I have been wandering around, feeling lost, inconsolable. The weight of my grief seems horrific but as I think of the families that have lost so much I wonder “Do I have the right to grieve this much?” I was speaking with a good friend and fellow coach, Lisa Hayes, about this and she explained why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. She wrote this blog about that conversation:
Our human ancestors lived in tribes as a matter of survival. There were two main reasons this was a necessity. First, hunting and gathering together improved the odds of not starving. Secondly, everyone in the tribe was responsible for the safety of the children, so their odds of survival increased exponentially with the size of the tribe. We are biologically wired to see other people’s children as our own, especially when they are in danger. It’s an instinct to save a child.
Additionally your brain is equipped with mirror neurons. In very simplistic terms mirror neurons force you to feel the emotions you witness in another, especially their pain. Why? Again, because the survival of the species depends on you feeling another person hurt. You are much more likely to help another when it relieves your own pain. Altruism is biologically selfish.
What does all of this mean to you? It means part of your brain thinks those children in Connecticut are your children. Your rational mind knows better, but your reptilian brain can’t tell the difference. Compounding that, your mirror neurons are forcing you to feel the pain of the loved ones left behind and the loss of those in the community suffering.
Simply put, you aren’t imagining the sick feeling in your stomach. There’s a reason you can’t stop crying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting any of us can understand what they are going through. However, it’s a fact that your are very likely experiencing this event in a very personal and profound way, because you are human, and you can’t help it. There is a clinical term for it. It’s called post-secondary stress disorder. Pretending it’s not a reality for you or ignoring the feelings is hazardous.
All of these emotions are deeply personal. How we deal is incredibly individual. However, here are some suggestions that might help.
Allow the tears to flow. Don’t be afraid to cry in front of your children. Show them it’s alright to feel the feelings.
Double up, even triple up on your regular self care routine. Your body is under the stress of your grief and pain right now. Extra sleep, water, and nutritious food will go a long way to helping your body and spirit cope.
Talk if you need to. Share your feelings of fear or grief with someone you can trust to be a compassionate witness. Do the same for someone else. No one else can actually make you feel better, but expressing your feelings is healthy.
Do something. Send a card. Plant a tree. Donate money. Anything. Doing something relieves the nagging ache of helplessness. It’s more about helping you than anyone else.
Connect with Spirit in your own way. Pray, meditate, chant, dance, sing, get out in nature. Wherever and however you find spirit, get there and do it. Ask for comfort for yourself and everyone else.
Be patient with yourself and especially with others. Everyone is feeling it. Most will be unaware of how they are affected. Be very gentle with everyone including yourself.
Hug more. Physical connection really does help. It releases a pharmacy of the kind of brain chemicals that relieve grief and stress.
Be true to the moment. Find joy where you can and don’t feel guilty about it. Be sad if you are and don’t feel guilty about that either.
Spend time in quiet. Especially right now in the press of the holidays your entire system is likely on overload. Be very intentional about giving yourself plenty of quiet time to allow your whole self to process and reboot.
Seek professional support if you feel like you need it. This is not a time to ignore the signs and not reach out for help if you need it. This kind of experience is significant. You don’t have to do it alone.