Relief can be tenuous, fleeting, temporary, short lived. For family caregivers, the relief of a loved one’s progress alongside the reality of the dangers and problems that still exist can quickly take away the joy of the moment of relief and switch one back to fear.  Relief can ease some of the pain and negative feelings and can help have a momentary feeling of excitement, hope, joy and positivity. It can allow us to take a deep breath. The trick is often how to allow ourselves those moments of excitement, deep breaths and joy that come with the relief before we step back into the scary and often hard realities. 

This past week relief was highlighted so much. 

First the enormous relief at the conviction in the trial of the murderer of George Floyd in my hometown in Minneapolis. So many of us are so incredibly relieved that the right thing was done, finally. AND…the reality is that this is a stepping stone on which we all need to be inspired to build a more equitable system of community protection/aka policing. It was hard to believe that this could be the outcome when a conviction of a white cop for the killing of a black man had never before happened in Minnesota. It was hard to hope and believe, much like how it’s hard to hope for and believe in recovery for our kids with eating disorders. 

The second huge dose of relief for me and many others this week was the administration of our second vaccine dose! This is the next step toward being able to resume activities put on hold by the pandemic. It’s a major relief in feeling safer and yet the reality is, we still will need to wear masks in public and even though it greatly reduces our chances of getting it,  we can still get Covid-19 but it probably won’t kill us if we do get it. Again,  both relief and reality. 

On our Weekly Group Support Call on Wednesday we discussed the concept of relief. Just discussing it can help us to open up to the possibility of allowing ourselves to feel both the momentary joy and the fear of the realities. Both/And.

It turns out there is very little research on relief and some of the studies sound miserable. Having to sing a song out loud in public? That is terrifying for a non-singer like me. Imagine the relief of some of the test subjects when they found out they didn’t have to do it? Or getting shocks? No thanks. According to the report, “Research explores link between physical and emotional pain relief.” discussed in Science Daily,  “Research shows that feeling pain leads to negative emotions, but less is known about the relief that occurs when pain is removed. Is pain offset associated with positive emotions, or simply the alleviation of negative emotions?”*

So, how to enjoy the moments of relief and not let them be stolen by the hard cold realities? 

Here are 6 techniques that I’ve seen work when feeling both relief and fear: 

  1. Notice the feeling of relief.
  2. Allow it.
  3. Give oneself the gift of enjoying it a bit longer.
  4. Acknowledge that the joy of the relief can exist alongside the scary, hard realities.
  5. Ask, “How can I allow the relief and the realities to co-exist?”
  6. Believe in the both/and…both relief and reality can exist simultaneously.

I’d love  to hear what has worked for you.

*J. C. Franklin, K. M. Lee, E. K. Hanna, M. J. Prinstein. Feeling Worse to Feel Better: Pain-Offset Relief Simultaneously Stimulates Positive Affect and Reduces Negative Affect. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612458805


Please keep practicing safety protocols outlined by the CDC and stay safe.