For most, this is a parent’s worst nightmare. For me, it’s different.
My oldest son took his life just a little over two months ago and I’m feeling joyful, grateful, powerful, serene, and more connected to my inner self than ever before. Yes, I feel sad too, of course, but to say that I’ve felt grief or sorrow, I’m sincerely not sure. In fact, I began feeling rather light soon after it happened and thought it was better to tone down those positive emotions a notch fearing that those around me would judge my unusual emotional response to such a tragic event.
Watching myself as if I was hovering from above, I seriously pondered: How could I be a credible emotionologist if I don’t have the courage to face and feel the ‘normal’ low vibrational emotions tied to the ‘loss’ of a child? My subconscious must be playing tricks on me. What am I fearing? Am I scared I’ll slip into depression or apathy?
Of more concern to me than my professional reputation were, obviously, my well-being and personal growth. Following Fred’s transition, I was filled with the desire to stay healthy and vibrant so I could be present and available to my remaining family and to myself. I was also bent on extracting the lessons from this significant life event because I refused to go through this emotional turbulence and not gain anything from it!
Deep down, I knew this meant that I would have to greet ALL the emotions, low and high vibrations alike, that would eventually surface because they would come, as they always do, with nuggets of wisdom. I was eager to mine them.
When gearing up to draft this blog post, I thought of sharing Fred’s emotional challenges or our family’s disheartening ride through the Ontario (Canada) mental health system. But, I felt that neither story was the one I needed to tell. Frankly, the former would need tons more space than what I have here and the latter would suggest that we were victims of the system, something I don’t believe even if, in some instances, I ardently wish Fred could have received better care.
This blog is about my emotional journey because it is the only one I can fully feel, observe, analyse, express, share, and control. Notice I didn’t say ‘understand’ as my understanding will never be complete and this blogging process is just one way that I broaden it. The technological ease with which I get to share this post hopefully contributes to your understanding of your own emotional dimension too.
As I was saying…
I was really curious, back in May, to see how the layers of emotions would be revealed. This openness to feeling the full spectrum of emotions was a foreign desire because the old me had a habit of trading dull sadness for yippy-skippy joy and heavy disappointment for uplifting optimism as if my emotions were commodities I could barter.
That was then.
This time, I wanted it to be different. I was ripe for this emotional journey where I was going to be both the driver and passenger and maybe even the hitchhiker. I wanted to make sure there would be no barter, no repressing or sweeping under the carpet nor any numbing of my emotions. I was committed to feeling, acknowledging, expressing, and releasing them. I wanted to feel what I had to heal.
So, I made a conscious decision to be still for as long as I needed for the journey to be an insightful and enriching one. And, that’s what I did.
My Emotional Awareness Experiment
For the last two months, I have limited my activities and social life, offline and online, and kept my client work load to a minimum believing it would be easier to feel the emotions if I had lots of white space.
I’ve been feeling, crying, napping, lying awake, coaching, journaling about my emotions, playing, eating emotionally, chatting with friends, healing, exercising, learning, meditating, laughing, growing,…
Today, I sit on my white, faux-leather, office chair, blogging. I feel different and the revelations I expected are different too. No new nuggets of wisdom to mine. Rather, what is new is the depth of the anchoring of what I already knew. Thanks to the intensity of the emotional experience that is losing a child to suicide, the following concepts are no longer just intellectual knowledge lodged in my head, they are forever neurologically imprinted in my whole body. I feel a level of clarity and mastery of these concepts that was not there before.
I share them for our mutual benefit:
1. The thoughts we think create the emotions we feel.
When images of Fred’s struggle stream through my mind, I feel pain. The pain isn’t just emotional, it’s physical. In the beginning, it hurt so much, I thought my heart would erupt like a volcano. On the other hand, when I think of my son, now a non-physical being free as the air around us, I feel serene. That’s just one example.
This concept applies to any and all thoughts we think and emotions we feel.
2. The emotions we feel inspire the actions we take and the results we get.
When I feel pain or sadness or regret, I paralyze. I don’t know where to start or what to do next. When I feel serene, accepting or grateful, I find myself doing my best work and showing up as the better version of myself.
This concept brings home the point that if you don’t like what you have, change how you feel which will, in turn, inspire you to change what you do.
3. Setting an intention is powerful.
As mentioned above, soon after Fred’s transition, I deliberately aimed for well-being personal growth rather than letting the grieving process unfold without direction. I realize I’m not revealing any breakthrough concepts here but I see, too often, people stuck in emotional spirals which could have been avoided if an intention had been set prior to the emotional mud getting too thick!
When is a good time to set an intention? Anytime you’re ready. It’s never too early or too late.
4. Low vibrational emotions point to Limiting Beliefs aka negative thoughts.
Again, nothing new. Over these two months, every time I felt sad, regretful, ashamed or any of the other low-vibrational emotions, it was clear that the belief – a belief is a thought we keep thinking – I was holding onto was a limiting one. For example, when I caught myself feeling sad, I noticed that the thought of having “lost” a son was sitting in my mind.
The Limiting Belief that I was believing was this one: ‘To have a satisfying relationship with Fred, he needs to have a physical form.’ In those instances, I had a choice. I could choose to hold onto that Limiting Belief which implied that I had to accept to feeling sad for a very long time. (Remember: The thoughts we think create the emotions we feel.) I also had the choice to change my Limiting Belief to an Empowering Belief, one that would make me feel a high vibrational emotion. As I said earlier, I was focused on feeling good and living life to its fullest so my choice was clear. Consequently, I installed this Empowering Belief: ‘I can have a satisfying relationship with Fred while he is non-physical.’ (And the cool part is that he has been ‘visiting’ and only visits when I’m vibrating from high-vibrational emotions!)
The good news is: any Limiting Belief can be transmuted into an Empowering Belief.
5. Even if something is true, I don’t have to believe it.
This is really just another way of saying the same thing as in the previous paragraph but since words land differently when said differently, I thought it was worth rephrasing.
Fred is dead. That’s true. Do I believe it? Yes. Do I have to keep reminding myself of all the other truths like ‘I’ll never hear his jokes again” or “How unfortunate that he never found his way,…”? No, absolutely not. Instead, I can believe that his jovial spirit comes through differently when he visits – and it has. I can believe that his life purpose was to experience unconditional love, something he could only receive by struggling the way he did. Fred’s ‘way’ was not a yellow brick road. Fred’s ‘way’ was an obstacle course. It was a ‘way,’ a dang hard one, but it was his and on the ‘way’ he taught everyone around him who was ready to learn. Those are truths I choose to believe and focus upon.
We often get caught focusing on truths that don’t serve us. The latest shooting is one of them…
6. The more I can feel deep sadness, the more I can feel bliss.
Dr. Brené Brown shed light on this a few years ago in her TEDx Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. She said, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” Wow, how true this has been! Never have I experienced such emotional pain and never have I felt such equanimity as in the past two months. Would I willfully make the choice to feel heart-wrenching pain to feel orgasmic happiness? Uh…no. I’d be quite content with moderate sensations, thank you very much. But if our emotional nature has built-in extreme duality, knowing about it helps me be appreciate how the sweetest emotions offset the toughest ones…but only if I don’t numb them.
You don’t need to eat emotionally, binge drink or pop amphetamines like Smarties to numb low vibrational emotions, watching too much tv, Facebooking when you should be sleeping, compulsive buying and gaming also divert your attention away from your low-vibes.
This is a far cry from a double-blinded scientific study but, personally, my experiment has been a success: Giving myself space to experience profound emotion after Fred’s transition helped me be well and grow. In doing so, the bonus has been all the generous and positive feedback I’ve been receiving from those around me. They say that I’ve offered another perspective on how to go through the death of a loved one. That truly buoys my heart because the more of us develop our emotional awareness and capacity, the stronger our families will be.
I’d love to hear your comments and stories.