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Embrace Your Emotional Health

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Currently I am reading a book written by Lillian Schlissel, Women’s Diaries of the Wetstward Journey, (1982 Schocken Books Inc.). As I read the pages I am haunted by the hardship, resiliency and determination of these women, who not by choice, endured the westward migration of hundreds of thousands of people.


Their diaries became their only outlet for the grief and despair they felt. Isolation became their companion as they left everything familiar behind. Filth, illness, hunger, depression, anger, and bitterness filled their lives. “O I feel lonesome today sometimes I can govern myself but not always but I schooled in pretty well considering all things.”. (p20) “Schooled in” meant that a person hid their emotions from the world so as not to expose their vulnerability.


I cannot begin to comprehend how these women faced the trauma of not only the travel but the trauma of death they faced every day. Adults and children alike succumbed to accidents and illness that resulted in death. The graves of their loved ones were among the many, bearing the names scratched wood. I ache for those that felt the need to “school in” the cries of their hearts.


Are we much different today? Do we still feel the need to “school in” those raw emotions of grief in order to protect our vulnerabilities? We are not much different today and yes; we do feel the need to school in our emotions.


Today the phrase “schooled in” takes on a little different meaning. It means being trained or educated in a particular way. Over the course of our life, we are trained in how to react and interact with grief. We take cues from our family; we take cues from society. We learn what emotions are deemed acceptable and unacceptable.


In the process of becoming acceptable, we are harming our emotional selves, our physical selves and our mental selves. We have been schooled in ways to stop the free flow of emotions and how to hide our grief from the outside world. We have taught ourselves how to suffer in silence.


Grief emotions need to be expressed and felt. By taking care of our emotional health, we are taking care of our physical health and our mental health.


On the website, www.centerforlossandtrauma.com, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore has a list of ideas for grievers that, if practiced, will lead to emotional health. This list can be found in her blog of July 18, 2020 titled Worried About Mental Health? Then Take Care of Your Emotional Health.


1. Surround yourself with others who embody compassion

2. Spend time alone felling what you feel.

3. Once you feel like you know what you feel, express yourself. Find a way to externalize what you’re feeling.

4. Talk to a trusted friend who is a great listener.

5. Practice creating space in your life for all your emotional experiences.

6. Use the natural world as a teacher of life & loss.

7. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, rest your emotional body.

8. Write your emotions. Focus on how you felt.

9. Give grief space in your life.

10. It is Okay to feel other emotions when and if they come naturally.


There is no reason to “school in” the emotions of grief. We have done ourselves, as a society, an injustice by denying the expression of grief emotions. Emotions “schooled in” can harm our physical bodies causing aches, pains and disease. We cause harm to our mental bodies by denying ourselves the freedom to think, feel and experience the depth of our loss and all it means in our life.


I invite you to allow the free flow of your emotions as you learn to live with grief in life.


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