Bad Breakup? This is how I process grief and loss.
(Podcast Show Notes)
Hey, let's talk about grief and loss. So this has been a tough time I think as a nation. Right now As it stands, I believe that we've seen something around 500,000 casualties in the United States. People have lost their jobs, they've had to leave homes. They've lost partners, whether due to fighting and breakup or divorce, or actual literal death.
And so this podcast is all about how do we deal with the pain and the emotions that come up inside of loss? When we have a bad breakup, when we lose someone that we really care about, in general, what do we do?
And I think the first part then, is to recognize that the grieving process is really only about two emotions. And it's sadness, and anger, right? It's sadness for what we're losing. The experiences that we'll never get to experience, again, the person that is no longer going to be a part of our lives.
And it's anger. It's anger at not being able to get to a completion point, it's anger for the things that will never be resolved. It's anger for the ways that we believe we were mistreated or misunderstood. It's anger for the wrongs that we experienced, because no one is perfect. And no one has a perfectly clean track record.
Now, in general, people are pre-disposed one of two ways, we're either going to have an easier time with the sadness, or we're going to have an easier time with the anger. And culturally, we're kind of conditioned that way.
So for me, personally, I have an easy time being angry about things or at least easier, like it comes more naturally, right? Sometimes I can't even control it. Whereas with sadness, on the other hand, THAT... that is a process, right? I have to have to get sad music, I have to watch videos on YouTube that are designed to make you cry, I have to go through this entire process in order to feel complete.
So there's this well known phenomenon that happens particularly around folks who identify as female, where there will be endless crying, right, sometimes multiple times that one day, and that crying will help temporarily. But then there's this phenomenon where the pain of loss comes back. And then there's more crying, and then the pain of loss comes back again, and again, and again.
And that can go on for months sometimes. The reason for this is because the underlying emotion hasn't been fully dealt with. Only half of it has been dealt with. And that's the anger component. That's the anger component that's been overlooked.
Now, dealing with anger is a little bit different than dealing with sadness, of course. And sometimes if you're looking for inspiration, that process can look like going into your car and just yelling and screaming and being mad. You may want to listen to some aggressive music while you do it. You may want to grab a pillow and punch it as hard as you can and keep on punching. You may want to grab a towel and yell into it.
Whatever your process looks like, it is some form of vocal or physical violence, except we channel it into a place where no one gets hurt. Now the important part here isn't that we're responsible about the anger. The anger is irrational, or the anger is going to be about stupid things that don't make sense. The anger is going to be blamey and kind of victimey sometimes, and that's okay.
That is part of the process. As long as you don't walk away believing that all of those things are true about the person which after the anger is gone. Generally as that anger begins to disperse, we can see things a little bit more rationally. But the important part is that you don't play nice when it comes to anger and letting it go. You also don't do it to their face (the person that you're mad at).
But you do it in a controlled environment, right? If you need to journal about it. If you need to rap about it, yell about it, or punch a pillow about it, or punch your car seat about it. Do those things. Go to your local boxing gym if it's safe for you, and then hit a bag. Wrap up your wrists, put on some gloves and smack a bag around.
The critical piece is that we're giving an outlet to all these pent up emotions and generally the way that this works, is that if these emotions aren't expressed, we need to kind of like, clamp down on them, these feelings in our body.
And that's generally how it goes with emotions. And if we don't want to feel them, then we kind of have to get tense in order to not feel them. Which is one of the reasons why people who are passive aggressive also tend to have really tense shoulders and neck muscles. I'm one of those people.
So we store that tension in our bodies as a means of masking that emotion. And the minute that you can let that emotion out, is the minute that tension disappears, is the minute that bodily discomfort disappears, is the minute the emotional discomfort disappears.
So you see the entire chain of command and the process here. So that's good for immediate relief. Now, the thing, the next part that may be helpful is that you can scan through all the remaining emotions.
Where do I have gratitude for this relationship? What do I regret? What do I wish I could say to that other person? If I had a chance of 10 minutes alone with them, what do I wish I could say to that person...? And I want you to cycle through all of your other emotions, and then speak them out loud.
So much of the emotional pain that we experience as humans comes from undelivered communication. And especially with loss, there is a ton of undelivered communication, because we can't talk to them anymore. Not if we want to heal, right? And especially not if they've passed away, or at least that's how it goes in our heads. But the beautiful part about the brain is that it has a really hard time distinguishing between imagination, and reality.
And when it comes to this particular exercise, just speaking, what you need to say, as though you're talking directly to that person is enough to create a sense of catharsis and release. Now one of the other more important things to remember here is that this process will take time. And biologically, the process takes around three weeks, 21 days. And that's if you process very rapidly if you've had a lot of experience with loss.
Now, if you haven't, then expect that process to take a little bit longer. Of course, you can shorten down the time, if you do everything that we've been talking about here.
It's equally worth noting that while this process is going on, there are some biological changes that are happening in your brain, one of the most important of which is that serotonin levels are reduced by 50%.
So your ability to self regulate, your ability to manage your emotions will be cut in half, at least, right. In addition to that, our fight or flight response is triggered in this event, because when we lose someone that's important to us, that's close to us... that we took for granted as just, you know, a pillar in our own lives.
1000 years ago, that would have been a survival situation, right? That's life or death. So our brains are still wired to that. We just lost someone really important to us. So as a result, our brains are going a little bit haywire.
And that can lead to the experience of a number of different things. One is this feeling of overwhelm directionless, sness, hopelessness, feeling like something is wrong, and like that feeling like something is wrong, it's just hovering in the background, we can't get rid of it. Another thing you may notice is a sense of insomnia, it's hard to sleep. And that's no accident, either. There is a sense of hyper alertness that comes with fight or flight. Again, we do this to survive.
So if we're being attacked by a neighboring tribe, or a pack of wolves, my favorite example, it would really make sense for us to be hyper alert for us to wake up quickly when we hear a little bit of noise. And the way that we can address that fight or flight response is that we can counter it right. One of the best ways to do that is to begin to get a little bit of exercise and a little bit of sun.
Now, exercise has the miraculous effect of processing through the number one stress hormone, that's cortisol. When we exercise, it burns away the cortisol in our systems. So it also releases endorphins as well. So that one-two punch of promoting positive psychology and removing the stress hormone (cortisol) is amazing. (When it comes to just giving ourselves a little bit more space, to feel better...just giving ourselves a little bit more breathing room, so we can stop grieving, if only for just a few minutes.)
In a number of scientific studies scientists have found that vitamin D is immensely impactful, and most of us are actually deficient in vitamin D. Because we work indoors most of the time, right? Most of us don't get nearly as much sun as we need. And when we are given large doses of vitamin D, it's actually been shown to address the symptoms of major depression. And especially resilient depression, will give way in the face of vitamin D.
So I really recommend ...
If you're having a hard time, to begin to baby step your way into working out. So you don't have to work out for three hours, you don't have to be an athlete, nor do you have to do that on Day 1 when you're grieving. And you don't want to be out in the world at all. Especially not with the pandemic. But what you *can* do is begin to gradually step up.
So on day one, maybe you're doing a minute of exercise. And then day two, you do a minute and a half of exercise. And by day seven, maybe you're doing 15-20 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever it looks like for you.
Whatever feels like it's manageable.
And as you notice, more and more changes, as you begin to work out more and it improves your mood, as you begin to build on that habit, you may find that all of a sudden you have more motivation.
So now you can do something. In addition, you can start stretching, or you can start planning out something that's exciting for yourself, at the end of the day, maybe you go to the grocery store and pick up a new ingredient, or you bake yourself a cheesecake, or whatever that looks like.
Give yourself something to look forward to. I find that in anticipating that one fun, sexy, exciting thing at the end of my day... that really gives me free license to feel excited about it all day.
And sometimes that's enough of a distraction, for me to feel good.
Even if it's just for like eight hours, you know, that's that's enough. Sometimes that's enough.
So last of all, I want to offer my personal help on this, if you are really struggling, if you're having a hard time and you just want someone to talk to you don't drop me a line at greatdateguy.com.
You can jump into the chat in the bottom right of the website, just click on that little bubble. And sometimes I'll be around and they'll be there to respond to you.
And I think that kind of highlights something else that's really important about this process. At first, you're probably not going to want to talk to anyone. And that makes sense, right?
I find that when I'm really dysregulated. I'm also kind of grumpy. You know, it's easier for me to snap at folks and kind of just ruin ruin relationships. But when it feels like it's a little bit more under control. When you've done a number of these exercises, come back.
Go back to your friends, talk to them set up Zoom meeting, allow them to ask you questions, then allow yourself to answer those questions. Honestly.
I find that it's painful for me to do that. I don't ...I don't like it at all. And sometimes people asking me questions about stuff that I don't want to talk ...about makes a huge difference.
And sometimes I look like a blubbering idiot. Sometimes I'm crying on a call where I don't want to be crying in front of my bros, where I especially don't want to be crying. And yet, I recognize that those moments were pivotal in my recovery.
So a big part of this process, I believe, is allowing ourselves to be humble, humble enough to ask for help. humble enough to receive it humble enough to look bad sometimes. But ultimately knowing that the actions that we take, no matter how uncomfortable they are,
are going to help us in the long run.
So that's all the time that we have for today. My name is Rob Wang,
This is the Great Date Guy podcast. And if you got something out of this, please consider leaving a like, or a comment, or subscribing, or leaving a rating, or leaving a round of applause (if you're on anchor).
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