Organizing Grief With Visualization
In a recent article I wrote called Macular Degeneration Isn’t My Only Hardship I explained how life can be really brutal sometimes. This is why it is so very important to take care of our mental health and emotional wellbeing in order to survive life’s toughest days.
What is grief?
Simply put, grief is any combination of sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, and shame. Basically, grief is a concoction of stressful emotions that can take their own toll on the health of our bodies and eyes. These difficult emotions are all symptoms of grief. These feelings are more than normal, and they are more than okay, but they are also more than difficult.
Visualization as a self-help tool
With guidance from my therapist (another person in my corner helping me stay on my feet by showing me how to care for my mental health), I found a way to organize my grief and struggles by visualizing. I’m hoping that this can help someone else who also has a lot going on. One way that I have been able to sort through everything life throws at me is by organizing and prioritizing my grief.
Here’s how it works
I visualize each hardship happening in my life as well as each lesson learned as being written out on a piece of paper inside of what I call my griefcase. For example, my new scotoma is on one page, the anxiety of the pandemic on another, the saying ‘pause, pray, proceed’ on another, and so on.
I imagine some of my papers carrying the stories and details of my hard life experiences. While others carry the words of all the profound lessons I’ve learned from each moment of struggle. Doing this allows me to carry all of my experiences with me in a safe way. In this way, I get to organize all of my emotions, pull out what I need when I need it, and keep the rest tucked away for another time.
We all have grief and past experiences that have been difficult, but it's important to remember that it doesn’t make them all negative. When dealing with hard emotions, I like to try to stay in charge of them by imagining them inside of this 'briefcase of grief'. You see, the purpose of a briefcase is to organize and carry around papers.
I don’t really like the term ‘baggage’ when it comes to my life experiences. It makes it all sound really negative and heavy. My perspective is that even our hard things are positive because they help us grow and evolve. I once read a quote that asked why we don’t use the term ‘griefcase’ instead of ‘baggage’ and it has stuck with me.
Sending grief down the river
Another one of my biggest supporters in life has his own way of keeping anxiety and difficult emotions at bay. He also visualizes his life’s difficult moments being on pieces of paper that he pulls away from himself, places them in a flowing river, and watches them ‘float away’.
What’s really neat about visualization is that each of us can decide what works best for us in order to manage our difficult emotions. I have another friend that literally writes out her anxieties on paper before bed so she can sleep at night. This allows her to place her worries somewhere else temporarily in order to take care of her basic needs.
A catalyst for change
My macular degeneration has been the biggest driving force in doing whatever it takes to find a life that feels safe and joyful. We all only get this one life. And, those of us with macular degeneration have an ever-present clock ticking that guides us forward a little bit faster than others... you know, so we can do all the things we want while we can still see.
I used to think that being diagnosed with macular degeneration 50 years sooner than most was tremendously unfair. Admittedly, before I became a healthier version of myself, I took my diagnosis as a personal insult and went into it kicking and screaming.
I felt so angry and sorry for myself. I mean, who wants to live their life in fear of possible central blindness? Not me. Not you. Right now with everything else going on, I could feel angry and sorry for myself... OR... I could use this pain to help push me forward into even more healing and self-evolution.
More than that, I don’t want to watch my life pass me by while feeling worried and afraid. And, I most certainly will not show my children unhealthy ways to cope with loss and hardship.
Strength in community
It isn't always easy to be vulnerable and open about matters like mental health and emotions. But, keeping quiet about things like this doesn’t help anyone and I'm here to try to help as many people as possible. There is help out there for anyone dealing with anything difficult. Therapy, support groups like ours here at MacularDegeneration.net, and conversations with our most trusted friends can help us combat grief and live our best lives... in spite of a difficult medical diagnosis.
As I sit here and write to all of my friends here in our amazing community, I can’t help but be eternally thankful for this online support system that I am blessed to be a part of. Shout out to YOU for walking beside the rest of us as we move through life’s difficult moments, for supporting yourself, and allowing us to walk beside you during yours.
In the words of humanitarian and meditation guru, Deepak Chopra, “The need to belong is our connection to collective consciousness. As individuals belonging to a group, we gain the strength of the power of the group. The group power becomes our power.”
Here, we are never alone
I’m a huge believer in the strength provided by a sense of community and an even bigger advocate for emotional and mental health. That’s why I’m here working for Health Union. This community is important to me. It gives me strength when I struggle to find my own. Here, I am never alone. Here, I feel like I can use the devastation of my failing vision to help others with theirs. This is how I heal. This is how WE heal.
I know that not everyone feels safe enough to talk about the things I am talking about in this article. I get it, vulnerability is a tough thing. Fear of being judged seems to always lurk around the dark corners of vulnerability. But, I’m here to tell you that without vulnerability it’s really hard to heal those pesky emotions like grief, fear, and anxiety.
Visualize and manage your grief and find your peace,
Do you still drive?