Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
– Peter 5:7
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turns his face toward you and gives you peace.
– Numbers 6:24-26
Many times we are triggered by our grief and we experience intense, often outsized emotions as a result. In order to break out of the emotional overload, an amygdala hijack.
Doing so can provide the room you need to get out of the overwhelming sadness, depression and anxiety so you can begin healing. To do this, you can leverage the Four T’s: Transition, Think, Thank, Transcend.
These four key steps can help you to first recover, then advance and elevate beyond the emotional overload happening as often, and hopefully never again. Depending on how the challenge manifests itself, you may need all Four Ts or just a couple to get you to the next step and overcome the grief feelings and grow.
De-escalating the emotional reaction so it is not overwhelming and controlling you, transitioning from the subconscious reaction to conscious thought.
In essence you need an escape mechanism, an eject button you can use to break out of the emotional reaction and loop.
A couple of ways to accomplish the transition from emotional to constructive thinking include:
- Breathing – using patterns of in-and-out breath through your nose and mouth to help deliver calming to the emotional reaction (two in through nose, one out through mouth, or box breathing / yoga breath).
- Movement – Moving forward in walking, running or other exercise, or stimulating moving forward with side to side eye movements, as well as leveraging various victory simulating actions (like raising hands over your head).
- Smiling and Laughing – being able to let out a laugh or take on a big smile isn’t easy when you are reacting with tears, crying or anger, but if you can force either, you would be amazingly surprised at how quickly the overwhelming emotions and physical symptoms of the hijack dissipate.
If you are stable emotionally, you now need to think about your suffering, because if you are able to create a clear picture of what is ailing you, it can start to be addressed.
At this stage, we recommend documenting the narrative you tell yourself about the hurts, sadness and regrets you have from the past, what you are beating yourself up about currently, and the fears you have for the future. As our brain stores and then recalls memories as stories, documenting the narrative in writing can help to create that clear picture of the pain, so you can eventually advance.
For the when you beat yourself up or experience an emotional breakdown, outburst or hibernations over the past couple of months, what are the stories you tell yourself when you experienced these intense grief feelings or are beating yourself up about perceived shortcomings and failures:
Trigger Story 1:
Trigger Story 2:
Trigger Story 3:
Include as many details as you can, documenting the specific Where, When, Who, Why and How, writing the narrative in a way you would tell a friend about the story.
Consider these typical story topics that have been known to trigger reactions in those grieving, in order to help you document your trigger story or stories – about the past, present and future, or all three:
- Regrets in the past not doing enough, words said or not said, time taken for granted.
- Regrets in the aftermath in not meeting others expectations, moving on too fast, moving forward too slowly, not being a good parent.
- Anxiety about the future, not being able to meet future expectations, keep the family together and kids on the right path, have another meaningful partnership and potentially even fall in love again.
Here are two personal Christmas sadness story examples I have documented to help me through my own Think portion of the Four T’s::
- Story 1: When times were good, I didn’t appreciate how good we had it. Two beautiful daughters ripping into their Christmas gifts that Mom stayed up late to wrap perfectly. Their happy chuckles and screams of joy about that perfect gift that Mom selected. Christmas breakfast of french toast Challah bread which she cooked every year. You know, those little things that are so easy to take for granted.
- Story 2: How am I ever going to have anything like that family time back again. After four Christmases, it hasn’t been even close. I haven’t been alone for every one, but the girls justifiably don’t want another woman or other children around. Can it ever be “normal” again?
Once you understand the storylines of loss, guilt, regrets, loneliness, or whatever your personal story is, it is important to ask for forgiveness for each issue.
The scripture, Philippians 4:6-7 NIV, tells us that “in order to not be anxious about anything, in every situation, we need to first pray and petition, and to do so with thanksgiving, presenting our requests to God”.
With picture clarity provided by thinking of and writing down the stories you have told yourself, it is now time to pray and petition, first about what is hanging on from the past, and then what you are anxious about for the future. And importantly, the scripture also indicates a most important element. It is not just that we need to pray and petition our requests to God, we need to do so with thanksgiving.
Prayer for Healing Story 1:
Prayer for Healing Story 2:
Prayer for Healing Story 3:
- Prayer for my Story 1: “Dear Lord, please forgive me for not appreciating all of what I had and that you provided me – my beautiful bride Judy and my daughters in Christmases past. The peace, the love, the joy, the family. As if it was deserved and gifted to me forever, as all were taken for granted.”
- Prayer for my Story 2: “Lord, thank you for this Christmas with my daughters, that we are all healthy and home. Please provide me direction, to help my daughters be more joyful this and future Christmases despite not having Mom here, and please help to settle my own sadness and loneliness, providing me with the partnership, love and caring I need, in a way that can support and become a new family with new experiences.”
4. Transcend –
If you’ve made it this far you’ve made great progress to alleviate the current triggers, strife and impart healing.
But stopping here will leave you vulnerable to future strife and won’t deliver long lasting peace.
We find that to achieve true peace, to have our hearts and minds guarded longer term, we need to turn to Christ Jesus and his love. Without this, our hearts and minds will be left exposed and vulnerable, and as a result continue to suffer. Why, because everything in this life and under the sun is fleeting. Material possessions fade and rust away. There will be additional loss of loved ones to experience.
We have to build our guard on a solid foundation with strong walls, not on this fragile world in which we live, but on the fabric of the universe: God’s love. In Transcend, it is time to let go of the strife of daily life, and everything under the sun.
To do this, we recommend leveraging the SOUL petition on a regular basis:
- Surrender – I am not in control, and I give up this control to the Lord, knowing that I am in the good hands of a higher power
- Obedience – I ask the Lord to do His will with me, and guide me to exactly what He wants me to do, be and become
- Understanding – I seek understanding and acceptance of what He wants me to do, embracing His will
- Love – I embrace His love above all else, not relying just on the love of my family or friends, which will eventually meet the same fate as everything material on this earth but rely on His love which is the fabric of our existence and to bask in this everlasting peace.