By: Staci Stallings
There are two more emotional triggers that you may or may not know what your default is–job loss and the death of a close loved one.
The reason you may not know your default settings for these is that you may never have experienced them in order to find out. So, I will talk a little today in general terms so you can consider how to work out these defaults or manual settings when these infrequent but life-changing situations happen.
I think there are several emotions that link these two experiences.
GRIEF — Grief is the overwhelming feeling of deep and abiding sadness. Not everyone experiences grief the same way, and not everyone handles grief the same way. Many factors come into play when dealing with grief including the age of the person dealing with it, the circumstances that caused it, the coping mechanisms in place, as well as other factors.
For example, when my brother died, it was almost like you could draw concentric circles from the immediate ground zero relationships outward. So that his wife and kids were most affected, my parents next most, my sister and I next, our families and my sister-in-law’s family next, his friends, etc.
Each circle out the grief was lessened. Each circle in, the grief increased.
Shortly after the funeral, my kids went back to school, my husband went back to work, and their lives returned to roughly normal. On the other side, my parents and my sister’s lives did not. It took a very long time before our lives adjusted to a new normal. Dealing with those who went back to life while dealing with those who didn’t, while dealing with my own grief was a really big challenge. It was not easy to be helping with math homework only to get a call of someone who was really struggling, only to get off the phone and someone say, “What’s for dinner?”
It’s almost like living in two different realms, and normal default settings for normal things were suddenly not reliable at all.
Where normally patience with homework is not an issue with me, suddenly because I was tired and not eating properly and overwhelmed with the emotions, patience became a very big issue. Add to that, that my kids were also in grief so their patience was not long, and very quickly I figured out that my defaults in this situation were not helping anything.
HELPLESSNESS — I think one of the strongest emotions that throws us is helplessness. For me, this one is powerful because of my control-freak tendencies. Most of the time, I have learned to dial it back, that I don’t have to be in control. But let a crisis hit, and the helplessness does very bad things to my normal defaults.
HOPELESSNESS — Although the two sound alike, they are actually very different. Helplessness is feeling out of control. Hopelessness is the feeling that things will never get better. Both can be very dangerous.
I think all of these emotions (as well as anger and fear) come into play at these major life intersections.
While you can’t necessarily plan what your defaults will be in these situation, I do think that reviewing some of the previous default articles will help. For example, look at what your defaults are when you are tired or sick, when you get into negative thinking and worry or depression because often a major life trigger will set these underlying ones off.
Most of all, I would tell you to take very good and gentle care of yourself during these high-stress times. Get plenty of sleep, but also reach out and connect. Don’t isolate. Give yourself the time and space to grieve but also permission to start the new chapter in your life. All of these defaults and manual settings are very important to have in your options for how to handle things when life hits.