Ep. 209: GRIEF, Revisited

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And now…

Today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast is a little messy☔, but that’s how life works sometimes, right?

Today we’re chatting about GRIEF, and that means I’m going to be both crying *and* laughing (sometimes even at the same time)!

We’re chatting about GRIEF, and that means I’m going to be both crying *and* laughing (sometimes even at the same time)! Please note that this episode isn’t meant to be a substitute for grief counseling – which I whole-heartedly recommend – but rather, an up-close-and-personal look at *my* grief journey and the things I’ve learned along the way, including:

💛  HOW to tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful thoughts
💛  WHAT HAPPENS when you resist your feelings
💛  WHY we want to “feel through” sadness, and
💛  “Days of Our Lives” (yep, the soap opera🙂)

You might not be ready for this one, and that’s okay. But if you are? Click the play button now, and let’s GO🤗.

(Don’t wanna listen? Download the transcript here)

Find this episode on YouTube (video below) or on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, and Google Play.


Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/S_9ujjvcCGY


Ep. 003: GRIEF

The Widowed Mom podcast with Krista St-Germain

Ep. 098: Food REGRET and SHAME

Ep. 024: The Big “BUT”

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Please SHARE this podcast with anyone in your life who wants to change and grow when facing grief. 💛

GRIEF, Revisited (Full Transcript) 

You’re listening to the Fitness Matters podcast with Pahla B, and this is episode number 209, “Grief Revisited.”

Welcome to the Fitness Matters podcast where every week, we talk about the fitness matters that matter to you. I’m Pahla B, YouTuber, certified life and weight loss coach, soon to be author and your best middle-aged fitness friend. Are you ready to talk about the fitness mindset that matters to you? Me too. Let’s go!

Hello, hello, my friends.  I’m just going to take a nice big, deep breath here. This is not going to be a fun podcast, although let me just start off with all of the warnings. I’m definitely going to laugh as I do because I always laugh. There’s a good chance I might cry, I don’t know. I haven’t done the podcast yet, so I have no idea if I’m going to.

I want you to know several things. Number one, I’m not a grief counselor. I’m not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or anybody with any kind of special knowledge about the grief process. I am a certified life coach, and I am a grieving sister. What I’m sharing with you is personal experience and not meant to be anything other than helpful if it’s helpful and not helpful if it’s not.

Today’s episode is probably not for you if you are newly bereaved. First of all, I am sorry about your loss. I know that lots of you click on every episode, just kind of no matter what and some of you click on really specific episodes for really specific help in specific areas. This one, with its title being Grief, still might not be exactly right for you. The reason it’s Grief Revisited is because I have an older episode (Ep. 003 Grief https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y47dKEG0fdY&t=5s) where honestly, even then, I was already two years into my grief journey. And now, I’m very nearly four years in. This is not necessarily going to be where you are and what you need to hear today.

I’m going to recommend –  highly recommend – a podcast that has helped me immensely from another life coach school coach called Krista St-Germain. Her podcast is called The Widowed Mom Podcast. And it’s really specifically, I mean, as the name implies, it’s really specifically for women who have lost their husbands or she actually refers to women who have lost their people, which I think is a very nice and inclusive way of saying it. And honestly, it helps me feel included because I did not lose my husband. I lost my sister.

I find her messages to be universal about grief, but she really specifically talks about raising children without a partner and things like that. It’s an incredibly helpful podcast. It completely normalizes grief in a way that I didn’t even know I needed until I started listening, and I highly recommend it. She has lots of great resources and lots of great podcasts that are for every part of the grief journey. There are definitely episodes that are more for newly bereaved and those that are more for people who have gone through some of the process and are really thinking about growing and changing.

And what today is going to be about, honestly, is the growing and changing part. This is why I don’t think it’s for you if you are newly bereaved. I’m intending this to be a rather like almost theoretical conversation about grief in terms of dissecting what it feels like. And honestly, it’s a larger conversation about thought work in general. It just so happens that the thought work that I am going to be modeling for you is my own about grief.

You know what? Listen or not, like always, this may be a perfect episode to meet you exactly where you are and it might not be. I will tell you though, I mean, in addition to the theoretical part, I can already feel myself starting to cry thinking about the other half of it. I’m going to be messy today. I just am. There’s the theoretical part that feels very clear to me, and then there’s the part that I’m kind of right in the middle of that feels hard. It feels difficult. It feels raw.

And I wanted to share that with you so that it normalizes it for you that sometimes even . . . not even sometimes, no. Doing this work doesn’t exempt me from difficult feelings. It doesn’t exempt me from feeling lousy. It doesn’t exempt me really specifically from being in a situation in which I know that I could feel better if I were to do the work, but I don’t feel better yet. I will. I will. And I wanted to share with you what the middle of this process feels like, because I know that sometimes I come to you and I’m like, “Oh, here’s this thing that I totally figured out and it’s all better now.” It can be almost a little bit clinical or a little bit not helpful in the way that it can be helpful when you hear me in the middle of my mess.

Welcome to my mess, my friends. Here it is. When you are listening to this on, I think, it’s Sunday, November 7th. It’s right before my birthday. I’m recording this in advance, but this birthday . . . totally going to cry. This birthday feels very difficult for me for a lot of reasons. I’m turning 52 this year and that’s an age that my sister never got to be. And I’m having a lot of thoughts about that as you can hear, because I’m having lots of feelings about that. And I know that I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

It’s really funny how you’ll have an automatic thought that you don’t examine in the moment and then it just becomes easier to think over and over again, because that’s literally exactly what your brain does. Your brain thinks automatic thoughts that are sparked by situations or things that people say or things that people do or things out in the world. Your brain will just kind of come up with something to think. And if you don’t challenge it, it will think it over and over again.

Well, I’ve been thinking/worrying about this birthday for a while, literally years at this point. Not immediately after she died, but I realized quite some time ago that I was going to be older than her, and the actual being older than her happened back in September. I’ve already had time to absorb the fact that I’ve lived longer than she got to live. And yet there are still lots of thoughts and lots of feelings about that, that I haven’t pulled apart yet.

One of the really specific thoughts and feelings that I wanted to talk to you about today is so that I can be a little bit more clinical and analytical about this rather than just spending the entire podcast crying, except that I’m going to cry when I tell you this story.

This actually happens before every single holiday, all of them. I wish my sister was around to say happy birthday eve to me. It was a silly, silly, silly sister tradition thing that we had. See here’s where we’re going to laugh too. When I was a kid, not even really a kid. When I was young (well kind of a kid, I was a teenager), my sister and I used to come home from school and get our snack of an entire sleeve of Oreo cookies, because yes, this was the nutrition I had growing up, but we would watch Days of Our Lives. Do you remember the soap opera, Days of Our Lives? And it was when Charles O’Shaughnessy or just Charles Shaughnessy – does not matter at all – was on the show.

He was also the dad in The Nanny, very handsome man. He was also the voice of the fish in the cartoon – oh my gosh. I can’t think of the little kid’s name in this cartoon, but it was the great big book of everything and it was this kid’s show that they learned all kinds of things and it was super fun and I loved it when my kids were little. Anyway, I digress as I do so that I can stop crying and tell you a funny story.

His character on Days of Our Lives, you know how they have convoluted lives. I mean, for real. He had a, I believe, stepdaughter named Eve who had her whole story of becoming evil and had a twin or something. All kinds of crazy things happened to her. But in any event, there was a Christmas episode, and she walked into the room and Charles said to her, “Merry Christmas, Eve,” because her name was Eve. For whatever reason, and I’m just going to go ahead and say it’s because I was 13, my sister and I thought this was hilarious, absolutely hilarious to say Merry Christmas to somebody whose name is Eve because it was actually Christmas. It wasn’t Christmas Eve. I don’t know. I don’t even know why it was funny, but over the years, this became something that we said to each other with varying degrees of competitiveness as also happens with sisters.

And so, it became an actual competition, literally who could say it to the other one first before basically any holiday. I mean, truly, it got to the point where it was absolutely ridiculous to come up with a holiday and wish each other a happy such-and-such eve on the day before it. And in fact here, let me tell you a sad story also, that the last time she said it to me was right before Thanksgiving.

She was very ill. I mean, very ill, sleeping all the time and very, very ill really specifically right before Thanksgiving. She had just gotten out of intensive care, and it was very obvious that her end was coming very quickly. And so, I went over to her house that morning and I walked in and gave her a kiss on her little bald head. And I said, “Do you have something to say to me?” And she looked at me and she was like, “I’m sorry?” I laughed because it was like, what a funny thing to say other than it was really sweet. And I go, “What do you have to be sorry for?” And she goes, “I have no idea.” And I go, “No, you wanted to say happy Thanksgiving . . . ” And I let her have it because I mean, she was dying. She said, “eve!” And so, she won. She won that one, the last one.

With my birthday coming up, I wish that she could wish me a happy birthday eve. And the thing about this, the whole reason I am creating this podcast is to talk about this, to tell these funny stories. Because I really, well, I like talking about my sister sometimes other than I don’t like crying when I’m talking about her. But I also like to make her real for you because you probably didn’t know her (except for the five people who I do know who are listening to the podcast). She was silly, she was funny, and she’s dead. And I meant to warn you about that. Oh my gosh, back at the beginning of the podcast. I apologize for that, because that might have shocked you a little bit more than you were ready for.

You guys, I don’t use euphemisms. I just don’t. It’s not part of who I am. I mean, sometimes I do. It depends on who I’m talking to. But here on the podcast, sitting on the couch in my own home, I don’t sugarcoat stuff. I just don’t, and that might not be right for you. It might not be where you are. And again, if this podcast is not helpful for you, I have . . . well, I have 208 other of them that you could listen to that might be.

The thing that I wanted to talk to you about today is something from my mentor, Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School, which is where I’m certified through. She calls it clean pain versus dirty pain. And while I do think that’s an amusing thing to call it, I’ve kind of come around to it in my own way of thinking that I wanted to share with you today. And we’ve actually talked about this in another kind of theoretical way that is a really good companion piece to episode 98 (Ep. 098 Food Regret and Shame https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/98-food-regret-and-shame/). And we talked about ‘but’ thoughts (Ep. 024 The Big “But” https://pahlabfitness.com/the-big-but/, which you can totally hear either way you want to.

This, what I am feeling right now, is very much the product of a ‘but’ thought. And I wanted to really . . . ideally, what I really want to do, let me pull back a little bit here. I want desperately – and I’m actually really working on this – I want to create some kind of master list that actually explains, “Okay, I’m having this thought and this feeling and this is what I should do about it.”

Because there are so many different ways to come at mindset work and this thought feeling work, I would love to have some kind of parameters for when we should feel something all the way through. When should we talk to ourselves about unraveling the thought errors that we’re having? When should we understand that what we’re feeling is . . .  Another thing that Brooke Castillo calls it is indulgent emotions. When is it clean pain? When is it dirty pain? What should I do with my thoughts and my feelings? Because there are so many options. And that is something that ideally, someday, I’d love to have some kind of master plan for you to just look at, for me to just look at and be like, “Okay, in this situation, this is the best thing to do.”

In this situation, this one is so clear to me to figure out what is helpful and what is not helpful. The thought, “I wish my sister was still alive to wish me a happy birthday eve,” is not helpful. And it’s also not clean pain. It’s not. I don’t have a better term for it just yet. Just stay tuned. I’m going to do some more thinking once I can get through this particular situation. I’m going to do some more thinking about how I want to think about this and how I want to explain this. But I do like to think about it as a pure emotion versus what I’m calling a “but” thought or a “but” feeling.

If I were to think my sister is dead, that’s a sad thought. I mean, that creates a sad feeling. The thought itself is a thought as all thoughts are. That thought creates a feeling of sadness, absolutely, 100% every time. “My sister is dead” is sad to me, but “I wish my sister was still alive to wish me a happy birthday eve” also creates a feeling of sadness for me.

Sadness is a primary emotion. It is one of what I consider, and there is some debate about this, and I don’t disagree with the debate. Honestly, when I’m talking about primary emotions, I can only remember four of them, which is why I think there are four of them. At some point, I’m going to remember that there are six of them because I can actually come up with them off the top of my head right now. But in any event, there’s happiness, there’s sadness, there’s anger, there’s fear, and – also considered primary emotions by some people – disgust and surprise.

Generally speaking, my working theory up until this particular situation occurred to me was that if you feel a primary emotion, that you should go ahead and feel it all the way through, that that is going to be the most helpful thing for you. Either crying it out or even internally or externally screaming it out or just feeling the gush of emotion is absolutely the way to handle that so that you can move forward.

And just really quickly on that process, one of the reasons that that works is because it’s basically exposure therapy. When you feel comfortable and confident doing something because you’ve done it before, it feels less scary and less overwhelming and less difficult to do it again. You already know what it’s like to feel sad, so you won’t resist it in the future.

And I do think that that’s 100% worthwhile many times. However, there’s this parameter between clean pain and dirty pain (if you want to use those phrases) or between a pure – which I’m going to come up with a better word because I don’t love that word – but a thought that creates a certain kind of feeling versus these “but” thoughts that create, in this case, the same feeling. It’s still sadness that this thought is creating, but it’s a sadness that feeling all the way through won’t release.

And here’s why. It’s sadness from a thought that is unhelpful. “I wish my sister was still alive” is wildly unhelpful. And maybe you can hear why. My friends, there’s literally nothing I can do about this. Nothing. She is dead. I cannot go back in time. I cannot bring somebody back from the dead, and there are all kinds of reasons why I wouldn’t want to. Zombies are the least of them. But there’s nothing that I can do with this thought.

It is a sit-and-spin “but” thought. It is me arguing with reality, and reality always wins. Always. There’s nothing about feeling this sadness all the way through that can resolve that feeling of sadness. And the reason I know that this is different is because in so many ways – and here’s why this podcast is really not for the newly bereaved – after nearly four years, the thought “my sister is dead” is still sad. But it does not create the welling of sadness that it once did. I feel not an emotion, but I think such a thing exists for me. We often say “I feel” even though it’s not a feeling, and that’s language that I am going to parse out a lot more in some future podcast. I believe that I have come to an acceptance of my sister’s death, that the thought of it in and of itself doesn’t always make me very sad.

There’s definitely a feeling of sadness every time, but not the kind of sadness that I have felt in the past. When the news was fresher, obviously it was just crushing, overwhelming, difficult to feel because there was so much of it. I resisted feeling it for a long time. And then as I have allowed myself to feel the feeling all the way through several times, it has not entirely dissipated. Again, that thought is still sad. It still creates a feeling of sadness in me. But because of the exposure to the sadness, because I have allowed myself to feel the sadness, because I don’t try and resist that sadness anymore, it doesn’t overtake me in the way that you literally heard for yourself.

I mean, saying the thought “I wish my sister was still alive” makes me want to cry every time I say it, and obviously did make me cry the first couple of times I said it to you. This feeling, this “but” thought creating this sadness doesn’t get resolved by feeling it all the way through. And it doesn’t get resolved by pushing it away either. Let me be really clear about this. Being resistant to feeling the sadness doesn’t help either.

And that is truly part of the problem of these “but” thoughts. If we don’t recognize them for what they are – that we can alternately try to feel the feeling all the way through and then not really feel resolved from it or we very naturally, sometimes, resist feeling the feeling because we haven’t gained the exposure to it and don’t have the experience with feeling it all the way through – we might try and resist it, which really then just prolongs the feeling, prolongs every feeling.

In fact, that is a whole other podcast. I feel like I’m saying that constantly. I probably say it almost every single episode. I really do have a list as long as my arm of things that I would love to talk to you about because I could talk about this all day long easily. But when we try to feel a feeling all the way through that is an unhelpful thought and or we try to resist a feeling from this unhelpful “but” thought, we’re not giving ourselves any kind of resolution. We’re not getting ourselves . . . we’re not digging ourselves out of this thought feeling whole.

And this is where this feels messy to me. I recognize that this is an unhelpful thought and yet I haven’t done anything past the recognition, and that feels really uncomfortable. And I know that feels really uncomfortable for lots of you also. I know that when I talk to you guys about using the two-step tool about finding your thoughts and deciding if they’re helpful, I know that you’re all waiting for step three. It feels like unfinished business. It feels like you need to think a new thought, like you need to crowd out this old thought, that you need to do something actively to feel better.

And, my friends, I want you to know that doing something doesn’t create a new feeling for you in and of itself. Doing something can become a circumstance that you have a different thought about. That new thought might create a new feeling for you, but simply doing something as though you get feelings from action is coming at that from the wrong angle.

What I am doing is noticing this thought every time it comes up. I’m noticing that this thought feels sad. I’m noticing that this thought is unhelpful, and I’m continuing to notice it every single time. And it’s funny how . . . maybe not funny, definitely not funny. But it’s interesting how often my brain has offered me this thought. Conceptually, I think emotionally, physically, I feel like I have . . . I feel because I believe – really I’m going to start catching that – I believe that I have accepted my sister’s death. However, my brain is still offering me this automatic thought that I wish she was alive. My brain is still offering me this automatic thought that I wish she was here to wish me a happy birthday eve. I almost said a happy Thanksgiving eve.

And then, I have other thoughts about that. I’m noticing it right this second when I’m thinking about the happy Thanksgiving eve, how different that one feels because I’m remembering the last time she said it. My brain has so many thoughts about why it would be so much better if she was alive to wish me all these eves, and none of them are helpful. And it’s very interesting to me how quickly this thought became automatic and how often my brain is offering it to me – sometimes in the exact same way and sometimes in different nuances.

Obviously, with all of the different holidays that there could possibly be, my brain could offer it to me like, “Oh, I wish she was alive to wish me a merry Christmas Eve.” “Oh, I wish she was alive to wish me a happy Easter eve.” I wish, I wish, I wish – all the different wishes. And every single time, the thought is unhelpful to me. And every single time, what I am doing about it rather than arguing with it, rather than resisting it, rather than trying to talk myself out of it in any way is noticing that it’s unhelpful, noticing that it creates a sadness that I can’t simply feel through.

And this is really probably the thing that I wanted to bring to you today. And I apologize; Blossom is barking in the background. Somebody just rang my doorbell. It was Amazon, and don’t worry. It’s not like I need to get up and get the door. And even if it was, I probably wouldn’t, because I’m such an introvert. Don’t come please, especially unannounced. Anyways, I apologize. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

The thing that I want you to take away from today’s podcast – and honestly, almost everything I tell you – is that feeling messy and unfinished is really an integral part of this process where we all want there to be this nice neat bow on it. In fact, if you go back and listen to episode number three (Ep. 003 Grief https://pahlabfitness.com/grief/), I am pretty sure because of where I was in my own mindset journey, I am pretty sure I tried to tie a bow on that one. I tried really hard to say these are these new thoughts that I’m practicing and this is how I feel now. I remember thinking that by simply practicing these new thoughts, I actually feel grateful for my sister’s death. And I’m going to continue to stand by that. I actually feel really, really grateful for my grief. I feel really grateful.

Oh my God, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if she hadn’t died. And that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it by a long stretch as you’ve certainly heard today. But it means that I can find gratitude for even the most sad things. And it also means that I’m still sad and still working through this. Even when I tried to tie a nice neat bow around it and say, “This is how I feel now. And these are these great thoughts that I have that make me feel better,” there are still other thoughts that come up that feel messy, that feel hard, that feel difficult, that feel unhelpful, that I haven’t done something with yet.

You guys, there’s nothing wrong with being in the middle of the mess. There is nothing wrong with this process being messy. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what to do because you don’t have to do anything. You can simply notice your thoughts and be there with them. That is the thing that I am doing for myself right now while I feel sad. I’m just being with myself. I’m allowing myself to have this incredibly human experience of thinking an unhelpful thought that is creating a lot of sadness that I could avoid – that I could work my way out of with mindset work – and I can also just be here.

I can just be in the middle of this and know that I’m not always going to feel this way. I’m not always going to have this thought. At some point, there might be something that I do with it and at some point, I might not. There’s no right or wrong answer even though I would still like to make a chart for us all, but there’s no right way to do this work.

I know I’ve said it before. I don’t remember where. I don’t remember if it was this podcast or if it was maybe on a Q&A that I did one time, but there’s no prize at the end for having the most managed mind. You are going to manage as much as you can manage. You’re going to leave as much as you can leave. You’re going to be where you are, and that’s messy and that’s okay. You guys, I hope that this was helpful. I hope that you have a happy birthday eve, and I’ll talk to you again soon.

If you’re getting a lot out of the Fitness Matters podcast and you’re ready to take it to the next level, you are going to love the Get Your Goal coaching and accountability group. We take all of the theory and knowledge here on the podcast and actually apply it in real life on your real weight loss and fitness goals. It’s hands on, it’s fun, and it works. Find out more at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal, and let’s get your goal.

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired November 7, 2021
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Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.