The Restlessness of Grief: Taking Back Control

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It’s early morning and the sun has just come up.  I open my eyes and am hit with a wave of grief as I remember that my loved one is gone.  My mind begins to remember the events of the last few days and I replay the reality that now is my life again and again.

The pain of the memory quickly moves from my mind down to my chest and into my stomach.  Memories come flooding into me of the days before the funeral and the seemingly endless days after the funeral.  I roll over trying to shift the pain that sits heavy within me realizing that it isn’t going to help.  I am overwhelmed by my grief.

The grief process can plague us with racing thoughts and restless minds. It can be physically daunting. Grief can leave us feeling helpless and unsure of what to do from one moment to the next.  I find it particularly challenging in the early morning or evening when the rest of the world is quiet and I am alone with my thoughts.  I know what I could do, but deciding what to do next can be overwhelming, so often times my response is to do nothing and lean into the pain and sadness.  I want this feeling to end.  I want to make it stop but don’t know what to do.

If you are looking for an alternative and are feeling restless, it can be very helpful to find something you can do to honor the memory of your loved one.  You can be in action and being in action helps you control your surroundings. You can choose to spend your day remembering the good times you had together and celebrating their life as a way to help you get through the day and begin to heal.

By choosing what you are focusing on, you are regaining a sense of control during an uncertain time.

Here are a few options you can use to focus on the love you have for the one you’ve lost.

  • Buy a flower and plant it in a small pot to have beside your bed.
  • Gather mementos and build a memory box.
  • Frame a special picture or create a collage and share it on Facebook.
  • Paint a picture that expresses your feelings about your loved one.
  • Write your loved one a letter.
  • Light a candle and watch it flicker as you recollect the top 3 things you loved most about your loved one. Write them down.

And as you focus on the love you have in your heart, remember this. The amount of pain we feel is directly related to the amount of love we carry in our hearts.

It’s interesting to me how surprised we are by the amount of pain we feel in the earliest days of grief.  We feel so much pain.  We don’t realize that we hurt so intensely because we loved so intensely.  Of course we are sad.  Of course we feel pain.  Of course we don’t know how to live without them.

You CAN do more than just survive your grief.  You can be in action and create something original.  You can create something beautiful because it comes from you and comes from the love you hold in your heart.  Today, try being in creation and turning your pain into something you can share with the world.  If it feels good to you, repeat it or try something else.  If it doesn’t, that’s okay too.  Give yourself the time you need to process your emotions and try again another day.

Catherine McNulty

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After losing her infant son in 2011, Catherine embarked on a journey to do more than survive grief. The loss forever changed the trajectory of her life and sent her looking for meaning and purpose for the life she was given. She channeled the love for her son into her own healing, self-growth and personal empowerment. Today, she has created a framework to grief that disrupts conventional ways of looking at loss. She challenges her clients to step outside of a victim mindset and regain control of how they navigate grief. She teaches how to grow through grief and encourages speaking openly about grief to break down the walls of silence around grief. Catherine lives in San Diego with her family where she speaks, writes, and offers coaching to those who want to do more than just survive grief. She is a board member of Empty Cradle and volunteers at Miracle Babies and the Ronald McDonald House. Her business, Grief INSPIRED supports those who are grieving and guides them to create a new normal that honors the ones they’ve lost.

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