Intern Anna shares with family caregivers of those with eating disorders, her insights on grieving. There are so many roles that we as the support person of someone with an eating disorder need to fill. Learning to do our own grieving and giving our loved ones space and time to do their grieving are some of those roles. Thank you Intern Anna for sharing your hard earned wisdom. ~ Becky

Doing the Grieving When Needed – by, Intern Anna

Grieving about a life I could have had feels like a punch to the gut. Recognizing that my life path could have been markedly different had my mental health not gone downhill is an interesting thought.

One of the biggest life lessons I have learned over the past few years has been to accept my feelings as they come.

Countless people have told me to weather out my feelings and allow myself to stay with my emotions.

Our emotions are there to communicate to us. 

When I feel sad, I look at it as an opportunity to see what my body is reacting to. Our body has the fight and flight response to alert us to danger. Sometimes those alerts go off accidentally. Usually this is experienced as anxiety or fear. I found it super effective to notice and cue in to my feelings to help me be able to have strategies to counteract them.

You can grieve something whether it is an experience, an item, a person, or a memory. I think one of the most important things to do is accept the feeling and recognize how it feels in your body. I think a lot of people are afraid this is selfish, but doing something for yourself is a part of self care. Your mind and body can’t ever heal from the grief if you don’t allow yourself to experience it.

I remember thinking “why am I doing this to my body and what I can’t ever stop.” This was a few months into my eating disorder and before I had sought treatment. I already could tell this eating disorder would take a lot out of me. I started to wonder what my future self would think about these actions. Honestly it was quite the scare tactic that helped me get into recovery. I didn’t want to look back and regret a part of my life. That was my motivation. To get back to the life I wanted to live.

It can be really hard to see the big picture especially when the current picture feels so bleak. One of the motivators I used during the recovery process was taking a look at my values. It helped me to focus on why I wanted to get better. I used the grief I had felt and turned it into a reason to fight back. This doesn’t always happen, sometimes we have grief that seems to have no end and no bright side. It takes tremendous courage to walk through that storm.

As caregivers, it is nice to hear the more positive outlook. I know for me, it made me recognize the negative tone I had. I could start to then change my perspective.

Lastly, I would say the biggest thing that helps through times of grief is love. Showing affection can do wonders for the mind. A simple hug or holding hands can provide so much happiness to the body. A self hug even works too!

Remember to slow down and feel your emotions. Then, respond with love.

Intern Anna