Why processing loss is VITAL for health

I remember I used to always challenge my math teachers about how the knowledge was actually going to be useful in realy life.  As I have matured (ie directed my sassiness to more enjoyable directions), I can see how evaluating the total impact of adding to or subtracting from our lives is important.  For example, these equations came to me recently:

Unprocessed grief, may be deconstructed to be:

Repression + Avoidance of grief= stuck energy which left untended squares itself and = increased anxiety/fear/sadness/anger/depression PLUS decreased confidence in capacity to face adversity

Whereas, processed grief may look/feel like:

Learning to surrender + accept= moving energy, which when multiplied with repetition = decreased anxiety/fear/sadness/anger/depression and ADDS tremendous growth of skills, spiritual depth, and capacity to feel joy

Keep in mind, processing loss is not a “one and done” kind of deal.  The grieving process is like an onion- it has many layers and to fully walk thought it we must cycle back time and time again with the need to process the next layer.  It can be startling how raw grief triggers can be, even when we have made a lot of progress, so have some compassion for yourself.

After losing my mom to cancer, I became highly sensitized to the various ways we experience grief throughout the lifespan.  It’s not just in death or the ending of a relationship.  For example, we grieve when we have a loss of innocence, when the veil that perhaps protects us from danger and adversity is removed.  Frequently we minimize the impact that this loss of innocence can have on our psyche.  Having a life threatening illness can cause us to confront many losses, some more obvious than others.  In fact, it isn’t until we experience feeling triggered by something that we recognize the losses that we have had.

It can feel overwhelming to begin the process of unpacking loss, in whatever form it takes.  May the tools of mindfulness, art, writing, and connecting with others be of service to you. It can be an excellent time to begin therapy or to start attending a support group, speaking with your loved ones and treatment team about resources is important.

“Loss is like a wind, it either carries you to a new destination or it traps you in an ocean of stagnation. You must quickly learn how to navigate the sail, for stagnation is death.” ― Val Uchendu

– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, who works as an oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Creative Transformations offers individual sessions, in person or via Skype, workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.