R-A-W Emotions

We often hear that the death of a loved one brings people closer together. When we feel safe and can share with others, we move in and out of grief feeling supported and stable in the love that we have for the deceased. If people are fighting instead, feelings of loss may be compounded.

In my own experience and through a number of stories that have been shared with me, some relationships appear to suffer permanent damage after the loss of a loved one. People who were close to the deceased don’t necessarily share the same perceptions, memories, experiences and/or reality. When one person’s truth is challenged, it can become very painful quickly.

When feelings are R-A-W and normal “behavioral filters” are nonexistent because of loss and the number of sudden changes that have occurred, a simple conflict can explode into hostile and aggressive behavior quickly. After the death of a loved one, people often grasp onto control because their lives feel completely out of control. It’s hard to ‘let go’ and accept different perspectives because different perspectives challenge our core beliefs. Humans are multifaceted beings. We share different parts of ourselves with different people.

Discord following the death of a loved one typically comes from feelings, not issues themselves. Feelings of inclusion/exclusion in decision making, perceived insensitivity from others, differing beliefs, and the perceived wishes of the loved one can become hot buttons in the days after the death. When someone dies a vacuum is created where there once vitality in someone who expressed opinions, had preferences, made choices, and was part of other people’s lives. After the loss, family and friends are left behind to interpret the deceased’s opinions, preferences, choices, and relationships.

Legally, there are those who are given the right to speak on behalf of the deceased and his/her wishes. The legal structure does not address the complexities of life, death and the emotional realm that make us human. When emotions are raw, it’s hard for people to perceive things from any perspective but their own. When emotions are raw, we feel vulnerable and exposed. We have temporarily lost access to our usual insightful, thoughtful, even tempered and forgiving selves. In an attempt to protect one’s vulnerability, anger, manipulation, divisiveness, and narrow thinking emerge as a way to cope with feelings of vulnerability and fear.

The loss itself can be so overwhelming that rational thinking might be compromised. When multiple people have been affected by loss and all are feeling R-A-W, it can become very difficult to discuss important things like funeral arrangements, wills and service plans. At such a time, it’s natural for each person to become protective of their needs because often their deepest fears have been unearthed by the death. Family dynamics that may have lay dormant for many years can resurface during this time. Relationships with extended family can become threadbare quickly because the deceased was the reason for the two groups of people coming together.

It’s worth repeating a familiar statement, that each person grieves in their own way and in their own time. Perhaps more forgiveness and giving the other person the benefit of the doubt after the death of a loved one, may promote healing and well-being. Maybe taking a step back until emotions are no longer R-A-W before making fresh attempts to heal fractured relationships. When emotions are R-A-W, it’s easy to feel but hard to think. The trick is to not act out towards others with R-A-W emotions.

R-A-W spelled backwards is W-A-R! Stop the W-A-R by focusing on the love for the deceased and what he/she brought into your life.

Basia Mosinski

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Basia Mosinski, ATR-BC, LCAT, MA, MFA is an Art Therapist and OneLife.Coach in Private Practice in CA. Basia works with people in many different parts of the country in online individual meetings, online groups and in person in Newport Beach, CA. In 1993, Basia’s stepson Logan died in a head-on train collision in the midwest where she and her family lived. Within two years, her marriage broke apart and more losses compounded. Logan’s death took her on a journey through pain to inner healing and growth. Along the way, she participated in The Phoenix Project a 12-week intensive process for healing grief and loss. She not only participated in the process she later became a ritual elder of The Phoenix Project, working with Dr Jack Miller. In December of 2001 Dr Miller invited her and several other practitioners to give a weekend of healing to families impacted by 9/11 in New York. Basia was so moved by that work that when she returned to Chicago, she enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she was teaching to gain a second masters’ degree in Art Therapy. When she graduated in 2005, she relocated to NY where she became the Assistant Director of Mental Health at Gay Men’s Health Crisis while maintaining a thriving private practice, sharing office space with Dr. Heidi Horsley. In 2014, Basia moved to Southern California to live close to her only child, her grown son, Richard, his wife and her granddaughter. 9 months later, Richard died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism on a flight from Chicago to Orange County. In addition to helping others on their journey of healing, Basia is helping herself through the shock of what has happened by using what she has learned along the way and through writing a book about her process and the ways that she and her family are coping with the loss of Richard through texting, photos and ‘sightings’. Basia’s blog is: onelife.coach/blog Basia is the former co-chair of the Technology Committee of the American Art Therapy Association.

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