You must understand that seeing is believing, but you must also know that believing is seeing.
- Denis Waitley
What we believe to be true has a major influence on what we feel as we cope with the death of our loved one. Thus the power to manage feelings lies in our awareness of beliefs we hold, whether they are limiting, and if we are willing to change them. For example, it is not uncommon for mourners to feel guilty because they believe they should have done something that they are sure would have prevented a loved one's death.
Consider the following: "I should have taken her to a different emergency room." "I should have gotten him to stop smoking." "I should have insisted he try a new medicine." "I shouldn't have asked her to travel so far for her treatments." What are behind such guilt-ridden statements? Beliefs that don't stand the test of logic and reason. So how do we stand up to emotions and feelings that cause great anxiety?
1. It all begins with the desire to examine and want to change the conditions under which we are suffering. You must change, if feelings are to change. Such determination is absolutely essential. Yes, it's okay to choose sadness and great sorrow and feel it deep within. However, at some point, that only you can decide on, it will be time to let some of it go. What to do?
2. Make an analysis of what belief is behind what you "should have done." Is it a sound belief or unreasonable? Key question: What are the facts supporting the belief? All of the "should haves" in the second paragraph above are clearly based on unreasonable beliefs (I should have been God-like and knew better). They are built on the faulty major belief that we are omnipotent and should have known everything, at exactly the right time.
And don't forget, some of your beliefs are hidden from conscious awareness. Unconscious beliefs are behind many of our feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.
Ask yourself what you are getting out of holding on to an illogical belief. Why are you embracing pain? Is it because you are convinced it will damage the relationship you have with your beloved if you let go of it? Be assured, your relationship will never end. Choose to feature and increase love as the primary characteristic of the new relationship.
3. Is it worth holding on to these feelings? And how long do you want to have to deal with them? The rest of your life? Try the following: Sit down and relax. Pretend you are having a conversation with your loved one who is sitting across from you. Tell him/her exactly what you're feeling. Decide right now what you honestly think he/she would say after you explain why you feel the way you do. Listen carefully to what pops into your head. Give yourself permission to let go of that part of your past. Your feelings will follow your new thinking.
4. When you've been given the all clear, since you know your loved one would never tell you to keep a miserable feeling, what action can you take? Here is where you get creative. Most importantly, challenge the old belief with a new one like "If I knew what I know now of course I would have done differently." When that unwanted feeling starts making inroads, get up and do something. Call a friend, do a chore, take a walk, say a prayer, go outside and look at a beautiful view, read something, or listen to a song. Do something that would make your loved one proud of you.
5. Ask yourself if your feelings and emotions are fueled by the false belief that by staying with all the pain you are showing love for the person. Here are some more beliefs mourners have shared with me that may be part of your pattern of pain. (A) I'm crying too much (or I'm not crying enough). (B) I have to be strong and keep my feelings hidden. (C) I'm getting what I deserve. This is my punishment. (D) I cannot live without her. (E) It's wrong for me to have moments of joy when mourning. (F) I should have been there when he died as I said I would.
If you wish to cope well, never forget that belief is a choice. There is always a new belief to replace an old one.
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