What You Can Do To Feel Better
Here is a well-kept secret that not many people acknowledge: We are in control of how we respond to a situation. It is merely a matter of changing our thinking about that situation which will, in turn, change how we feel about it. A situation does not make us feel the ways in which we do. It is our thinking, however, that makes us feel how we do about a situation. Restructuring one’s thoughts about a loss can be immensely beneficial to alleviating complicated grief responses.
1. Establish a pattern in your thinking. What irrational thoughts and beliefs do you notice are causing you trouble? Which thoughts and beliefs are fueling your unhappiness?
2. Engage in thought-stopping. Each time this thought or belief about your loss enters your head, silently scream “STOP!” to yourself.
3. Restructure/replace irrational thoughts and beliefs. Replacing irrational thoughts with more rational ones will help you to change how you are feeling about your loss. See below for some examples. This should come immediately after thought-stopping.
4. Put these techniques into practice. Practice employing thought-stopping, immediately following it with your new, rational thoughts every day.
For an example, the irrational belief that “I can never be happy again because my loved one passed away” can be broken down into “I am sad that my loved one died, but moving on with my life and doing things that make me happy does not mean that I do not love this person anymore.”
Another helpful, rational, replacement belief could be “Going out with my friends and smiling and laughing does not mean that I have forgotten my loved one or that I disrespect them. I can remember them and respect them all the while. Maybe today I will practice going out and being happy.”
The irrational belief of “I have no purpose now that my children have left the home” can be broken down into “One of my life roles has changed, but I still have a purpose in my work and numerous other aspects of my life. Being a parent is not my only purposeful role in life, and I can be happy about many other things. Today I might try focusing on one of my other purposes.”
The belief of “I regret not doing so-and-so with/for this person” can be broken down into “Although I missed out on doing this one thing I would have liked to have done with/for this person, there were many positive and lasting memories that I made with him or her.”
Lastly, the irrational belief of “I lost my job and I can’t be happy again” can be restructured to look like “Although I lost my job and I’m not happy about it, there are many other things that I could picture myself happily doing to earn money. There isn’t only one set thing for me to do with my life. Maybe I can start searching today.”
As you can see, with new views and thinking about a given situation, the way one feels will change. Thus, a change in perception changes the way we feel and behave. It is merely a matter of breaking down the beliefs that you currently hold and replacing them with new, rational, realistic ones. With a bit of practice, you can engage in self-counseling with these techniques. Each time an old belief pops into your head, silently scream “STOP!” to yourself and replace it with one of your new thoughts.
Although changing your thinking will require some work, as it does with anything, practice makes me perfect! Practice these new thoughts every chance you get!
Walsh-Burke, K. (2006). Grief and loss. Theories and skills for helping professionals. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Andreula, T. (2011). Change Your Thinking To Change Feelings of Hopelessness. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 9, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/change-your-thinking-to-change-feelings-of-hopelessness/0009296
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.