Rules for Grief

At a difficult time in my life I discovered three rules which helped me to manage my thoughts and emotions. If you are dealing with something similar then perhaps they can be useful to you.

1. It is okay to feel how you are feeling

Accept whatever emotions you are feeling in the current moment. Regardless of the time or place, there is no ‘wrong’ way to feel. This means not judging yourself for being sad (or happy!) and not feeling guilty for the emotions that are coming to you.

In the midst of grief it can be very disorienting to feel truly happy, even for a moment. It is also easy to feel that something is wrong with your own feelings when they don’t match those of the people around you. Accepting your current emotions means freeing yourself from this self-judgment.

2. No bargaining

Notice when you are slipping into bargaining thought patterns and gently but firmly move your mind on to the next thought. Bargaining thought patterns are often thoughts like ‘I wish X had happened instead of Y’ or ‘I would trade X to make it so Y never happened’.

Although these thoughts seem to center on the grief, they are a form of wishful thinking or daydreaming that avoids the reality of the situation. Emotional and mental energy is better spent on reflection than avoidance. When I would catch myself in these thought patterns I would recall the rule and think ‘ah, no bargaining’ as a way to pause and help my mind switch to a new thought.

3. Recognize misplaced negativity

If you realize that you are feeling negatively toward someone (frustrated, angry, etc.), pause and identify the source of the negative feelings. Has this person done something to warrant the way you are feeling towards them? Or are you simply feeling negatively in general and they are caught in the path of that?

While experiencing overwhelming grief it is easy to subconsciously direct excess negativity towards those around you. That fact that you are likely tired, stressed, and overwhelmed only compounds the issue. It only takes a moment’s reflection to realize ‘Ah, I’m not actually mad at them, I’m just mad in general’.

If you’re lucky, the people around you at this time are the ones who truly care about you. They want to help you and this small step will help them do that, which is what you need.