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Lessons from loss: Healing with Emotional Expression

November 17, 20237 min read


In the intricate tapestry of life, challenges often emerge as formidable adversaries, but what if we dared to view them through a different lens? What if our greatest hurdles were not roadblocks, but rather opportunities for profound growth and healing? This article delves into the transformative power of facing challenges head-on, with a particular focus on the role of emotional expression in this intricate dance of personal development. Join us on a journey through the Joy's experiences, discovering how the seemingly insurmountable can become a catalyst for healing and personal evolution.

What if our greatest challenges present an opportunity for us to grow and heal?

The Significance of Emotional Expression

A fundamental factor in my work is honoring the importance of emotional expression in our healing process. Recognizing our emotions and our relationship with each one can have a huge impact on our life.

Emotions are an important mechanism that acts like a propeller to push us into various directions and actions. If we are like a boat at sea, our relationship with our emotions can help us glide over the waves when water gets rough as opposed to being knocked over by them.

We have come to live in a society that generally teaches us that many emotions are bad, negative or a sign of weakness. I have come to believe that there is no such thing as positive or negative emotions.

Instead of labeling emotions as positive or negative, I find it more helpful to recognize that emotional expression can be healthy or unhealthy. Unfortunately, most of us label difficult emotions as negative because we mostly witness unhealthy expressions in our culture. Even more commonly, we don't see emotional expression at all because of the tendency to stuff emotions down and suppress them instead.

I want to share a recent experience from my own life which has given me yet another opportunity to solidify my understanding of these concepts. This story has to do with grief and loss with the recent passing of a friend.

girl with red heart balloon

A Personal Journey Through Grief and Loss

My tendency around grief and loss in the past was mostly suppression. I would usually just stuff things down and move on. It was one of my ways of being "tough" or strong.

Now looking back I can see that this was an avoidance tactic because in truth, facing grief felt absolutely terrifying. I felt as though I didn't even know how to explore grief. I had never been given any examples and we live in a culture that tends to brush loss under the rug. However, time has passed and I have grown and changed.

This recent loss came at a time when I was now ready to face my emotions with the help of a new understanding of my emotional being.

This loss came as an unexpected shock. This shock cracked me open.

This beautiful individual was bright, spry and full of life and I had just seen them days before their passing. Soon after the confusion and disbelief of the news, I started to share my condolences to the family's Facebook announcement. Before finishing my comment, tears started flooding and my wailing ensued as I finished typing. I shared the news with a close friend and quickly we were on the phone crying together and as others called me I continued to unleash my tears, my sadness and my grief. I let myself cry that whole day. I didn't let my head get involved; when the tears came, I just let them out.

By the end of the day, my body hurt. It felt like I had run a marathon with a boxing match at the end. The next day I was still tender, but the rawness of it had faded away. Outpourings of tears would still come up when triggered, but mostly my body just hurt.

On that second day, I had a realization.

The Unveiling of Grief: A Cathartic Experience

As I was freely allowing the expression of this grief on the emotional level, it was happening on all levels of my being. On the mental level, I had many insights and lessons come into consciousness, all very helpful. On the physical level, my body was going through a physical detoxification; I had a headache, body aches, sweats and outbreaks down my back.

Detoxification is a natural way in which we physically express and release. This detox was the physical correlate of releasing emotional toxic waste that had been stored up from passed suppressed grievances. What I was witnessing was how the process of healing was working through my expression of grief.

At the end of that second day I felt a huge shift. The pain left and while there was still an awareness of the loss, there was also a sense of indescribable lightness and peace.

I believe this lightness came from having a pathway to express what I was presently experiencing, while also finally releasing the burdens of past losses. In the days following, waves of tears would quickly come and go, yet I would return to this state of peace in between.

Ecstatic dance class

A few days later, it was time to facilitate my ecstatic dance event, Ignite Body Freedom. This would be a heavy day because my late friend was a regular attendee and appreciated by many of our other participants.

These events are a place for free-form authentic expression and this gave me the unique opportunity to hold a therapeutic container for nearly 30 people to freely express their grief. The power of this experience is difficult to capture in words. I believe what I witnessed in myself in the days prior, I also witnessed in others here. Seeing the heartfelt hugs amidst the free-flowing tears, sadness and celebratory remembrance of our lost friend gave more opportunity to witness the therapeutic and healing action of complete emotional expression.

Reflections on Grief and Societal Avoidance

Grief is probably one of the most uncomfortable emotions we will ever feel in our life experience.

Not only are the circumstances that cause grief hard enough to process, but the emotion is literally painful.

We live in a culture that tends to avoid pain at all costs. We tend to suppress instead of express grief through tears, talking freely about our feelings, or reflecting on the loss.

When we ignore an emotion, either intentionally or from lack of self-awareness, there will be a suppression. However, when we suppress, it does not make things go away, it is just saving it for later.

When we do not allow emotional expression, it will create a disturbance on all layers of our being, mental, emotional and physical. The suppressed emotion could show up as an unhealthy outburst, sustained emotional imbalance, distorted perception or even a physical manifestation of pain or disease.

The Need for Healthy Pathways of Release

Joy Dettling, Founder of Ignite Life

We need healthy pathways of release. When we have suppressed an emotion, we unconsciously create a blind spot in order to hide the emotion and act as a protective mechanism. At the same time this suppression creates a compensation in the body so that this emotion can literally be held physically.

I have found one of the easiest ways to access suppressed emotion is through physical exploration, whether that be talking, crying, screaming, moving, detox or some other physical action. This is why I also realize that coming together for ecstatic dance provides one of the best therapies possible.

I have come to find in my personal exploration that healthy expression happens more naturally when we stay aware of our emotions in the present moment. The day of our dance, I witnessed something we rarely get to see, which is a place to presently, openly, honestly and radically show our grief in a space surrounded by others doing the same. This experience only strengthened my deep belief that in order to heal and grow we must express all of our emotions in healthy ways.

This whole experience has also shown me that all challenges can grow us and offer the profound potential to heal.

On my path of emotional expression I have also found the support of others to be extremely helpful. If you are feeling emotionally stuck and would benefit from support, don't hesitate to reach out here.

Emotional expression and healingCoping with grief and lossHealthy emotional releaseGrowth through emotional challengesEcstatic dance for emotional well-beingImportance of expressing grief
Joy has been on a lifelong search for optimal health, well being and personal growth. With endless curiosity and a passion for understanding herself and the world around her, she has explored, researched and tried countless methods and tools on her journey of personal discovery.

Joy Dettling

Joy has been on a lifelong search for optimal health, well being and personal growth. With endless curiosity and a passion for understanding herself and the world around her, she has explored, researched and tried countless methods and tools on her journey of personal discovery.

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