By Megan Samuels, Intern for The Eating Disorder Center
I’ve done a lot of grieving these past few months. As a college student, the end of a semester means leaving those classes, teachers, and daily patterns that grounded me the past few months. That was my normal. This is also the end of the year. Someone said, “See you next year!” to me and I realized that I haven’t processed the fact that 2019 is ending and we are coming onto a new year and a new decade. Saying goodbye to semesters and years is something that I have to do constantly. I make sure to dedicate a lot of self-care for myself during these transitions so I can think about and process the changes that are happening in my life and around me.
Last week, I said goodbye to my dog. She battled with cancer for months and not even my tears throughout the last few days could bring her back. After talking to my therapist and many of my friends, I have solidified my intention to cope with all of this extreme grief with healthy coping skills, instead of using eating disorder behaviors.
Some coping skills that I have developed include watching TV (I have decided to rewatch Friday Night Lights and One Tree Hill), getting a weighted blanket, journaling, and talking to friends when I need support. The extreme grief of my dog passing away is not something I have felt and had to personally deal with in a number of years. Losing a family member (which for my family includes a dog) is probably the hardest thing humans go through.
I have talked with my therapist about the process of grieving. As a perfectionist, I wanted an outline of this process. I wanted to know what I had to do to get over these feelings and feel better. Similar to work that I’ve done to fight against my eating disorder, my therapist told me the biggest thing is looking inwards and asking myself what I need. That might mean starting a new book or working on graduate school applications, and this might mean crying in my room and looking at pictures of my dog. I realized how quickly I wanted to dismiss my feelings of grief, that included sadness, anger, and frustration. Even with knowledge of emotions and almost a bachelors degree in psychology, I still tried to push the feelings away.
Grief is complicated and it is still something I am learning about. I know one thing for sure is that the feelings will bottle up and get worse if their needs are not met. This is similar to eating disorder recovery work. In order to cope with feelings, it is important to identify the feeling and sit with it and let it pass.
For example, yesterday I started crying because I missed my dog. I sat down and questioned what I was feeling. I was feeling sad. Sad is a feeling and I don’t need to make it go away. I sat on my bed with pictures of my dog and a tissue box and felt the sadness. I didn’t fight it, I welcomed it throughout my body. A few minutes later (that felt like hours) the sadness passed and I continued on with my day.
This experience proved to me that I am able to feel a feeling and let it pass. It is one thing to be told to let feelings pass or to be shown the wave of emotions. For me, I needed to experience it. I needed to see for myself that I could have a feeling that felt too unbearable to cope with and be able to sit with it and believe that it will pass. A key to the grieving process is letting myself feel any emotions that come to me, which can be difficult to do. I was packing for a vacation and remembered my dog not being here anymore and I had to stop what I was doing because I felt a sudden wave of sadness. I sat on the ground and let the tears stream down my face. It was liberating to be able to let my emotions express themselves and for me to tell them that I hear them and I support them.
This will happen countless more times throughout my grieving process and throughout my life and I am thankful that I have the understanding of the importance of accepting my emotions in the present moment.
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also offer eating disorder therapy virtually throughout California and New York (NYC) serving those in cities including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, San Jose, and Beverly Hills. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.