Seek and Avoid

A widowed person recently said to me, “I just don’t want to do this. It hurts too much. I binge watch television, eat comfort food, and try to sleep a lot but I know I am only buying time until the pain returns.”

Our basic nature is simple – we seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Those of us who grieve live in the tension between staying open to the pain of loss and the need for some reprieve from our suffering. We are not able to remain in the intensity of these emotions without some moments of relief. Yet, too much avoidance of our suffering can cause more suffering, particularly if our behaviors to avoid suffering are unhealthy.

Find a balance between being present to your sadness and engaging in healthy distractions that allow you to pause your feelings of loss. If you are concerned your behaviors may be unhealthy, talk through the temptations with someone you trust, rather than engage in those behaviors. Be forgiving of yourself during this time, because it is hard to stay open to the pain of loss.

Always remember, this pain is because you loved.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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