In mindfulness work, they talk a lot about how emotions are visitors. They come and they go. And no matter how intense the feeling is, it eventually lifts.
The only exceptions I can think of involve grief’s tendency to overstay its welcome. But even then, grief is less a distinct emotion and instead a series of emotional episodes all tied to one loss. A campaign of disruption.
It’s not one feeling, but a succession of them. And anyone who is grieving can tell you, the order and timing of what you feel while grieving can be quite unpredictable. While the Kubler-Ross stages of grief model reached pop culture prominence, there’s no empirical evidence that it’s true.
And I had some truly spicy moods myself when my father died. Most of them were terrible. My favorite one was inappropriate laughter, or as I wrote in my private journal at the time:
Inappropriate laughter is my favorite grief mood. It’s weird and makes me feel crazy. But I prefer it to other staples like existential horror, primal wails, and unrelenting anhedonia. *inappropriate laughter*
I laughed at so many things that weren’t funny. Laughed until my ribs hurt and I felt like I was going to get sick.
Grief stayed a long time. Heck, sometimes it still drops by even now (ball in the box, anyone?) But it comes by less often, and it leaves much faster than before.
And of course the individual moods as I had them, they lifted one after the other (before sometimes returning).
It won’t last forever, whatever it is. As much as an emotion tells you that you’ll always feel it, it will eventually lift and something else slots into place. The good news is that you’re not sad forever. The bad news is that you’re not happy forever.
It’s important to keep this in perspective.
Sometimes people are surprised to learn how sensitive I am. Because I can come off rather strong. Tough, even.
But the secret isn’t never feeling anything. I feel all sorts of things. I’m quite an emotional person. No, the key is that I realize that very few of these feelings are important. They’re visitors. Not here to stay.