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Is That Your Heart You’ve Been Ignoring?

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Have you heard the phrase “Driven to distraction?” It’s a common reality for many. Grief brings worries, fears, anxiety, plus the pain of being alone. Being alone is one of the most difficult aspects of loss of a loved one. Now with the pandemic and physically needing to social distance, there is more alone time. With that is a craving of distractions to keep the mind busy. And understandably so. No one wants to feel the pain of grief and being alone.

Mind and heart

The hardest part of grieving is to allow the feelings. As much as you keep your mind busy with distractions, your heart will still feel what’s missing. It’s really a conundrum of feelings. Your mind knows, and your heart feels, and all anyone grieving really wants is to feel less pain.

How do you walk through the grief if you are keeping your mind so busy you cannot allow the grief feelings? The heart needs attention. A certain amount of balance between your grieving heart and your distracted mind is important. Managing this balance to grieve in a healthier way is like a recipe… a bit of this, a pinch of that, and all the ingredients work together in harmony toward an acceptance of the way you feel.

Listening to your heart — really listening — allows the feelings that arise to be acknowledged. Listening is kind of like when you open the door to a friend and say hello with a smile. Your heart needs that too. Like a garden needs tending, so does your heart. Allowing the memories and the feelings to come and knowing your true heart is non-judgmental, open and loving.

At any place on the timeline of grief, the heart is what’s holding on and very likely even holding you. The heart is the holder of the pain. The heart feels what’s real, while the mind is creating scenarios and sending jabs of fear and anxiety. It can be truly eye opening when you listen to your heart, especially when you feel like you don’t know what to do or where to turn. Don’t drive away. Listen. Sit. Then you may see some light and be more open to the possibilities.

Grief saps confidence and may even cause you to feel unsure of trusting yourself. Trust and confidence can begin to rebuild by listening to the intuition of your heart. You may begin to realize that this is the experience of your heart mending. As you listen, you may hear a “heart message.” That’s your mind and your heart connecting and healing grief.

The best analogy for healing grief is the human body. If we’re physically injured, our wound is usually finite and over time we expect the body to heal. But death wounds our innermost soul and spirit. For some grievers the wound is so immeasurable that, at least for a time, healing seems impossible. It’s the wound of having a loved one die that causes us to grieve. It’s a wound that has so many “what if” questions that it seems impossible to go forward. There is a retreat with being driven to distraction, although it may seem to have helpful moments. Grief comes in waves with its own schedule to remind you and your heart to give grief its time too.

For a grieving heart to heal, your mind to be a little quieter so it can connect with your heart. It’s a collaboration starting with a gentle breathing to bring the heart into the mind and the mind into the heart. Just a few slow, soft breaths with your hand over your heart allows your heart to bring harmony. This also allows the body to relax. It’s a trifecta of the heart, mind and body uniting into a peaceful moment of self-compassion. Bringing less fears and reasons to be driven to distraction. More time to take note of small beautiful things such as a flower on your walk, or a smile from a stranger as you pass by, or a smile in your heart. A journey less driven.

By Evelyn Pechter, Psy.D.