Dogs and many other animals experience life through their nose—their sense of smell. Humans experience life through perspective—what we think and how we feel. 

Self-acceptance (or lack thereof) is the part of us that oversees our feelings of grief. It resides in our heart center, the seat of our emotions.

“While grief can result from a variety of situations, ranging from divorce and separation to traumatic injury or illness, probably the most difficult and heart-wrenching circumstance to deal with is the loss of a loved one through death.

“According to US government statistics, approximately thirty-six percent of the population is grieving at any given time. Grief associated with this type of loss is devastating for family and friends. This type of grief is a profound and all too often devastating experience for family members who are left behind. If left unchecked, grief can quickly turn into a deep depression and other serious psychological disorders.” —THERAVIVE, grief counseling

My client, Kimberly, shared, “It took me three years after our son died before I freely came to a sense of willingness to move on. Until I felt that, I only trusted myself to be as I was moved to be—whichever way the wind blew.

“I lost my marriage at the same time. That’s another kind of grief, losing a beloved one while they’re still alive.”

Alex shared, “I lost my sixteen-year-old, firstborn daughter to suicide fifteen years ago. Loss has come up sharply as a fundamental thread of what I call ‘my life.’ I grieved my daughter, but I was also grieving ‘my life.’ I didn’t fight anything during the grief. Fighting never leads to peace.

“For a long while, the world was simply the footprint of where she had walked, the absence of her light and being.”

“Many people don’t need professional help after the loss of a loved one, but of those who do need help with their grief, only ten percent will seek it.” —NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH

Patricia, whose partner of ten years was killed in a car accident, shared, “Grief plays tricks with time. The past three months have passed in the blink of an eye, and they’ve lasted forever. I never thought I’d last three weeks, let alone three months; at times, the pain was so unbearable, I wanted to scream. So I did. And I go to a grief support group. It does help to be around people who understand this journey, to hear how others are handling their loss.

“‘Loss.’ What an odd way to describe death, as if the person is simply misplaced, like a ring, and will soon be found.”

Patricia’s coping mechanisms are healthy—screaming and attending a grief support group. Even though she’s suffered a tremendous blow, her approach has forward momentum.

Depending on the amount of life luggage we carry, and what the contents are, sometimes the journey to emotional wellness involves seeking support from a mental health professional who’s trained to help us express our emotions in a constructive manner, to help us make informed decisions, and to guide us in unpacking our emotional baggage so that it never has to be stowed away and carried again.

Our heart is the seat of our emotion—the way we feel. Research from the Institute of HeartMath shows that “a change of heart changes everything.”

When we experience sustained positive emotions—like care, compassion, gratitude, and patience—our body produces dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which our adrenal glands secrete. DHEA is known as the vitality hormone; it accelerates renewal and improves our health.

“Different than the aura or subtle energy around us, the electromagnetic field of the heart extends somewhere between three and eight feet in diameter around the body. The frequency of this field is tangible and measurable, changing based on our emotional state.” —HEARTHMATH INSTITUTE

When we experience sustained negative emotions—like anger, bitterness, worry, or fear—our body produces cortisol, which contributes to suboptimal performance, accelerates aging, and is degenerative to health.

We don’t always have a choice about the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we do always have a choice about how we respond to them.

Alyssa shared, “I’d like to learn to react less and respond more. There’s a blurry boundary between reacting and responding. I—the slightly battered-by-life human that I am—tend to react, while my true presence, who lives, breathes, and whispers wisdom, prefers to respond.”

And even though some circumstances in our life seem unchangeable, we can change our attitude toward the situation, the circumstance. 

Our emotional diet is important because we experience the world through the way we feel. Healthy or not, many of us continue to emulate the physical diet we learned from our parents or other caregivers. Likewise, many of us continue to follow the emotional diet we learned from them as well.

You either have or had parents, whether biological, adopted, or foster. Self-acceptance is determined, in great part, by that parent-child relationship.

You may be an only child or one of many. You may be the youngest or the oldest or fall somewhere in between.

Some people had amazing childhoods, while others had experiences that were less than stellar.

Self-esteem—our sense of worth—fosters self-acceptance. It’s feeling lovable and capable. Self-esteem is both gleaned from those around us (by being loved and valued) and earned (by becoming a capable, growing person). Both components are equally important.

When we don’t have self-esteem, we feel unworthy. Unworthiness stems from complex negative memories and emotions.

To change self-image and improve low self-esteem, we must release limiting beliefs and embrace beliefs that empower.