What To Do When Grief and Loss Overwhelm You

If you live long enough, you’ll face a time when grief and loss overwhelm you.

One of my long-time business mentors received a terrible shock. His oldest son, who was in his late 40’s, was found dead in his car at the side of the interstate. The son and his family live far away, across the country from my mentor. Apparently, his son had started feeling bad while driving, pulled over, called his wife to say he’d be OK but felt bad and had pulled over for a moment. Later, he was found dead in his car.

When something happens to us that is without warning, totally unexpected, and is as final as death we react with shock and disbelief. We try to find out all we can about what happened as our brains struggle to make sense out of the chaos we have been thrown into. Sadly, in this case, the coroner has told my mentor that it will be 3 months, at least, before the reports are in that will give an answer as to why a perfectly healthy man in the prime of life didn’t make it home, leaving a wife and 2 young children.

Naturally, my friend and mentor now feels strong emotions of grief and loss, overwhelming feelings that change from hour to hour.

We can experience grief and loss for many reasons. It doesn’t have to be as catastrophic as the death of an adult child. I’ve had clients who have lost huge sums of money, gone through a divorce, or watched as their business disappeared from situations they didn’t dream would ever happen. No matter the situation, we can experience shock, grief, numbness, anger, or overwhelming sadness, one right after the other.

These are the times when each of us has to find our ground, our solid rock. If we have not paid much attention to self-development, we might find that our ground is shaky. What can we do when we feel like our breath is being squeezed out of our body? When we are numb with disbelief?

  • Find some ground by staying right in the present moment. Engage your brain by looking around you, noticing a shoe on the floor or a plant on the desk, and forcing yourself to focus on it, just it, for a few minutes. This helps your brain refocus, and helps you to realize that no matter how horrible the situation, you are safe in this particular moment.
  • Find your breath. Slow your mind and heart by taking long, slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes, feel yourself in your seat, and do this breathing for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Share your feelings with others who are involved in your situation. Chances are they also are feeling strong emotions. If you are swinging from disbelief and numbness to sobbing, don’t hide it. Holding it in doesn’t work.

Self-soothing is a skill that serves us when such tragic and shocking events occur. And of course, life brings these types of unthinkable things to us if we live long enough. It’s up to us to depend on our ground of being, take special care of ourselves, and help our physical and emotional bodies to calm and come back toward a steady state.

These skills serve us in life and in business. We can use them to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the situation we find ourselves in.

Self-soothing and support – in time both of these will help end the deep grief and feelings of overwhelm.

Life brings surprises that are often wonderful, and sometimes excruciating. It is our work to stand our ground through both.

Developing our standing ground so that we can deal with grief and loss that overwhelm, that’s our work as we live day to day.


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