbroken.
It's okay to have a respite from misery.
I am not advocating living in denial. It is vitally important to acknowledge our reality and to face our feelings. What I know from experience is that taking occasional breaks from unrelenting pain can actually help us tolerate it better over time.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers several strategies for distracting ourselves from distress, using the acronym DISTRACT. I have adapted these skills for those of us who are grieving. Try as many as you can and note which ones work for you (these are very individual so remember there's no right or wrong). Regular practice will make your favorites become second nature and available whenever you need them.
Distracting ourselves from the discomfort of grief is meant to be temporary respite. Use the strategies that work for you, always returning to the undeniable reality of what is. And ask for help when you need it.
On with the boots...off with the boots...parking lots filled with mountains of snow but too few parking spaces! The bitter cold polar vortex forces me to re-think my errand list and the weekly snowstorms have rendered my car a salty mess.
With Chicagoland trying to cope with the worst winter in recent memory, many of us are just plain sick and tired of the whole ordeal. Are you feeling a bit more anxious about making a turn because you can't really see if there's oncoming traffic beyond the giant snow mounds? And have you collected new winter layers to protect you from frostbite: long underwear, "smart" wool socks, and hand-warmers?
If you've felt crabbier than usual this winter, you're not alone! The way we typically go about our lives has been altered due to forces beyond our control, and that can put anyone on edge. Even the groundhog wasn't optimistic, so it seems it could be a while before all the snow melts and we can get back to business as usual.
Although I know you can probably think of far more serious problems that have to be tolerated (and I certainly can too), coping with our weather provides a useful template for navigating difficult situations over which we have no control. The following tips and skills are adapted from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT.
1. Accept there's nothing you can do. This doesn't mean you approve of the situation; you just acknowledge its reality. (In our example, I acknowledge I have no control over the weather and no one would expect me to.)
2. Focus on your sensations and feelings; not what you think about them or how you want them to change. (I'm annoyed, frustrated, and feeling confined.)
3. Accept your sensations and feelings. Notice them and be willing to have them, even if they're uncomfortable. (Okay, I identify the feelings of annoyance, frustration, and a sense of being confined. They're in there all right and they make sense to me under the circumstances.)
4. Work with those sensations and feelings using appropriate relaxation, distraction, and soothing strategies. (Try various approaches and see what works for you. More on this next month.)
5. Think about the big picture and the world around you. What will inspire hope and make you more positive? What's really important to you? (Winter can't last forever and I'm heartened to notice longer daylight hours. Soon it will be March and the temperatures are sure to warm up. I don't think I'd like to live in an area with no seasonal change at all.)
6. Ask for tolerance and acceptance from whatever force you believe in. It could be the Universe, your sense of the Divine, Mother Nature, or any power that's greater than you. (Please help me tolerate these last few weeks of our crazy winter! I'm ready for serenity, grace, and patience.)
7. Remember that nothing is forever and all experiences change over time. Focus on this moment, knowing that the next moment will be slightly different. (I accept the fact that I'm fed up with this winter, and I know it won't last forever. Even as I write this, time is moving me forward. I am open to each new moment.)
In every life there are things we don't like that we can't change. Practicing acceptance (again, this doesn't mean approval) can help us feel better.
Essays on Grief Resilience