What is it About Grief that makes us Search for Control?

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During a recent conversation with a podcast guest they brought up this interesting point about how experiencing grief makes you want to have a sense of control in your life. They continued by adding how this may have to do with the idea of questioning our own mortality.  This of course got me thinking about my own experience with grief and wanting to take control of my life after loss and how that applied to my own journey with grief.

I think for me, it really goes back to when I lost my Mom. I’ve talked about this before but I think the biggest difference between when I lost my Dad compared to when I lost my Mom is  that there was such a sense of closure when my Dad passed. I got to see him one last time, hug him, laugh with him and most importantly tell him I loved him and say good-bye.  But when my Mom passed it was the furthest thing from closure. I got a phone call and that was it. To be honest, I’m still not quite sure how my Mom died. And I think when you’re given news like that it’s difficult not to want some sort of control over your life when it feels like everything is in chaos.

Having control could exist in many forms: control over what you eat and don’t eat, having things set up in your home or apartment a certain way, or having a detailed schedule for the day. Now, I’m not saying all of these things are bad. I whole-heartedly believe that having structure and order in your life can really help with your anxiety and depression (this has especially helped me). But when does your sense of control become too much?

I can only speak to my own experience when it comes to having control issues. For me, it manifested in the form of OCD where I had to accomplish things in a certain order or it would make it very difficult to move on with my day. And the thing is, that deep down I knew that my OCD tendencies weren’t creating order in my life, in fact they were making me even less productive, but it is taking time to retrain my brain into understanding this. And as far as diet and exercise go I would say control over these aspects of my while advantageous to my overall health and well-being, there were certainly some subtle underlying issues with food control as well. I would have a fear of eating certain foods or would feel the need to workout solely because I had a few slices of pizza the night before not because I actually wanted to workout that day.

So I guess what I’m getting at here is, ask yourself, “Are the things I’m working to control in my life benefiting me or hindering me, and becoming over-bearing?” And from there, take steps to walk away from your controlling habits that aren’t benefitting you. In my meditation there’s a great intention statement offered by the person leading the meditation which states, “Today I will accept the things I cannot control,” and I try my best to live by that everyday. Now don’t get me wrong, some days this is easier than others but it’s a goal I strive for when I start each day. 

In closing, there’s this great episode of this podcast I listen to, ‘Tiny Leaps, Big Changes’ where the host makes the great point around the idea that, you may not be able to control your dog or your kids waking you up in the morning earlier than you’d hope but what you can control is your reaction to that event. And I feel like that relates to every scenario life throws at you. It’s okay to feel whatever emotion you are feeling in that moment but then take time to step back and evaluate the situation so that you can react accordingly. I hope you’ve found this helpful and thank you for reading and as always, thanks for getting your ‘dose of reality.’



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