The emotion we don’t talk about enough (that holds us back the most) [Wise Wednesdays]
“How do I let go of regret?” I was asked this deep question in a coaching conversation. Transformational Coaching is about going deeper after all. It’s not therapy but it can be therapeutic.
I was happy to be able to help because I’ve had many conversations with family recently around regrets and grieving due to my aunt’s unexpected passing away from Covid at Christmas.
But also because grieving (in the widest sense) has been a feature of our experience over the past 12 months.
The past year has given us much to adapt to. Every adaptation requiring a little grieving of things we lost from our daily lives.
Whether you realise it or not, you’ve been asked to grieve a lot this past year! So give yourself a big pat on the back and a warm self-hug.
If you’re experiencing persistent frustration, anger or confusion; or feel stuck in some way, it’s possible that there’s something you haven’t quite faced or that your grieving is incomplete.
In many cultures, grieving is much more visible and is handled much more openly and clearly.
But most of us have to educate ourselves about grieving, even around old events you think you should be over, like the loss of a loved one, a home, a way of life a long time ago.
The 4 tasks of grieving
[Read on or watch the video]
The conversations that have helped my family and clients the best, in letting go of various situations, identities and dreams, weren’t those that just honoured the pain of the emotions, but the ones that also challenged the narratives. It’s easy to get caught in “If only…” and “I should have…”. But after a while these narratives can block the natural flow of life.
Most people might have heard of the stages of grieving and that grief comes in waves. The most well-known framework is the Kubler-Ross stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).
While this understanding is useful in bringing self-awareness of the process, it can leave people feeling a little passive and helpless. But you can be pro-active and turn grief into a creative act. It involves a journey from loss to action.
Here’s a framework I shared in a coaching session recently, based on William Worden’s 4 tasks of grieving:
1) Accept the reality of the loss:
This is the most painful part because it requires that we come into contact with the full force of our emotions. Bracing against them delays the process. What we resist, persists…
2) Express the emotions
There’s no doubt that emotions need to be emoted. It may not look pretty but that’s totally OK. When people cry in coaching sessions, they can often feel embarrassed. I reassure them that it’s just tension leaving the body and clearing the way for joyful energy to flow again.
3) Learn new skills
Think of what’s missing in your life following the loss. For example, with Covid, many experienced the loss of connection. So learning new skills in how to connect (including online); how to consciously stay in touch with people you care about; how to cultivate connection with those you don’t know so well; as well as how to respect different people’s communication styles and connection needs (aka boundaries) is a fulfilling set of skills to learn. It can only improve the quality of relationships in your life.
4) Create a legacy
This sometimes looks like creating a fund that supports others. For example, parents who’ve lost a child to an illness might create a fund to support other families in a similar situation. But it could be a book, a photo album or a tree planted in honour of what or who was lost. It allows you to move on by telling a beautiful story and knowing you will stay connected to what was lost even as life continues.
Grief is probably one of the most vulnerable emotions we can experience but also one of the most transformative. It sweeps you up into a new phase of life clearing everything that needs to be let go of.
My client and I were able to design a process for her to move past her regret and incorporate the energy she released from it into the next phase of her work.
Grieving may require courage as you open up. But the pay off in lightness and energy once you move through the process is infinite.
As we continue to shape the next phase of our lives and careers, may you feel held on solid ground while staying open to the infinite.
Have a great week,
p.s. 1) Join me for the next Leaders Circle: Falling Upward on the 31st of March. In this interactive session you’ll dive into how to embrace the unknown to lead your career and business rather than feel at the effect of circumstances. You can learn more and sign up below: Register for the Leaders Circle: Falling Upward.
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