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Ask the Experts: Better to face grief rather than avoid it

By Lynn Walsh, M.S. LLP

The second part of this series focuses on the importance of openly facing the heaviness of grief versus avoiding it, a common coping mechanism that can actually increase anxiety, depression and PTSD symptoms. “It’s Quiet Uptown,” from the musical “Hamilton” is a song about losing a child and expresses the massive weight of grief in the lines: 

“There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is suffering too terrible to name

You hold your child as tight as you can

And push away the unimaginable.

The moments when you’re in so deep

It feels easier to just swim down”

As natural as it feels to turn away from pain, instead, allow yourself, and encourage your children, to follow the advice of another wonderful song about the helplessness of loss, “Let it Be.”

What that looks like in real life is a mindful practice that might go like this:

• Acknowledge the pain when it arises, even in the most odd or inconvenient moments. If it helps, visualize a wave on a peaceful beach that washes over you and then dissipates.

• Set time aside, daily, 15 to 30 minutes of quiet to devote to a meditation on loss. Don’t worry about what thoughts arise in your mind. Don’t force anything. Be sure to set a start and end time on a timer. What this does is circumvent the avoidance of sadness by time limiting it and not creating a fear of it “ being too much.” If you like, make a playlist to support you in this meditation and near the end, transition to comforting thoughts to re-anchor.

• Finally, join a support group, online or in person. The safety of a holding space within a group of others is extraordinarily comforting and also time limited. 

To believe in one’s own ability to feel a range of feelings, including sadness and loss, is to fully participate in what it means to be human. As you become more comfortable with facing these feelings, it will fill out your roadmap with confidence, stability and emotional safety. 

Lynn Walsh, M.S. LLP, is a local therapist in practice for 14 years. Her office is located at 355 Fisher Rd., Suite C. For more information, call (313) 779-3089 or visit