The recent fires and flooding in Montecito have left many of us feeling vulnerable and filled with grief due to our own losses or the losses felt by people we care about. In times of tragedy, it is important to think of ways to help us cope and maintain a healthy outlook. Managing the grief we are feeling and fear of the unknown is an important part of the recovery process.
Fear is a difficult emotion to communicate to others. It makes us feel vulnerable. Moreover, when we try to control our feelings of fear, they can come out as anger. We may get quick tempered; becoming enraged when someone is late, or when someone corrects our mistakes. It often happens that we express rage at the people who we feel most safe around, like our partners or our children. Usually we regret this afterward. What can we do to manage our fear?
Being in control of our bodies is always a good place to start. When we are afraid, it’s helpful to move our bodies. Being still can make us feel more scared. Moving our bodies reminds us that we are capable and on our feet. In addition, exercise helps us move fear through our bodies faster. When we feel scared, climbing a set of staircases can bring some relief. Walking with friends or dancing with strangers helps even more. Moving our bodies is a strategy we can take with us everywhere, and it reduces fear every time.
Grief is an appropriate reaction to multiple losses, like loss of community, loss of safety, and loss of hope. When we feel overwhelmed with sorrow, it helps to cry. Unfortunately, it can take us a long time to figure out that sorrow is what we are feeling. Sometimes when we feel exhausted, we are actually sad. Check in with yourself. Could you cry right now? Do it. The best way to feel grief is to feel grief, and not resist it. Grief comes and goes, if we let it.
Unexpressed grief can turn to depression. Depression is different from grief. Depression tells us that we are terrible people with nothing to offer. Depression encourages us to isolate ourselves from the people and places that will support us. Depression is difficult to overcome, because we feel like we’re not worth the effort that it takes. To prevent depression, express grief.
Feelings of fear and grief can produce conflict and suffering when the people we rely on are having a different feeling than we are. If your friends are marching in the streets and you only want to nap you can feel wrong. If you are angry and everyone is crying, you can feel like you’re alone and the only one on your feet. All of us will feel scared and sad eventually. When you are scared find the people who are scared and get together and do something constructive together that helps to alleviate the fear like walking, talking or even shouting out loud. When you are sad, find the people who are sad and be there as support for each other. All of these ways of feeling are the right way to feel. The most important thing we can do is surround ourselves with people who help us to feel the way we do. Group up. Hold on.
Article written by LCSW, Behavioral Health Specialist, Max Rorty