How to Evict Unwanted Thoughts When Mourning

Have some of your thoughts related to the death of a loved one caused sleepless nights? Are negative thoughts, concerning how you will manage alone, increasing the pain of loss? Or, are you a chronic worrier, and the flood of thoughts at times is just unbearable?

If you can say yes to any of these questions it is critical to understand at the outset that you can find ways to reduce the effects of bothersome thoughts. Here’s how.

1. It all begins with the firm commitment to work at a solution and believe you have the power to control what you do. You must and will change; all major losses change us in some way. Start with your self-talk and keep coaching yourself by saying “I can overcome this hurt and change my thoughts.” Once you begin working on one or more of the strategies below, change the sentence to “I am overcoming this hurt and changing my thought life.” You are in the act of making changes. Keep saying yes to the process.

2. Having made a commitment, recognize that you will not experience an immediate miraculous reversal in your thought life. You will have successes and failures. The hurtful thoughts will still pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. Gradually, however, the successes will begin to outnumber the failures. So be patient in the procedure(s) you decide on to divert your thinking. Here are some choices.

3. One of the most useful techniques for many people is to employ the word STOP! As soon as you start dwelling on the negative or painful thoughts say to yourself STOP, if you are around others. If alone, yell it out. For years, this has been one of the most successful techniques I have personally used in getting rid of negative thinking.

4. Add a physical reminder. Many people add a physical reminder with the word STOP (or use any similar word you prefer, like scram, butt out, buzz off, etc.). Try this. Put a rubber band around your wrist. When the thoughts overwhelm you say STOP–and snap the rubber band on the inside of your wrist. Believe me it will wake you up, get your attention off your thoughts, and create an immediate diversion.

5. Vacate the premises. Get up and walk or do something around the house. You may want to make a short list of little jobs you have to do in or outside the house. As soon as the unwanted thoughts make inroads on inner peace, get up and fully focus on one of the tasks to be accomplished. Don’t stay immobilized. Get away from the immediate area.

If you are in good physical condition, consider going out to jog or get into one of the newest recommendations, short sprints. Stirring your physiology can easily change where you place your attention as the blood flow to the brain changes.

6. Establish a “worry time.” To all mourners I work with I recommend establishing a time each day to devote to every worry they are plagued with. Yes, they are to spend time worrying by design. This is based on the experience of many that when you try not to think about a negative thought, it continually pops back up in your mind. What may be most helpful is to tell yourself that, at times when you have worrisome thoughts, that you can let them go and deal with them at your “worry time.” There is some evidence to suggest that this approach does reduce the overall time spent worrying.

7. Find someone to start a conversation with. If you are around a good friend or someone you trust (sometimes even a stranger on an airplane or train will do), it can be very helpful to start talking to them. It is impossible to think two thoughts at the same time. With the right person, it will be especially helpful to tell him/her that you are being plagued with certain thoughts. This will be a relief, and you may receive an idea to defuse the tension your thoughts create.

In summary, notice the key word in the title of this article: evict. It reflects the power you have to control your thoughts with commitment and patience. It does not mean you can keep a thought from suddenly coming into mind. It means you can control what to do with them–let them go out as easily as they come in. The secret for success is: focus on the task (full immersion in your diversion) not the outcome. You have control over the attention given to any thought.

You dispatch them by not getting upset at their appearance and gently turning on one of your diversions. It will happen, if you persist and keep the bothersome thoughts at bay. And, who knows, the conditions of your life may well change and help the process along as time goes on. You are in charge and can manage your thought life with a little practice.
Stay with it. You will win.

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