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Cleaning your emotional house

Part One

In an effort to follow up on the first blog post. ‘Know You Are Not Alone;’ This installment will introduce the ‘what’ causes of emotional decline associated with Breast Cancer and a husband’s role. Granted, this disease is insidious as any hidden from diagnosis or missed completely until the inevitable is obvious. As husbands, most, if not all of us, are ill-equipped to handle intense emotional disquiet. I had one foot in the world of social and family imprinting. The other in the degradation of my role as the supportive husband with the label of suffering survivor’s grief. The universal and willing loss of self, being a caregiver to the disquiet of being alone, happens abruptly. The patriarchal head of the house is stoic, has an answer, and shows resolve in any situation. All this had no credence or place in the finality of loss or during a spouse's treatment. The lessons from parents, peers, religion, and social responsibility to the community growing up offer no answers for the ‘what’ factor relating to grief. Has fewer credentials as tools and experience to fall back on; it leaves a person genuinely wanting. The ‘what’ do I do, say, or feel to find peace, solace, and escape the emotional pain of loss—all natural expressions of emotion. Ask yourself, is the disease truly the ‘what,’ or is something else contributing to the decline of self-respect, esteem, or faith in oneself? This question is essential to discovering long-ago-buried hurt, otherwise described as trauma and shoved into the rabbit hole of past emotional disquiet brought to the forefront by survivors’ grief. List as many of the ‘what's in your emotional house, and think about their impact. Writing them down is a giant step in the right direction. This process will become an essential tool, aiding the cleaning of the emotional house— one sweep of the pen at a time. The next topic will be ‘Why’ cleaning the emotional house is essential.


            After ‘what’ is the ‘why’ of survivors’ grief


In the dictionary, why infers a suggestion, “whether agreed upon or to make one.” It also refers to a “reason” something is said or done—the discussion of ‘what’ from the previous blog specifies the cause of a thing. 


Regarding survivors’ grief, ‘what’ is a spouse's death, which leads to a long list that follows. What do I do? What is this guilt? What did I do or not do? Obviously, there are more ‘what’s,’ all based on the individuals’ circumstances. These become the elements of importance in journaling.


After that, the ‘what’ remain but changes to a variety of ‘why’s’ in a reactive manner. This reactive moment can last for a long time. The nerves are on edge, and the anger is a fresh wound on the tip of the tongue lashed out at anyone when it is prompted. I use the word ‘prompt’ since it is less aggressive or linked to the finality of the word ‘trigger’ or a ‘button’ to be pushed.


Why is it necessary to express emotional pain on paper? It uses the senses to absorb, assimilate and accept the anguish, despair, and anger relative to the loss. Once on paper, the immediate emotion is confronted and questioned as to why it is felt—again providing a reason for journaling. Is it cathartic to journal? Absolutely. But the underlying purpose is to use the 3 A’s-absorb, assimilate, and accept.


Also, why is it aligned with the past negative-ego prompts of growing up? All those experiences of stacked and imprinted emotional and physical stimuli. They compounded the reactive nature of being human as an adult and become reflected in the present state of survivor’s grief.


Attaching “Why” to the following “whats”


What is important?

What to use?

What to avoid?

What from the past?

What is a benefit?


Provides insight into the assimilation of emotion by asking, “Why?” Then, when written in a journal fulfills the role of the senses in offering fuel to the mind. To catalog and compartmentalize the chemistry of emotion in memory.


Raising the question of ‘why’ also creates avenues for new prompts based on positive intentions of forethought as a result of a pause. To pause allows for the assimilation of a prompt. Analyzing and accepting the positive intention of the purpose changes neurochemistry. Thereby changing emotional reactive behavior to responsive thought and actions.

                                                  Know you are not alone!



I would like to ask you three questions.

     When you speak about a situation with health challenges…


what are the words you choose to describe the challenge?

Do you feel or sense changes in how your body is reacting to the words you express?

Do you look for a diversion?


These questions help to formulate a direction of acceptance of grief. I know full well the impact on a person’s psychological and physical well-being. I struggled with my demons of loss and guilt during my wife’s treatment for breast cancer and jumped into the rabbit hole with both feet when she died in 2004.


I learned valuable lessons over the next 4 years. Yes, it took me a long time. Everyone emotionally run over by breast cancer’s insidious nature can move forward over time. A myth about the word (time)…Time doesn’t heal all wounds.” Time may be on our side but the relevance to healing and finding peace is disconnected. 


It is a roller coaster ride of emotional disquiet. One day I am fine, with a manageable level of emotion, the next, all fire and brimstone. 


The point is; that you reach a juncture of choice. Hopefully, one where you turn your back on the back wall of your cave, you’re rabbit hole of despair. I am challenged by the rattle of my Jack-in-the-box emotional receptacles every day. They tickle my emotions with a smile and a laugh. I am intimately connected to it. I refuse to let it define me and arrived at a point of acceptance.

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