I avoid books and other things that make me feel too much. Am I normal?

Grief affects so many things in day-to-day life. Are there books, movies, tv shows, music, or other things that you actively avoice because you’re afraid they’ll make you feel too much? Is that normal?

Avoiding books (and other media) that make you feel too much is #perfectlynormal in grief.

We often hear the same thing from people when we talk about writing in grief and people who want to use my new journal, but are scared to start.

A lot of people work hard to not feel the way they feel because it feels like, if they start crying, they’ll never be able to stop. That’s not actually true, but it does feel that way and that’s completely normal.

Later in grief you do become more able to shut off big waves of emotion when you need to – sucking it up to get through a meeting or a trip to the grocery store. But that’s often impossible in the early days.

When your pain is too big for the environment you’re in, it can turn into emotional flooding. While the core “work” of grief is learning to companion yourself inside it, another equally important skill is in shutting off your grief, or your emotions, when it isn’t safe to feel them. I’m not talking about shutting down your emotions as a long-term solution (that SO does not work), but shutting down in a moment where to feel the full intensity of your pain would not be beneficial. Denial is actually a kindness, at times. Distraction is a healthy coping strategy.

There’s a section on resistance to touching or actively working with your grief (both of which are #perfectlynormal) as well as exercises for how to cope with emotional overwhelm in my new journal, How to Carry What Can’t be Fixed.

When it comes to books, movies, tv shows, music, writing, and other things that feel too big and intense to even approach, it’s OK to give them a try when you want to. Just remember that turning away from your pain when your pain is too big for the situation is a kindness. It’s a way to pay attention, to tend to yourself with love and respect. Get yourself through the flood as best you can, and come back to your pain when you have the resources and capacity to do so.

How about you? Have you avoided certain things because you worry they’ll make you feel too much at once? What sorts of things have you or do you currently avoid?

The more we talk about this stuff, the more we tell the truth about what grief is really like, the more people realize they’re not alone.

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