Moving Through Grief & Loss

Grief Wilder

Does positive emotion help?

The answer is yes.  Research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology shows us that positive emotion during a period of loss both lessens the intensity and the duration of negative feelings and depression.

Why would that be the case?

First of all, feelings of sadness aren’t necessarily negative unless they lead to a sense of hopelessness, despair, and helplessness.

Resilience is the issue here, and well-being in loss depends on a healthy awareness of sadness and loss –and the opportunity to express it.

Others tend to steer away from the topic of loss or the death of a loved one, just when someone needs to talk about feelings that are sad, lonely, and empty.

That sadness needs to be heard and shared.

Positive emotion helps because it forms a reservoir within us that can give meaning and a wider range of responses to grief.

Grieving, in the traditional sense, is not something that we have to do.  It is also just as possible to celebrate the life of a person, to appreciate their being, and to know that the essence that is carried in the “space suit” of physical existence is for this life, but also binds us to what is more.

We also need to encourage, especially in ourselves when we go through loss, the positive emotions: love, peace, gratitude, hope, and joy.

They can still be a part of our lives, even if we have to make a deliberate intention to practice them.

Take extra time to appreciate, to feel and express gratitude, and make a special attempt to notice what is beautiful and good.

And, most important, remember in gratitude the best parts.

In the case of a material or professional loss, especially look for the benefits.

They are often hidden and slow to appear if we are morose and always angry.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Dr. gloria wright

    Focusing on positive emotions can be a challenge when
    experiencing loss and disappointment. But it can lessen the intensity and duration of negative feelings and depression. Feeling sad is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one or a relationship. It is better for us and our recovery if we can focus on the good. What did you cherish about the relationship? What did you learn from this relationship?
    Sharing our grief is another important part of the process. Some people don’t have the capacity or depth to really listen to our pain. They
    just want you to get over it and move on. Some people are very task oriented and don’t have the wherewithal for process. You may need to share with someone who can deeply listen with empathy and compassion.
    For me the challenge is not to let myself obsess over the loss. Wish I had thought to say…. If they would only listen to and accept and believe my perception…. These what ifs keep us trapped in sadness, anger and
    disappointment. I remember clearly struggling with the shift in a significant relationship. I wanted it to be different. I wanted to talk through the misunderstanding. Then the flash came, acceptance is a big part of my pain. I didn’t want to accept that they were pulling away from me. But there was nothing I could do to change their decision. Acceptance for what is was the first step toward stopping the continual replay in my head about how things could be different.
    In taking a recent course on “Happiness and Life Fulfillment,” one of the meditation tips for stopping worry was to: “Stop, reframe and focus on the positive.” Now when these futile ruminations begin, I turn my focus to gratitude, love, joy, peach and hope. It helps. After a while, there is less activity around the negativity. In practicing positive emotions, thoughts and beliefs, I am building a reservoir to draw on when things are not
    the way I want. Sometimes they even carry a silver lining. Is it really good
    for us to want to “save” a relationship when they think ill of us? We might be better off focusing on and nurturing relationships that bring out the best in us. “May you live life with ease” is one of the loving kindness meditations. My wish for me and you is that we choose to live life with ease!

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute