Looking for Some Feel Good
Something different I thought it might be interesting to talk about and think about over the holidays:
At one of our Adaire House discussion group meetings a while ago where most of the participants were fairly newly bereaved, the conversation turned to ice cream! We were actually talking about habits we inadvertently might establish in our grieving and also about things grief had changed in our lives.
Some of the people shared that at the start, they had been unable to really eat much at all, and as I had, they went through a significant weight loss and felt a decline in their overall health. But others said that after perhaps an initial loss of appetite, they had begun to indulge in eating again, sometimes sort of “grazing” through the day eating something whenever they were sitting around feeling lonely or listening to the silence in their homes.
And so, ice cream, lots and lots of ice cream.… And chocolate and many other goodies and the best part was that the conversation brought smiles and laughter as stories of excessive forays into eating binges of mostly sweets and snack foods unfolded.
By the end of the meeting, because we were talking about changes, we had turned to talking about sleep and how we were dealing or had dealt with the very common problem of getting to sleep or falling back asleep if we woke during the night.
That led to a discussion of sleep aids. Many said they had started using prescription medications their doctors had given them. Interestingly, they mostly all also said that they had turned away from them as being too potentially addictive or as causing too much disruption in their lives and not liking the aftermath of being less than clear-headed the next day.
Since we are in Colorado, many also talked about trying CBD’s and CBD/THC mixes made specifically to be sleep aids as well as smoking a little weed in the evenings before bed.
That too brought a smile and laughter-filled discussion. So I started wondering if there was a connection. Was there a common element to those things that had brought that enjoyment into the conversation and perhaps into our lives.
I went home that night and as I was thinking about what had happened at the meeting, my first reaction was how glad I was seeing all of those people sitting around and laughing and smiling and how wonderful it was that some healing, at least for that short time had come to the group who were there.
Over the next few days though, it kept coming back into my thoughts. I continued to wonder if there was a commonality that maybe was part of something we had all experienced in our grief. And in a very general way I realized that wow, those things were all about finding, or talking about, or doing something that gave us a brief feeling of joy or happiness in our lives, a feel good moment perhaps, even for just a short time.
That led me to thinking about why we might be seeking that. It led me to thinking about something that I know was missing in my own life at the time and perhaps was for others as well. It seems kind of obvious but there were huge places and times where my marriage had brought me joy and happiness from warm, lovely feelings that would sometimes happen when Andi and I were just alone together with our love. Those moments were now missing and empty and weren’t going to bring me those feelings any more.
So, might there be something myself and others were doing or trying or wanting during our grief that was potentially a search for those missing feelings we maybe weren’t even aware we were missing or seeking. Maybe this was like the missing approval and affirmation we’ve talked about before. Could it be another hidden part of our grief, another place where something so simple we don’t even realize we miss it is indeed missing and maybe we aren’t really consciously aware of it. But, like affirmation, was it something we still found ourselves empty of and subconsciously craving and looking to replace with things that give us similar feelings.
Or, is it more simple. Do we just find ourselves including things in our lives now that make us feel good just because they do make us feel good at a time when not much makes us feel good at all. Maybe consciously or subconsciously we just want to feel good for a little bit because in our grief we have been feeling shitty for so long.
So I started thinking of other things that bereaved people have talked about doing that might be connected to this. Was there a common reason that they gravitate to them? Was there a common reason for us including them at this often very sad point in our lives?
Maybe not surprisingly, many of the things I thought of that I had felt and heard mentioned, in one way or another, all seem to be things that generate some physiological reactions that release or trigger compounds within us that cause that “feel good feeling”.
Chocolate is definitely high on that list, so is ice cream and other sweets as well as junk food. But so are many different types of exercise, music, yoga and meditation and walking. So is sexuality. So is dating and seeking relationships, of finding another person to be with to give us some feel good.
The feelings we get from alcohol and recreational drugs are more obvious in a way, but the effects seem much more uncertain especially if we find ourselves abusing or becoming dependent on them in any way. Many of the things I could think of seem to make us feel good when we do them in moderation, but in excess not so much! A glass of wine with dinner is very different from sitting down and spending an evening of “heavy drinking”. Maybe “life really is (like) a box of chocolates”!
So maybe in our grief when we do these things, maybe without realizing it, we are looking to find a short time away from the sadness of our grief, to find a moment of feeling good. Maybe we turn to these types of things simply because they do make us feel good and our lives don’t really contain many feel good moments anymore. They may give us something we miss from our lives with our spouses or partners, but they may just take us away from feeling bad for a bit. They may just give us a little spark of joy or happiness or “feel good” to temporarily lift our mood and our emotions.
- Do you find yourself looking for a “feel good moment”?
- If you do, what things do you find?
- Do you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself? What do you think they mean?
- What levels of indulgence do you think are ok to include?
- Do you think it’s just looking for a feel good moment to escape your grief or is it a search to replace or recapture some feel good moments from your relationship? Is it some of both? Does it matter?
- Should you put limits on it?
- Can you think of other “feel good” indulgences that might fit this pattern?