Grief like all emotions isn’t to be ignored, swept aside nor rushed, we need to take time to live through it without getting stuck in it. Grief is an important emotion. Everyone grieves differently. Different cultures grieve differently. Some cultures and families speak openly about death and grief, others don’t.
How can we as Highly Sensitive People deal with grief? It may sound scary considering that we feel very deeply and are also very empathic.
Allow and observe your feelings, even though you may feel they are too strong. Recently a friend died, we had only met once but kept in touch through correspondence. Because we had only met once part of me felt like I wasn’t allowed to feel the intense loss I felt when he died. Speaking about it with my son reminded me that my feelings are my feelings, I don’t need to censor them or ignore them. Speak with others about your feelings. Ask friends to listen only and not to give you any advice unless you ask for it.
Write a letter to the person who died. You can tell them things you wish you had said, you can express your love, and you can even ask for forgiveness. This is your letter to them, you can write whatever you want. Some people burn the letter, some keep them and others have built a paper boat and send it down the river.
Ask friends to check up on you on a regular basis, if they don’t hear from you. Give them permission to openly ask you how you are dealing with the death of your loved one.
If you are not able to attend the funeral, have a celebration, a ritual at the same time the funeral happens. I planted a maple during my grandmothers funeral. As I planted flowers around the tree I thanked her for specific things she had been and done for me. Even though I couldn’t attend the funeral in Austria, I felt connected with the rest of my family.
Be kind with yourself. Don’t berate yourself for still being sad after a certain time. I would often pick up the phone and dial my Grandmother’s number to ask her a gardening question, only to remember that she had died a few years ago.
Use EFT Emotional Freedom Techniques to help you to acknowledge the feelings by speaking about them. This will help you to move through the different stages of grief without getting stuck. It has helped me and my clients to come to a place of understanding, acceptance and gratitude. Many seemingly long forgotten memories kept coming up during tapping on the different feelings of grief.
Attend a funeral or celebration of life if you can. Your presence may help someone without you being even aware of it. A school friend attended my Grandfather’s funeral even though we hadn’t seen each other for years. His taking time to honor my Grandfather showed me how important it is to show up, and it really helped me in my grieving process. I didn’t feel alone.
When this friend died in his early forties I wrote to his wife and sons even though I never met them. I shared my favourite memories of him. We have memories of a person that nobody else has, we know them differently and when we share them we give the family a gift.
As a younger child I remember being mad that people were talking and laughing at the meal after my Great Grandmothers funeral. I was so sad and here they were laughing and having a good time. After attending more of these meals as years went by, I realized that memories, stories and even jokes about the deceased were being shared and that this is part of honoring someone and their life.
That’s why it is important to speak about the person who has died, even though it makes us feel sad, lonely, angry or abandoned. When we share our grief and memories we take the first step towards healing.
Does healing mean that we will forget the person? I think it’s quite the opposite. The more we look at, acknowledge and process our feelings, the easier it will be to remember them with joy, gratitude, appreciation and love. Unimaginable at the time of their death that we will ever feel happy again, there will be a time when we can continue our life without feeling pain when we think about them.
One important thing that I have noticed this year is that it is possible to feel many things at the same time. I can feel sad that my friend has died and at the same time I can be happy about something else. It’s okay to feel that way. You may experience feelings of shame for feeling happy. Would you want your loved ones to feel ashamed for feeling happy? It isn’t either/or, sad or happy.
Every time I see the maple tree in front of my house, I think of my grandmother, sometimes I miss her and I am sad, yet at the same time , I am happy to have this reminder of her.
All our feelings are important and valid.
Your feelings as a Highly Sensitive Person may be stronger or last longer than others.
HSPs often bond deeper and quicker with more people, which gives us many joys and also many sorrows.
People may not understand your strong feelings at all, yet they are valid because they are yours.
Text and picture by Karin Goldgruber