Ep #217: What You Need to Know About Regressing in Grief

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | What You Need to Know About Regressing in Grief

If we polled all the widows in the world, most of us would agree that we’ve experienced regressing in grief.

While it’s easy to believe you’re stuck or no longer doing as great as you once were, this thought is not helpful.

Join me to hear why we get to this place in grief, how the notion of regressing in grief is a lie, and a better way to approach yourself when you feel this way.


Listen to the Full Episode:


If you want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to apply for Mom Goes On.


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How the notion of regressing in grief is a lie.
  • Why it’s not valuable to think you’re regressing in grief.
  • A better question to ask yourself when you’re worried about regressing in grief.


Featured on the Show:


Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 217, What You Need to Know About Regressing in Grief.

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.

Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’m excited that you’re here. It’s going to be a quick one today, but I have a lot to say about this idea of regressing in grief. Before I do, though I want to tell you that if you haven’t applied for Mom Goes On, why? I don’t know. If you do it this month we decided it would be super fun to give you a little extra bonus. So if you decide to apply for Mom Goes On, which means basically you answer a couple of questions that let us know if we can help you so that we can send you the right resource.

Assuming that you even complete that application, that questionnaire, we will just send you for free because it’s fun and why not, a free downloadable copy of the Widowed Moms Bill of Rights, which is if you’ve listened to that episode, the Widowed Moms Bill of Rights of The Widowed Mom Podcast, it’s one of the our most downloaded episodes, one of our most popular and most powerful episodes.

And we created a little printout so that you always have those Bill of Rights with you and I just love it and we give it to you for free if you decide that you want to apply for a spot in Mom Goes On. Sometimes we just need a little push. So I’m here to give you a little push today.

So let’s talk about what you need to know about regressing in grief. Here is where this comes up, and here’s why I’m bringing it up. It really does happen all the time. It happens, people email me to talk about it, people post in our Facebook group to talk about it, people bring it up in Mom Goes On in coaching calls. But it starts with something like this, somebody will start a coaching request with, “Well, I was doing so well, but then”, and they tell me the story about how they cried in public or how they felt sad.

I was handling things just fine and then they got angry, they had a human feeling. I hadn’t cried in so long, and then, and then they cried. I was feeling so much better, or if they’re in Mom Goes On it will come out like, “Well, I started out doing so great in the program, but then.” We have these kind of, I was doing great, but then. And listen, you know I get a little soap boxy sometimes. This is one of those times. Please stop believing the lie that you are regressing in grief.

Regressing in grief is not a thing, is not helpful, is not serving you. It is built on a lie, which we’re going to talk about. You are a human experiencing grief. That is it. It is not linear. It is full of ups and downs and highs and lows. It is very messy. There is no end to it. Stop telling yourself you’re regressing in grief. And more than that, please stop believing the thought when it shows up. When your brain tries to tell you that you’re going backwards. No, we’re not going to do that anymore.

So I want to talk about it in detail, why it doesn’t help, why it’s not a valuable thing to be thinking or asking yourself, why we have gotten here in the first place. And then I’m going to offer you some ideas for what’s also true. So here’s the deal. Some of our most true feeling thoughts are also some of the most useless thoughts, the most damaging thoughts, the most harmful thoughts, the most frustrating ones, when we step back and look at them. If we pulled all the widows, lots of us would agree that we’re regressing or that we’re stuck or that we were doing so well and then.

So of course, it’s easy to believe these thoughts but they’re not useful thoughts? They don’t help us. They don’t move us toward the experience that we want. They actually move us away from the experience we want. Think about how you feel when you’re believing I’m regressing, I was doing well but then, I hadn’t cried for so long and then, I was doing so great and then. Think how you feel. Feel how you feel when you think that, worried, concerned, embarrassed, what is it, anxious? It doesn’t feel good.

And think about when you feel that way how it changes how you show up. How do you start acting? What do you start doing when you feel that way? So when you believe the story that you’re regressing, you actually don’t feel good, you start to feel worried and anxious or bad. And then you start acting differently, maybe you start hiding, maybe you start judging yourself, maybe you start looking for all the other areas in your life where you’re not doing well or you thought you were doing great, but now you’re not, maybe you start to doubt what’s possible for you. Not helpful.

Then also this belief doesn’t help with, this line of thinking doesn’t help because of the filtering system in our brain, which is functioning exactly as it was designed to do. It is always seeking for evidence that validates our thinking. It is always looking for truth in what we’re thinking. So then that filtering system goes into your brain.

I mean, the filtering system in your brain goes into your life and starts finding evidence of how you are regressing, how you’re not doing as well as you should be, how you really should be doing better than you are. How there’s probably something wrong with you, and probably everybody else in the world’s doing so much better than you, that you are somehow flawed and doing it wrong. And then it literally blocks from you evidence of how you’re doing amazing. And it doesn’t even show you what is exactly in front of your face because it is seeking what it looks for.

It is seeking evidence for the thought, I’m regressing or I’m not doing so well or I was doing well and now I’m not. So it’s just not a useful thought, doesn’t feel good, doesn’t make you act in ways that help you create what you want. It literally tells the filtering system in your brain to start looking for how you’re not doing well. And it’s not even a great question to ask yourself because when you ask it, it presumes a couple of things. It presumes that you’re supposed to be somewhere other than where you are, which I don’t think is ever helpful.

It presumes that there’s an end to grief, which PS, there isn’t, you know this, you listen to the podcast, grief, there is no end. We cannot change the loss. We’re going to choose our thoughts about the loss. We’re going to integrate the loss into our lives, but there is not a moment or there is not an experience that we have where grief ends, it doesn’t. But it’s the basis for why we start thinking about where we are and start deciding that we should be somewhere else other than where we are.

Also, grief is not linear, even if we are feeling better and we’re integrating, it is not an experience where we just go nice and tidy in some straight line. It’s like hot mess express, roller-coasters everywhere, two steps forward, one step back. You draw the squiggly line and that’s the typical experience of grief. But the lie that we’ve been taught, that there are stages and there’s some end destination and a journey that we’re supposed to be on, makes us start to measure ourselves relative to where we think we should be based on a lie. Let’s stop doing that. I give you permission to stop.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking well, but what if I actually am regressing? Listen, your brain is still not being honest with you. Now, this is also not a useful question, because when we feel bad, when we feel worried, when we feel anxious, we don’t take productive action to solve problems. So let’s say there is something qualitatively that is not the way you want it to be in your life and maybe it is happening after your person has died.

Instead of calling it regressing and instead of getting your brain worried about the regressing that you’re experiencing and focused on how you were doing so well and now how you’re not. A better question to ask would be, what would be supportive here? What would help me here? How can I support myself here? What do I need? What’s the matter, love? We talk to ourselves in ways that don’t make us feel bad and then therefore open us up to the possibility of perhaps changing something or advocating for ourselves.

If you’re wondering about prolonged grief disorder, I did a whole episode on that, you can go listen to it, it’s episode 197. I don’t want to say that that is not relevant, it is. But even so, even if someone gave you a diagnosis of prolonged grief disorder, I still don’t believe it is helpful to tell yourself you should be somewhere other than where you are. It makes it that much harder to be where you are and get where you want to be.

What’s also true in these moments where we tell ourselves that we’re regressing or we were doing so well and now we’re not or we were feeling so much better and now we’re not. What’s also true is that our body, you’ve probably heard Bessel van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score, a very famous book about trauma. Our body keeps the score, our body remembers. So maybe you’re coming up to a deathaversary and your body is remembering. It’s not a conscious thing, it’s not something you’re thinking about in your mind.

Maybe your nervous system is holding on to something that was scary in the past and you experienced it as dangerous in the past and the part of you that’s doing its job brilliantly is trying to keep you safe from that. Your nervous system is potentially sensing danger. And what a different way of responding to ourselves compared to I’m regressing, oh wait, is this the part where my nervous system is remembering something and trying to keep me safe? And maybe there’s some opportunity here for me to comfort myself and do a little work with my nervous system.

Is this the part where I’m believing that grief is linear? Is this the part where I’m believing it’s supposed to end and I’m supposed to be somewhere other than I am? It’s really important that we all keep reminding ourselves, even though other people in our world are saying, “Move on already, when are you going to move on?” And sometimes we have a voice in our brain saying that too. We don’t move on. We move forward with the life experience, happened, it is now a part of our lives. We’re going to choose how we want to think about it.

We’re going to choose what we want to make it mean in our lives. We’re going to choose who we want to be, given that it happened. And that is all a messy non-linear experience. And when we go judging ourselves and telling ourselves that we’re going backward or we should be stronger by now or we should have figured this out already or what’s wrong with you, what’s your problem? Get it together. It’s a move away.

It’s a move away and we want to create moves toward what we want, which means we think about ourselves, we talk to ourselves, we change that internal dialog, I’m just a human experiencing grief. I see you, brain. It’s okay, I see you, brain regression is not a thing. This is just grief and it’s non-linear messiness. I love you. That’s how I talk to myself. That’s how I want you to talk to yourselves. Stop letting your brain tell you you’re regressing in grief, not a thing. You’re a human. Humans have emotions. It is not messy. It is not tidy. There’s no end to it.

This is just the way of the humans and the way of grief. Remind your brain of that. That’s what I have for you this week. I love you. You’ve got this. Take care and I’ll see you next week. Bye bye.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.

Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.

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About your coach

I created a new life using small, manageable steps and techniques that made sense. The changes I experienced were so profound I became a Master Certified Life Coach and created a group coaching program for widows like us called Mom Goes On. It’s now my mission to show widowed moms exactly how to do what I’ve done and create a future they can look forward to.

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