Things in Erin’s Head 

 

When we talk about feelings, we resort to the Big Five: Happy, Sad, Angry, Scared, and Disgust (which were magically depicted in Pixar’s animated flick Inside Out).

But there’s a LOT more. 

More feelings, more COMBINATIONS of feelings (holy crap, we can feel more than one feeling at ONCE!). There have been many times in the past two years where I’ve felt both excited and terrified – two sides of the same coin. And sometimes we find ourselves leaning into one feeling because another, more uncomfortable feeling feels foreign to us.

(grief)

Today is the day my sweet Duke crossed the rainbow bridge five years ago. I miss his kitty spirit every day. I woke up this morning in disbelief that he has been gone for half of the time he was with us. Then I felt a flash of deeper grief knowing that someday, the day will come where he will have been gone longer than we had him. And as #NotMyCat bumped her way onto my chest for 5am snuggles, I also felt grateful to know she had known Duke. 

At the end of March I lost my grandmother. While I’m not ready to write about her and her beauty, our personal connection, and the many lessons I learned from being one of her caregivers this year, I can speak to the grief I’m experiencing (or trying to experience). 

You see, dear reader, I am a feelings novice. That may sound a bit odd as someone who is teaching people about the art feeling feelings, but I have gone from a place of shoving them down… down… wayyyyyy down… into a non-existent void… to a place of awareness:

A) that feelings exist;
B) how to sit with them;
C) how to begin to move through them;
D) beginning to trust the process.

It can feel like a gargantuan leap to go from ignoring all of your feelings, to accepting their existence, but if I can do it, you can do it too (and a giant heartfelt bear hug to you if you’ve been on this journey).

Interestingly enough, as I lean more into my grief, that cottonmouth situation I talked about last week (you can see all past newsletters >> HERE <<), has slowly improved. Even though I’m tempering my grief like eggs being added to a silky creme pie so it doesn’t curdle my soul, I’m learning that letting the grief flow when it wants to, when it needs to, doesn’t kill me. 

In fact, I’ve learned that if I don’t let it flow, another emotion will show up that I’m more intimately familiar with. One that will force me to stop and pay attention (the body WILL find a way to make you stop when you need to). It shows up differently for everyone, but the nail strips my body throws down to make me come to a screeching halt?

Anxiety. 

My friend Lisa Harrington (@the_mindful_psychotherapist) publicly shared her recent experience with anxiety on her Instagram feed. She was attributing it to life’s normal stressors, but when her normal tools and tricks didn’t quite relieve her anxiety, she sat quietly to feel into what was really happening. In that space she realized she was coming up on the anniversary of her brother’s passing, and it was actually grief poking it’s nose through the window of her life.

Grief doesn’t just *go away.* It is not a “time heals all wounds” situation. It visits us in waves, it ebbs and flows. Some phases are longer lasting, and sometimes, years after our loss, it will pull us under like a rip current, even if only for just a moment, and when we feel it, it will set us free again. 

There’s a YouTube video I have shared in the past, but I’m sharing it again today: “We Don’t Move On From Grief: We Move Forward With It“. In it Nora McInerny says, “Grief doesn’t happen in this vacuum, it happens alongside of and mixed in with all these other emotions.” And it can be felt with love.

Because it’s all about love…

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