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Emotions Of Grief: Loss Of Control

“I feel like I’ve lost control of myself.”

In my work as a grief counselor, many bereaved persons share with me that they feel as though they are “out of control” or “losing control.” By this, they often mean that they find themselves being very emotional, more emotional than is typical for them, and for the most part having difficulty controlling the expression of their emotions. The experience is like sensing an inability to control the outward expression of one’s emotional reactions.

As discussed in previous the previous articles, after the loss of a loved one we are likely to feel many different types of emotions. We may feel some sense of guilt, anger, a profound sadness or despair, regret, etc. Because we may be reacting to the loss with so many different types of emotional reactions, it can be very difficult to feel as though we are in control of ourselves. Indeed, when bereaved persons experience times of anguish and despair, they will be in one sense at the mercy of the emotions that are flooding through them. Times when one cannot stop crying can be especially frightening to a bereaved person. During such a time, as the tears flood out, one may also have some difficulty in maintaining their breathing at a regular rate, and one may fear in these moments that they are about to “lose their mind.” These experiences are likely to recur as grief progresses, at times when one feels intense pain. With the intense pain may come the need to express that pain outwardly. This outward expression may include sobbing or other acts of behavior, such as screaming out loud one’s frustrations, throwing objects, etc. In these moments, we may not even recognize ourselves if we were given the opportunity to watch our behavior from a distance. So powerful can the emotions of grief be that they can completely overwhelm our normal ways of being in the world and cause us to act in ways that are completely unlike ourselves.

Many bereaved persons find some solace in the idea that such emotional “outbursts” are a relatively common feature of profound grief. These times when you feel out of control are normal, and it is important to bear in mind that as time passes, and as you mourn your loss more and more fully, these experiences are likely to become less and less frequent. It does not mean that you are “going crazy” or “losing your mind” if you have times when you feel completely out of control. What it does mean is that you hurt very badly, and that you are doing the best that you can be doing in those moments. If you become scared that you may do something that will result in harm to yourself, then I urge you to contact a professional so that you can get the help you need. I am always willing to assist persons in locating appropriate help, and I invite you to contact me should you require such assistance or information about community programs that may be of help.

Bereaved persons often find that their emotions are difficult for other people to deal with, and this can place them in a difficult position. This is the idea that crying or outwardly expressing other emotions over one’s loss may be upsetting to others. As a result, bereaved persons sometimes become less and less likely to venture out from their homes. Over time, this can result in a pattern of isolative behavior, as the bereaved individual comes to believe that others do not want to deal with them because of the pain of their grief. Unfortunately, such behavior results in a loss of social support, and we know from experience that social support may be a valuable means through which healing can take place. It is hard to heal solely in the company of oneself. Such persons may benefit greatly from grief support groups or from grief therapy groups. With the guidance of experienced group facilitators, displays of emotion are not discouraged, and in fact they can be a very healthy part of the mourning process.

If you have experienced such moments of intense grief, and can relate to what has been written above, you may be able to assist other bereaved persons by sharing these experiences with them. If you would like to share your story so that other bereaved persons can see that they are not alone in their suffering, I invite you to contact me, and we can discuss ways to make this happen.

I wish each and every one of you well as you navigate through the challenges that life can confront us with. As always, I would like to close by saying that I am here to help you deal with your grief, and I would indeed feel honored should you grant me the opportunity to walk with you through your journey after loss, from pain to eventual healing. Take care…

Grief Counselor, Dr. Steven Bailley
Grief Counselor
The purpose of these articles is to provide interested readers with information and thoughts about loss, grief, mourning, and grief counseling. A variety of grief-related topics have been covered. It is my sincerest hope that you will find the information presented here to be of interest and assistance to you. If there are specific topics of interest that you would like to see added in the future, I welcome you to email me with your suggestions. If you have a need to talk with me, please call me at my office at (713) 914-9944.
Collection of papers and articles on grief, and coping with grief
The need to express our grief… Grief is Different For Each of Us The emotions of grief: Guilt
Grief, Mourning and Grief Counseling The Experience of Grief The Emotions of Grief: Anger
Reactions from others… The Seasons of My Heart The emotions of grief: “I feel like I’ve lost control of myself.”
The Closeness of Mortality Ambivalence
A 'Grief Journal' Grief After Suicide
Research and clinical experience support the idea that many bereaved individuals gain benefit from grief counseling. Ideally, counseling can help people to cope as adaptively as possible during difficult times that follow a loss, and can also assist in bringing grief to a more adequate resolution. Should you decide to explore the possibility of seeking professional assistance, at any time following your loss, I welcome you to contact me to explore this option (appointments and fee schedule are available upon request). Every person is unique, and I will work with you to assist you in coping with your specific needs. At this most difficult time in your life, I wish to extend to you my sincerest condolences for your loss.

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