How do I Start to grieve?

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ANSWER: One step at a time.

You have to be intentional.  Grief does not happen on it’s own.  You must be intentional.  From my own personal grief and the many people I have walked through the grief process with I have learned a few tips.  The important thing is to get started, be intentional and do a little bit at a time… A friend of mine regularly says… “How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time.”  The same principle applies here.  One step at a time down your path of grief to healing and health.  YOU CAN DO THIS… it hurts… I will never say it doesn’t but just start… one step at a time. elephant

Finding Your Path…

I want you to begin looking at grieving like a journey…   Grief is a journey. There are good days, bad days, hard days and days you don’t want to face. But the truth is that we have to keep moving on this journey. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.Path One day, one minute at a time. This is a journey, not a destination. Some people feel that one day they will wake up and just be better… that rarely happens, but there are landmarks along the healing journey that we remember that provide the motivation to keep moving.

Spending Time

It is critical to take time to grieve. This sounds simple, but many times we avoid the very thing we need to do. It is so important to set aside time to think, process, cry, mourn, wail, laugh… whatever you need to do to get your feelings out. You MUST get them out in a healthy way. So take an hour a day or a week or every few days to let the feelings come. It is helpful to have a journal, a box or something that you can take out and open and close to symbolize the start and end of your time. Let’s say you chose to grieve from 4-4:30 each day. You take out your memory box which can have things that remind you of the person or loss. Cry, express, think. Then close the box when you are done. That symbolism keeps you from being overwhelmed and the grief taking over. It is important to get things out without the grief becoming overwhelming. That is why it is important not to do this exercise right before bed. Do not purposefully think about your loss right before bed.

Be Social

That may sound like a strange tool for grief. But it is important to have several people that you can call when you are hurting. These may be friends or family. Have it set up ahead of time, asking their permission to call them to talk about your loss. It is important to have more than one person, so you don’t exhaust  one friend. One of the things that turns grief to depression is isolation. So be around people. Go to a coffee shop. Plan a movie night with a friend. Join a book club. Start some new interests. Not all of your life revolves around your loss. Just being out and about will help keep depression at bay. Again, be intentional about being social… nothing happens without a little effort… social connection takes effort.

Develop a Grief Project

One of the best tools I have found in grief is to have a project that you can remember the person or loss in. Build something. Create a scrapbook. Write a song or a poem. Go on a trip in their memory. Doing something active can help provide closure. Be in the moment while remembering the past. Something tangible that you can actively do to help channel your feelings, thoughts, and heart. Be creative. This is where your loss takes a positive side. This is where you turn your pain to potential and you see a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark tunnel.

PRAY

Keep your heart open to God. It is so easy to blame God for our losses. Keep communicating… keep talking to Him. He is the ONE who fully understands your grief and has walked where you are walking. Keep seeking peace. He will comfort you!

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Controlling Thoughts, Controlling Life, Part 4

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Controlling Thoughts, Controlling Life, Part 4 (final)

Healing the Hurt, Taking Down that Negative Thought Pattern

So if you have journeyed this far with me… this is when I get excited, because this is where the healing happens…

(Make sure you have read the previous 3 articles)

Changing an underlying belief is sometimes a difficult task over time and sometimes, it happens in a moment.   Personally and when I work with others it has been a journey with some incredible moments.  Now that you have identified the pattern, understand the origin and now you are ready to replace that belief with a correct, true and positive belief.  I want to talk to Christians for just a moment… If you are a Christ follower… you have at one point in your life asked Jesus into your heart as your savior and Lord… your belief system should be in Christ and ALWAYS go back to the Bible for your reference on who you are.  If you are not a Christian, defining a belief system is a little more vague and difficult.  I believe that healing happens because we have a defining belief system based on an unchanging and loving God, so I urge you to seek to find Jesus out if you never have before.

Healing the Hurtdownload (2)

If the core negative belief is based on a hurt that someone has caused you, it is critical that you forgive that person.  Or if it is based on something you have done, ask for forgiveness and accept being forgiven. (refer to article on forgiveness)  Then usually the opposite of what you have been believing is true.  For example if your core belief is that you are not of worth or value because that is exactly what your father has told you.  And you have believed that to be true to the core of who you are… I guarantee that has wreaked havoc in your life and my heart hurts for you.  But the opposite is the real truth.  You are a person of worth and value.  You were created, designed and given a specific purpose for your life…. the  journey is finding that purpose and fulfilling it.  You have got to let that hurt heal in order to get rid of those negative thoughts that are feeding your addiction, your depression, your anxiety, your lack of hope… whatever you are struggling with… this is at the core.

You Have a Choice…

Here is the beauty of this process.  Here is where you put into action all of the things we have been talking about.  You can choose to keep believing all those core beliefs that have a negative grip on your life or you can choose hope.  Change what you believe… put it into practice.  Again… this could happen in a moment when you actually know that what you have believed is false and there is truth that changes you instantly.  OR sometimes it is hard work.  If you need to put up posters around your house, car, work… that remind you of who you REALLY are.  Do it.  If you need to practice every minute some of the skills we have talked about… Do it.  Speak the new belief system out loud!  There is a power in the spoken word.  Choose to change… one thought one moment at a time.  Each positive thought is a victory.  Each negative thought taken captive is a victory!  You can choose to heal; to see life through a whole new lens.

Wrestling

Sometimes the truth is that we have to continually wrestle these thoughts.  We want to be delivered and we can work hard, but we still struggle.  Then my encouragement… keep wrestling.  Have good friends and family hold you accountable.  To pray for you, to encourage you.  Let a couple of people that you can really trust wrestle with you.  Use them as support.  I hope and pray that you will be delivered.  But if you have to wrestle… keep up the fight.  It is worth the effort… you are worth the effort.  Take it one day, one hour,one minute at a time… you CAN do this!!

 

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Controlling Thoughts, Controlling Life, Part 2

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Controlling Thoughts, Controlling Life, Part 2

Practical Help

If you haven’t checked out part 1 of this series, I would encourage you to read that first.  Part 2 is all about implementing the concepts that we have already talked about. I want to give a few simple, but powerful ways to actually control your thoughts.  Used consistently, these should help your recovery in so many ways.

Thought Stoppingdownload

I want you to actually picture a STOP sign…  Whenever you have an automatic negative thought come in your mind. literally put up the stop sign.  Stop the thought.  Do whatever it takes to get rid of it.  Literally get up and move if you can.  Think of it as changing the radio station. Change it.  Get up and do something different.  Use the remote in your mind and begin surfing for more positive information.  Thought stopping alone will not work unless you replace the negative thought with something positive.  Once you stop the thought, replace it with a positive one.  This is where it is great to have a book, note cards with verses, sayings, inspirational thoughts on it handy.  Keep that with you ALL the time, especially in early recovery.   I will give you a practical example that has happened to all of us.  You have the thought… “She is mad at me.  What did I do this time?”  There is nothing positive that that thought is going to have.  So stop it.  Replace it with…”I am not sure that I am the issue, or if there is even an issue.  But it looks like she could use some encouragement right now… how could I encourage her.”

Evaluate the Thought

The next tool I want to give you is true evaluation.  Remember, not every thought is truth.  So you need to evaluate each thought, especially if you have identified it as a thought that typically leads to bad action in your life.  Take our above example.  “She is mad at me.  What did I do this time?”  Is that thought even valid?  Is she even mad?  And if she is mad, why are you necessarily the cause of her anger?  And if you are the reason, this could be a GREAT opportunity to learn and grow in your relationship.  Many times in addiction and in depression and anxiety specifically, most thoughts are self centered and everything becomes about us.  So evaluation is this even a valid or true thought.  If it is not… put it in the trashcan.  If it is, then you can deal with it.  It is also a great idea to check in with someone you trust to see if a thought is a valid one or not.

Developing New Interestsdownload (1)

Sometimes our thoughts get out of control because we become fixated on a certain thought.  That is often the case for people who struggle with anxiety.  Often our worlds become quite small and we literally have nothing else to think about except getting drunk, our husband’s unfaithfulness, or any other negative thought pattern.  So developing new interests is a great place to start.  What is something you have always wanted to try and haven’t.  See just the question, makes you start thinking about something different.  You can start by looking into a new hobby or sport.  Look for community activities that you never looked at before.    Do something different.

You can control your thoughts, they don’t have to control you… let me know how these tools have worked for you.  Be consistent!

 

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Controlling Thoughts, Controlling Life, Part 3

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Controlling Thoughts, Controlling Life, Part 3

Identifying Negative Thought Patternsdownload

Let’s take a minute to examine what your negative thought patterns are.  This is key if you really feel stuck that the tools in part 2 are not working.  Now it is time to examine what do all these negative thoughts relate to?  Much of the time most of our thoughts are a pattern of 2 or 3 major issues.  You may struggle with low self worth, feeling that you can’t accomplish anything and are stuck in your current lifestyle.  Ok…so when you tell yourself you can’t do something or you have a thought that there is no way you could quit using, or reduce your depression… fill in your blank.   What is the pattern involved?  Do most of your negative thoughts go back to a particular issue?  Identify what most of your thoughts relate to… what is the real issue that has you stuck.

Understanding the Origin of the Negative Thought Patterns

This is critical to the healing process and gaining REAL control over your thoughts and therefore your life.  This isn’t a lets blame mom or lets blame dad… or something in your childhood.  But it is taking a real account of your life, past present and future to make changes and decisions that will significantly change the path your life is on or how you cope with the path that you are on.   Many times a present thought pattern is rooted in a past hurt.  I want to give you a quick example of what I mean from a friend of mine.  She had an eating disorder.  After months of getting to know her – it came out that as a child she heard her father say a mean comment to her mother regarding the mother’s weight.  My friend took that in her childhood mind to mean that in order for her dad to approve of her… she needed to be thin.  The thoughts that led to hours of exercise, vomiting, and torment was from what most would see as just a comment.  Her negative thought patterns were rooted in that one short interaction.  What about you… where are your thoughts rooted.  Take some time, once you identify the pattern, then identify where it originates.  This may take some deep soul searching and if you are having a tough time, good, sound counseling can be a huge asset.

The Underlying Beliefimages

I have another picture I would like you to look at… most of the time we stay very surface in our thoughts and don’t really examine what is behind this thought.  So this pyramid is an example of that.  Most of the tools I gave you in part 2 address the top part of the pyramid.  So if you are having a hard time with controlling thoughts that way, this might be a great thing to start examining.  We have thoughts (top of pyramid).  These thoughts are based on feelings and the feelings and thoughts reinforce one another continuously.  However the base of the pyramid, what feeds and fuels the feelings which reinforce the thoughts…. is an underlying belief system.  If my underlying belief is that I am unlovable and unwanted… what do you think that will do to my relationships.  If on the other hand I believe that I am chosen, loved, and created to be just who I am… how do you think that would change my relationships.  So the key to uprooting persistent, destructive thoughts…

1.  Identify the Pattern

2. Understand the Origin

3. Change the underlying belief

See the 4th and final part of this series to understand how to actually change the underlying belief… hope this is helpful…