Emotion Wheel
Grief and Loss

Getting Unstuck by Naming Your Emotions

In our survivor group, we hand out a support packet that includes a sheet with simplistic faces expressing emotions. In my second year as a suicide loss survivor, I shared with the group that the emotion I felt most often was not on the sheet–I felt indifferent and stuck in that emotion. A fellow survivor recently shared that she was experiencing the same emotion of “indifference.” Apparently this is not an unusual emotion to experience, but it is not one that is discussed often in reference to grief. Whether you are experiencing apathy, anger, or a multitude of other emotions, naming the emotion you are experiencing can be an important step in moving through it.

To learn more about experiencing indifference or apathy in the grief process, visit griefincommon.org

It might seem simplistic or unnecessary to name the emotion we are experiencing, but naming your emotions can be a powerful tool when you are feeling stuck in grief. Emotions create a bridge between thoughts and feelings. The step from “I am this…” to “I am feeling this…”, reminds us that we are not our emotion, we are experiencing an emotion. And also reminds us that every emotion we experience is temporary.

Emotions are event-driven, while feelings are learned behaviors that are usually in hibernation until triggered by an external event. Unlike happiness for example (a feeling), joy (an emotion) involves little cognitive awareness—we feel good without consciously deciding to—and it's longer lasting.

When we remember that we are greater than what we are feeling at any given moment, we can simply listen to what that emotion is trying to tell us. Next time you are experiencing a difficult emotion like sad, angry, or guilty, start by naming it.

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