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Good Grief

When someone passes away, it can be devastating. A beloved elder or parent may have struggled for a considerable time before making a final exit. Even so, even when we know the inevitable is imminent, it's heartbreaking when they're gone.

A friend or family member who passes too soon leaves you with so many questions and potential unfinished feelings when you did not realize the last time you saw them would be the last time you would be able to speak with them forever.

For many people, our first experience with grieving comes when a pet passes. These little beings are so short-lived compared to humans, and though they aren't people, they are critical parts of our family systems and it hurts so much when they go.

Grief can stick us in one place, wondering "why," and "what if," it can literally stop us in our tracks. The sadness, anger, fear, anxiousness, and waves of other random emotions we feel hit hard exactly when we must learn to take those fledgling steps forward into a life without that person. How can we plan for the future if we're so overwhelmed getting through just this day?

I lost my father last month. A surprise metastatic melanoma diagnosis after a fall sent us reeling, and we only had three months to come to terms with the inevitability of his departure before he was gone.

I leaned heavily into brain training, as I knew that clients dealing with loss had reported that brain training really helped them in their desperation while grieving. The systemic calming effect of training helped to process those waves of emotion and get them through to solid ground again. I found this to be true as well.

I saw a tee shirt once that said "You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf". It's alternately attributed to Jon Kabat Zinn or a Hawaiian proverb. Either way, it's exactly what grief calls for. The waves come. A memory may be triggered by a color, a smell, a sound, anything goes. The trick is to meet the wave, ride it, and hope that some joy awaits you on the other side.

Wait - what? Joy? Yes, joy. Grief, for all its desolation and tears, shows us that we have the capacity to love and care deeply for others. When the wave passes and you can remember something good and kind about the one you're grieving, it can bring you joy and comfort. Each wave serves to mend you and make you more resilient, no matter how overwhelming it feels in the moment.

We are all born to die, after all. There's no magical hourglass showing us how long we've got, so if we can dive in and love and expose our vulnerabilities to others, we are living to our best potential. We should all be so lucky to grieve a loss. It means we dared to be as human as we can be.

If grief has you stalled, please reach out. Brain training with the power of NeurOptimal® can help.

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