Three. Ways to Express Emotion

Next Pillar

What Helps

There is no right way to express grief and loss, the key is to find a way of connecting to the feelings we have inside, try and name them, and then find a way to express them.

If we could force our feelings to obey our thoughts, life would be infinitely less difficult, but also flatter and duller. Although we cannot control what we feel, the more we are aware of what we are feeling, and the self-chatter that is whirling around in our head, the more likely it is we can protect ourselves from letting those feelings taking control.

There is a part of our brain that is constantly on alert to look for danger – it is there to protect us – but it means we have a negative bias to look for bad things rather than good. If that part of the brain is triggered, by, for example, hearing about the death of someone we love or losing our job, it can turn on the fight-flight-freeze system, which, again, is there to protect us, so we can flee or fight, but it stops us being able to think clearly. We need to develop ways of mediating that with a ‘yes brain’ so that if we hear bad news we don’t go with our first reaction, which is likely to be negative. Take time to calm down, think more deeply, discuss it with others and then respond.

For some it will be talking to family or friends, for others it may be writing a journal, playing or watching sport, and others painting, making music or seeing a therapist. As I have shown in the stories, there is no right way to express it.

My big shout is that whether we are an introvert or an extrovert, whether we are someone who naturally knows how to express themselves emotionally or finds it difficult - every one of us needs to find a way of expressing our grief and loss.


Some people can only connect with themselves when they are connected to other people. For others they need to work out first what they feel on their own. Either way having people who you feel close to, and loved by, is an important component in helping you express your grief.

Regularity and building resilience

If we do this regularly it becomes more natural and develops into a key supportive pillar in the management of our pain and regulating our system which build resilience. This will work by:

  • Take responsibility for ourselves and the impact we have on others.
  • Awareness is the first step, knowing what your triggers are. HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired are vulnerable times when we could for instance fire off an angry text. Don’t. HALT.
  • Take a breath when you can see a likely trigger heading in your direction. The big step is to slow down, take time out.
  • To stop a persistent urge or recurrent bad image, it can help to close your eyes and visualize that image on a television screen. Take a breath and switch the channel. Visualize a positive image, or your safe place, look around it and breathe it in. Take another breath, open your eyes and move your attention to doing a task. This can be repeated a number of times. Using it regularly increases its speed and efficacy.


It is important to understand that time takes on different hues in grief and loss: Grieving takes longer than anyone wants or expects, we cannot fight it.