Friday 26 March 2021

"What we resist, persists"; BRiC on how we embrace our mixed emotions after loss


A recent Sunday topic for discussion focused on acknowledging the many mixed emotions we are feeling right now; for the losses we’ve experienced, coming to terms with how we feel, and being mindful of the pain we may be going through. This topic was very sensitively suggested by Naz after a hugely emotionally challenging week in which we all felt shocked and sad at the death of our wonderful administrator and friend, Bex Lewis.

Commonly expressed was the vulnerability that we all feel following Bex's death and how the impact of that is far-reaching. It triggers so much sadness and grief within us, as we mourn for the many precious lives that have been cut short. It’s only a matter of weeks since Fiona, another hugely valued and much-loved member of our administrative team died. We experience feelings of fear, disbelief, and sometimes despair as we reflect on what the future holds for each of us. None of us are immune to the possibility of secondary spread of breast cancer and for those of us currently living with the advanced version of this disease, the anxiety, and uncertainty about what lies around the corner is amplified.

We are each forced to face our own mortality every time we receive the devastating news that a member of our group has died but it’s reassuring to know that we are not alone in feeling emotionally vulnerable and fragile. Naz’s academic expertise and professional knowledge around how our brains respond to trauma helps to guide us. She is able to gently articulate the reminder, that as humans, our brains are hardwired to feel fear. This is part of our protective mechanism as we scour our internal and external landscape for danger as “a threat to our own survival has been flagged yet again.” Along with that comes the supportive message to us all, that “it’s ok not to feel ok.”

Each of us can behave harshly towards ourselves as we tell ourselves that we should be able to cope or better manage our feelings and emotions. Several of our members commented on how exhausted it makes us feel, as we try to muddle through the emotions in our minds. We acknowledged that talking to ourselves in a way that sees us trying to fight or resist our difficult emotions isn’t helpful. Instead, many of us are gradually accepting and understanding that if we embrace how we are feeling, this is much more nurturing and supportive of our wellbeing in the long run.

As individuals, several of us were able to open up and reflect on recent tragic circumstances and losses within our own families, friendship groups, and local communities. We are all one family here in BRIC but of course, we know we’re all part of wider families, friendships, and communities. There are many of us who have been recently trying to cope with feelings of sadness and grief in connection with experiences of loss closer to home.

The word ‘rollercoaster’ was used several times to describe the peaks and troughs of our emotional responses. Some of us are looking to a future that we know won’t include us and that burden weighs heavy as we present our ‘brave face’ to the world. The highs and lows of our emotions often manifest themselves in us becoming angry and frustrated at seemingly small things but our discussion highlighted a more accurate picture; that it’s not really the small things that are triggering us, it’s the layers that we’ve piled over the big things in our lives that see our emotional response bursting to be freed and acknowledged. This is upsetting for us as we reflected, that often, we don’t feel in control of our emotions however our discussion helped to shine a salient spotlight on this: we don’t have to put pressure on ourselves to be in control of our emotions; this is an impossible task. Blocking tears and burying things inside of us only serves to help our emotionally challenged internal landscape to become more overloaded.

There is an expression in mindfulness which is, what we resist, persists. This is a gentle reminder that facing all of our emotions head-on with kindliness and self-compassion is much more helpful in bolstering the vulnerability of our human experience as we encounter both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, thoughts and emotions. To accept only the pleasant aspects of our experience is to acknowledge only one-half of each of us.

The opportunity to talk, connect, and be part of our collective voice is life-enhancing and life-affirming. Hearing the message that all of our feelings are valid, that it’s ok not to be ok and that BRIC is a safe place where we can receive and accept support is very much felt and hugely appreciated.

“If we are physically hurt, loving our wounds, and nurturing them with TLC, makes them heal faster, ignoring them doesn’t.”

The life lessons, insights, and sharing that our Sunday night discussion provides help us to embrace all aspects of ourselves. We are held together by our experience of breast cancer and we are all heard. Sharing and communicating with one another helps us to feel supported, uplifted, and less afraid. We are helping one another to face all of our emotions.

1 comment:

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