The Building Blocks of Resiliency: Coping When the Unthinkable Happens: Managing Emotions

When the Unthinkable happens, we are not prepared. We can not imagine, some of the things that can happen in life and if we did we would not think about them, because it is too awful, so we don’t. The things that our worst nightmares are about. We hear about them in the news everyday, we are horrified by them and one day they arrive in our own lives, the worst thing ever has happened.

When the “Unthinkable” happens, we have emotions in reaction of course, our emotions to the unthinkable are strong, powerful and often scary, because they are in reaction to something so huge. In order to cope with the “Unthinkable”, we have to learn to manage the powerful emotions that come with it, not so easy, painful, but necessary in order to move forward.

The Method I use is Acknowledge, Get it Out, Get comfort.

  1. Acknowledge, the emotion the best you can. Could be fear, terror, anxiety, anger or some icky mix that you can’t quite name, that’s Ok. You can call it ick. Just acknowedge it. Notice where it shows up in your body, what are you thinking?

2. Get it out. I believe it is important to get these powerful emotions out, so that they don’t get stuck. Do this however you need to do it. But get it out.

3. Get comfort. However it is that you get comfort get it. It soothes, it repairs it restores.

This process of acknowledging, getting it out and getting comfort will be repeated over and over as you cope with the Unthinkable.

Here are my top five tips for how to do this:

  1. Talk. For many of us talking helps us to understand what we are feeling. It helps us Get it Out, and comforts. Talk to a friend, loved one, a pet, yourself, the ocean, the mountains, the person you lost.a professional I can remember talking to our son, after he died, literally while I was skiing, it made me cry and it was one more emotion that got out!
  2. Listen. Listen to yourself, your body and others. So often when others speak, we hear our own pain in their voices. It helps us to acknowledge our emotions and get them out. and is also comforting. I remember talking to others after our accident, others with trauma and a broken neck, when they spoke I heard their pain and recognized more layers of my own.
  3. Write! When we write things down, we both become aware of thoughts and feelings we were not aware of and they get out! For some keeping a journal in a handys spot works. For other writing down hard thought and emotions and throwing the paper away signals getting rid of it. I remember having a painful experience of leaving a business I loved, I actually wrote a letter to it and said good bye, in that way I became aware of what I was feeling and could let go.
  4. Move. for many of us, moving gets”it’ out, going for a run or walk, releases emotion, hitting a tennis ball, pounding nails. For others, moving in a more meditative way, like yoga, Pilates, martial arts, releases emotion and Gets it out. I have many memories of great ahaha, moments while running, suddenly becoming aware of what was happening with me and being able to let it go. My husband on the other hand goes to his workshop man cave, works with his hands and comes back refreshed and restored.
  5. Body.The body stores so much emotion. I believe that taking care of the body helps to Acknowledege, Get it Out, and Comfort. Hugs are good for comfort, it doesn’t matter what you hug, person, pet, teddy bear, pillow or tree. Body work like massage, accupuncture, water therapy, warm baths are comforting. I will never forget about two days before our son died, I was in our back garden, a neighbor called over the fence, ” It looks like you could use a hug”. The hug held me as I sobbed, grief tumbled out and I was comforted.

When something unimagineable happens, in the news for example, the pundits sit around analysing, trying to explain it, attempting to make sense of it. In our private worlds we do the same. We ask questions, how could this happen, why did this happen as if having answers will ease our pain or make sense of the senseless. The truth is sometimes in life the unthinkable happens, children die before their parents, accidents happen and hearts are broken. The only sense of it is, that is life.

It is my sincere wish that this method helps you to manage the emotions of the unthinkable event in your life and find peace.

As always all the best,

Coach Susy

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