Dealing with Grief 

For many years, February used to be a difficult month for me, since I had associated it with the grief I had when I lost a loved one. Not being a psychologist at the time and not being “taught” what to do and how to process it, I handled my sadness and anger, as many people would relate, by distracting myself with doing chores, hoping that through time I would be able to not let my emotions impact my wellbeing.

Through a scientific lens, Dr. Huberman and Dr. Hall explained that in every relationship we create we position the other person in our mind in terms of space, time, and closeness. Let me distill for you what they mean. When you meet a person you estimate the physical distance you have with that person (e.g., if s/he is your neighbor, or living in a different country), the time (i.e., how long it takes you to see her/him or how frequently you get to see that person) and the emotional closeness you have with that person (i.e., how intimately you feel with that person). 

Therefore, when you have to grief for someone, the intensity of your yearning to see again that person/animal depends on how close (physically and emotionally you felt) and how often you had that person/animal in your life. In other words, the way we attach to someone determines the expectations we have of that particular person/animal. For example, if you loved and used to see your dog every day and suddenly it dies, then, there is dissonance between how close you feel to the animal (how you positioned it in your mind in terms of space, time, and closeness) and the expectation to see it again and feel the closeness.

In theory and as I explained in my previous post, grief can start with denying the situation and end up in accepting the new reality, with the turbulence of emotions in being. You may feel anxious because you don’t know what will follow, and you may feel sad because you will not be able to create a new experience with that particular person/animal or you may feel angry because you are unable to control the situation. Whatever you feel for whatever reason, just know that it is humane and everyone has their own pace depending on the time of their life and the circumstances. 

So, now what do you do with this knowledge? The secret to dealing with grief is to hold on to the attachment you had with the person/animal, but at the same time remap how you positioned them in your mind (in terms of space, time, and closeness) to change the expectation and yearning to see them and feel the same way you used when you were together. Remind yourself that death is inevitable, there is nothing to control about it. You can keep the lessons and memories you had with the person/animal and construct your new reality without them; yet with what you learned from them.