Why are You Avoiding Your Grief?

Peggy Green - Thee Grief Specialist
Written by Peggy Green Thee Grief Specialist
Are you afraid to talk about your loved one? You might think the pain is too great and every time you think of them, you get angry and upset. You avoid going to the grocery store for the fear of crying in public or are embarrassed to let others see you this way. You might give up on yourself with your basic needs such as food, sleep, water. You avoid taking care of yourself because you do not care about living or the others who depend on you.
Avoidance is part of human nature, and you could be all too familiar with the concept.
A hallmark of avoidant coping is when you put more effort and thought into how to avoid the activity than finding ways to confront it.
No one wants to miss a loved one. You pursue happiness, the good life and joy while avoiding sadness, heartache, and pain. Until, until someone you love dies. They might die unexpectedly, at a young age, by illness or their own hand. That does not matter. What does matter is you are now forced to confront some new emotions.
Not knowing how to handle the feelings, you may choose to actively avoid experiencing them. You may not understand that grief, and sadness are normal emotions. The onset of a grief wave is sometimes predictable but often not and each new wave brings with it an ocean of unpleasant thoughts, reminders, sensations, and memories. Stepping back into life, job, family responsibilities can limit your ability to grieve. It is often necessary to avoid triggers just to get through the day.
Examples of Avoidance:
  • I avoid going to church because I fear the people will ask me questions and I am not ready to answer them. I am afraid I will start crying.
  • I avoid the office building where my son died because every time I go by, it triggers memories that hurt. 
  • I avoid the hospital because that is where I last saw my sister alive. I get knots in my stomach.
  • I avoid feeling my grief because I have been told to get over it.
  • I avoid going to sleep at night because I think about my son at night.
  • I avoid cleaning the fingerprints off the mirror because I do not want to forget my daughter.
  • I avoid looking at pictures because I get angry for lost dreams.
The opposite end of that spectrum is those who can only think of their grief 24-7. Their thoughts are constantly overtaken by the difficult emotions with loss. You might welcome some relief from your grief instead of struggling in it.
Somewhere between avoidance and struggle there is a place that allows a griever to sit with their grief without being totally and completely swept away by it.
Taking breaks from your grief is healthy. The goal of a healthy distraction is to reduce the intensity of unpleasant emotions so that you can more effectively manage them and develop creative solutions to the things that are troubling you.
Taking a break is also call avoidance. Avoidance can be useful, especially when one is dealing with something as painful and enduring as grief. During the first few days after a death, feelings of grief can be overwhelming, yet culture and society dictate that grievers must get dressed, plan services, tie up loose ends, and deal with family and friends. I have often heard people say that they put off crying during these first few days or cannot cry even if they try. The tidal wave of emotions is scary, and they do not want to deal with it.
What are you doing to avoid your grief? Now, decide what you are going to do about it. Remember it is necessary to walk through the pain in order to heal. Just like a  broken bone requires treatment and physical therapy which sometimes hurts, face the pain of your grief to heal.
You are on the grief highway and working with a grief coach helps to make the highway less bumpy and the return to life without your loved one easier.