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A local mental health professional is encouraging people to embrace grief and sadness when it comes, rather than push it away.
"Typically we associate grief with death and losing people we care about," says Clinical Director of Recovery of Hope, Wayne Friesen. "While that’s absolutely true we also need to recognize the process of allowing grief to move through us which results in accepting the loss of a loved one is almost identical to other losses in life. Changing jobs, kids graduating, having to get glasses, life-altering diagnoses, etc. Life is really about letting things go and moving through transition and loss. That might sound very dour, but shortly into people’s 30s is when we start to feel loss at many levels. There’s a learning curve to acceptance."
Friesen says that losing anything in people's lives are 'little deaths.'
"It is saying goodbye to things, activities, opportunities that we no longer have. With grief, our goal is to move into acceptance which is the same goal as saying goodbye to other things in life. Acceptance is not emotionless or not caring. There may still be sadness at times in acceptance but it is the state where we have been able to let go of the demands that our situation has to be different. And acceptance can only go through one thing, which is sadness. If we try to leap over sadness to get into acceptance we will never ever succeed."
As far as counselling goes, Friesen says the Disney movie Inside Out is almost completely accurate with a person's emotions.
"In brief, the movie follows a young girl named Riley. It focuses on her core emotions as the characters. When we talk about sadness and the essential role it plays in our life and acceptance I always think of Inside Out and one particular scene. Sadness and Joy are trying to get back to the control centre and they’re getting help from Bing Bong, an imaginary friend of Riley’s. At one point Bing Bong loses something very important and he sits down in despair throwing a wrench into the plans to get back to the control panel. Joy jumps in and does her best to cheer up Bing bong, to try to get him to forget about what happened and focus on the bright side to no avail. And then Sadness steps in and does her good work."
The movie shows the importance of allowing ourselves to feel sadness when it comes.
"Sadness comes and sits beside Bing Bong and starts to draw out sad memories from him. Joy is indignant because it seems this is opposite of what’s needed. But, as Sadness continues taking Bing Bong down a sad path he gets to the point of crying and when he’s done he has a deep sigh and then says, 'Okay, let’s go.' It’s brilliant because it’s exactly right. When we can’t change something we need to accept it but it only goes through sadness. It might not always be tears, but we need to feel, in our bodies, including the disappointment of saying goodbye. It’s not just an idea, it is a feeling."
Many people may not be used to the idea of feeling strong emotions like sadness or grief, but they help with the healing process, according to Friesen.
"Life is so beautiful and when we are able to see transitions as losses and the grief necessary to accept them we put ourselves in really great positions to avoid getting stuck. Sadness plays a crucial role and while it’s not easy to get to at times, if we want to let go, move on, and accept it, sadness is the only way to get there. So look at transitions, changes, and losses through the eyes of grief. It doesn’t make them easy but it does help them to be manageable."