Dealing with Loss? Expressing and Releasing ALL Your Emotions is Key

Saturday, October 16, 2010 19:13

By Ellen Brown

In our culture, we’re taught – subtly or not so subtly – that certain emotions are better than others. Joy is “good.” Anger and sadness are “bad.” Guilt is pointless. And shame is, well, shameful, and best swept under the bed.

Often, these emotional dos and don’ts are reinforced by our families, when we’re growing up. Our parents might have told us that “boys don’t cry” or hissed “I’ll give you something to be sad about” from time to time.

Given those circumstances, it’s no surprise that we sometimes stuff those feelings we’ve been told are “bad.” But when we do, those feelings often reappear in the form of physical symptoms such as stomach aches or insomnia. Worse yet, they may lead to chronic conditions such as heart disease or cancer.

Or sometimes, those feelings leak out in inappropriate ways, because let’s face it: they’re always seeking a target, whether it’s someone from the past who wronged us or someone in the here and now we love with all our heart. I’ve seen this not so pretty leakage occur in my own life, and in the lives of my coaching clients, whether they’re moving onto a new job or a new relationship.

When we don’t release the feelings associated with our losses, whether we’ve been laid off or we’re dealing with the death of our spouse or significant other, we carry those feelings into that next phase of our life and often heap them onto someone new or familiar. And that is NOT a loving way of moving through life …

So I’m here to tell you that when you’re dealing with any kind of loss it is SO important to feel and release all of your feelings, whether you’re experiencing sadness or anger or guilt or regret or any other emotion that bubbles to the surface. As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any “bad” feelings. Some feelings may feel more comfortable than others. But feelings aren’t “good” or “bad.” They just are.

When we give feelings their time in the sun, acknowledging them, expressing them, and releasing them, they move through us, instead of getting stuck inside and gunking up our lives.

In case you’re thinking “yeah this all sounds great but how do I do that,” here are some ideas:

  • Talk it out – Find someone you can trust, whether that’s a close friend who can listen, without judgment, or a trusted therapist or coach.
  • Write it out – Journaling about how you’re feeling can go a long way toward acknowledging and releasing your feelings. Of course, “journaling” is one of those words with many meanings, so what I mean by journaling is sitting down with a notebook daily (or several times a week), getting quiet, tuning into your feelings and writing about what you’re feeling, without censoring or editing your words. To help you get started, ask yourself, “how or what am I feeling right now?”
  • Act it out – Sometimes, emotion calls for taking action. And for the record, I’m talking about taking action in a safe and reasonable way. Expressing your anger can be a positive experience. But not when you’re hurting yourself or someone else! Some possible ways of expressing or releasing your anger include going for a run or a brisk walk, writing a letter to the person you’re angry at (just because you write it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to send it), playing tennis or handball, closing the windows in your home or car (while it’s parked) and screaming at the top of your lungs, or simply allowing yourself to cry when you’re feeling sad.

As always, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. The point is to find some healthy ways of expressing and releasing your feelings that work for you.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about the ideas in this blog post. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

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