ASK A GRIEF
Question: How Do I Heal My Relationships In Life?
Answer: The same way we approach healing all the things.
Ask a Grief Coach is an online column to address commonly received questions in private work with my clients. All names are kept anonymous, and the questions are shared with permission. As you read, keep the context of your own story in mind. No answers found here will apply directly to your circumstance because your grief is unique to you. However, the hope is that you will find tools and tips of support, whether you are the griever or the supporter.
This week’s Q&A is from me, to you. Grief manifests in so many ways, we often overlook the subtle shifts in our lives until years have passed. And for me, I realized my relationship to food has slowly become harmful. We don’t want to frame it as good or bad, just as we don’t want to label food as good or bad. Some relationships are helpful, and others are more harmful.
This conversation, however, is not about harm reduction, but about how we can ask ourselves where we need to heal a relationship to food/games/travel/gatherings? We are two years into an ongoing pandemic, and in those two years we have lost relationship with a lot of different things. So today, I want each of us to ask ourselves the question, “How can we heal our relationship to __________?” and let you fill in the blank.
A Hopeful Grief Coach
The good news is that this format still works, since you talk to yourself aloud all the time. Helpful self-talk is a practice we must cultivate, and this is no different. So let’s go!
Let’s use your example of a relationship to food. How can we start to heal our connection with it? By recognizing it is the same type of relationship with anything else in our life — a place where we either keep our walls up, or a place where we approach with our whole selves in mind, heart, body, and spirit.
We get stuck on the good/bad narratives and simply aim for the quick fix. The fad diet. The sugar-free options. And these aren’t terrible, necessarily, but they’re also not helpful.
While harm reduction in this arena is good, we are looking for the root of our disconnected relationship to food. We want to address more than the symptoms like gaining weight, feeling sluggish, poor health, etc.
The disconnect started somewhere in me. Are my thoughts about food shameful or unhelpful? Are my emotions around food charged or too heavy? Is my body experiencing a negative reaction to foods? Did my understanding of food come from a harmful narrative?
All of these questions can be asked of just about any stressed relationship we have, whether that relationship is with people, places, things — all the nouns! So how can you know where to start? By noticing where you feel disconnected. What “noun” are you less engaged with than you’d like to be? Where do you notice pain in a new or pronounced way?
When you notice the pain itself, you are free to become curious. How long has it felt like this? Do I notice any patterns in life or triggers that increase the pain? Do I observe anything that decreases the pain, even temporarily?
There’s always a root. For me, it was the root of losing my mom. She was a chef, and although I knew I resisted cooking and a lot of her recipes after she died, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed how pandemic life had compounded my pain and broken my healthy relationship to food even further.
We gain sight into our lives about what hurts by asking some questions. We go deeper, becoming curious to gain insight about how our pain is connected to our whole self in mind, heart, body, and spirit. And from there, we take action.
If your relationship to food is like mine, where I lack the enjoyment I used to, then the action we take is to pursue a reconnection. It’s like rekindling an old fling, right? If you ran into the one who got away, and they’re ready to try again, you’d start by pursuing what brought you together in the first place.
The action itself isn’t the destination — it’s noticing what changes on the other side of the action. How are you changed? What feels different? Are you sensing a reconnection, even if it’s different than before?
When you notice the shift, you acknowledge the ongoing act of healing and reinforce the value of the actions you took.
And that can make all the difference — if you’ll allow it.
With trust that we can allow growth to shift us toward who we want to become,
Do you have questions about grief? Send Mandy your questions via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. All submissions are anonymous, with details occasionally changed to protected against identification.
You can also submit a question here: Ask A Grief Coach!
Mandy Capehart is an author, small business owner, editor, certified grief and life coach, and creator of The Restorative Grief Project. The Restorative Grief Project is an online community focusing on one another’s stories and new methodologies for grief, creating a safe environment for our souls to heal and our spirits to be revived. To learn more, visit MandyCapehart.com or follow her on Twitter. She thinks she is pretty funny. The jury is out.