When we grieve, our emotions will have their way with us. One person I spoke with described it as playing with that toy where things pop up, and you are supposed to hit it with your hammer before it disappears again. It’s like that with our emotions when we are grieving. They pop up unexpectedly; we have no control over the experience.

It can feel overwhelming. Actually, it can feel scary. It can feel like you do not have control over your life. One of the tasks of grieving is to find ways to feel your emotions while staying within what you are able to tolerate. Doing this is difficult, and there is much discomfort along the way. I heard this saying the other day that I thought would be helpful.

“If you can name it, you can tame it.”

If we can slow down just enough to be able to name the emotion we are feeling, then we can allow the feeling to be there without being overcome by it.

Sometimes we don’t know what we are feeling. Our society is emotionally illiterate. We speak of the basic emotions, but often it is more complex than just the basics. Sometimes we might say we are angry, but perhaps we are frustrated. Or we might say we feel guilty, but maybe we feel remorseful or regretful. Or we say we are sad, but we are exhausted and tired.

If we can become more literate with emotional words, we might not feel so confused and overwhelmed. We can allow the feeling to be there until it passes. It will pass. Our job is not to resist. We allow it to move through us. Oh my, this can be uncomfortable, even painful, and it is the work of grieving. If you can be clear about what emotion you feel, you will be more able to let it in and through.

Denise Torgerson
Community Programs