See Yourself Whole
See Yourself Whole

See Yourself Whole

Let’s be clear from the start: This episode is not about platitudes and pretending. This is an invitation into something less comfortable than you’re used to, but with a fresh lens of perspective for the process. We’re talking about positive visualization this week, and we are going to start right now by picturing ourselves on the other side of this conversation with a contented smile on our faces. So bring that picture of yourself to mind, and settle in – this strategy for grief work is much more meaningful than you might think.

When we think about positive visualization, a lot of misunderstandings come to mind. Some might write it off as a childish game or strategy for escape. We can conflate the practice with minimizing, believing that we must first make light of our current situation to believe a better future for ourselves. This is because we’re working with a cognitive distortion of black and white thinking. If we believe we can only experience healing when all the pain and sorrow is removed, then the idea of visualizing a positive future means we must minimize any potential grief or pain we expect to feel in that imagined future. We may also divert into what we call maladaptive daydreaming, where our visualizing morphs into vivid and complex storylines distracting us from our daily lives. This is less common, but nonetheless can divert us from the real healing available through an intentional practice of positive visualization.

Our hope for healing can’t exist in a black and white framework. Our healing needs the nuance and gray space reality of easier days and heavier days. Our grief is not a trial to be exhausted or a race to finish; grief is an enduring expression of love to be integrated into our experience of life.

Take a moment to put an image in your mind to what I’ve just said. Where are you in your own grief journey? Do you picture yourself in a long distance race, pushing hard for the next water station? Maybe you’re standing on the front porch of an old home, noticing the stark lines between white clouds and dark clouds in the sky. How you see yourself in the process directly impacts the outcome of your grief work, no matter the strategy you use.

Integrating our grief into our lives as a positive experience is possible. It’s just difficult when the majority of your time in grief work is spent trying to make grief seem smaller, less disruptive, and more controllable. We talked about the misunderstanding of control in our last essay, too, because the context of our lives will always affect the quality of our healing. If we imagine ourselves in a contained, small, and limited context, our grief and healing practices will adapt to the same qualities. The healing will be present, but feel limited and maybe less impactful, too.

So let’s talk through the practical exercise of positive visualization. First, you’ll need a quiet and comfortable space to close your eyes and imagine yourself in the future. Pick a situation that represents wholeness and healing to you. Visualize yourself engaging in the moment, actively participating with yourself and others, feeling confident and included. Bring other concerns or fears about the future to mind, and imagine yourself living out the hope-filled opposite of those fears. Stay with the visualization as long as you feel comfortable, and notice how your physical body is responding as well.

The science behind this exercise lies in the power of the brain’s neural pathways. This exercise activates the same neural networks in your brain as when you are in the middle of the actual circumstance, so visualizing that situation going well helps rewire your brain and reinforces positive associations with your future. By repeatedly envisioning success and positive experiences, you strengthen the connections within your brain that reinforce these feelings. As a result, you may experience increased self-assurance and reduced anxiety when the actual situation arises. You are quite literally dreaming up a better future for yourself.

This exercise, when repeated regularly, is also an example of learned optimism. Learned optimism allows us to move away from the glass half-empty approach to life that seems really easy to drink from when we grieve. In our grief, pessimism is a protector keeping us from believing good things simply because if or when those good things don’t manifest, we can’t get hurt if we suspected the disappointment ahead of time.

As you lean into visualization and even begin learning optimism, please remember that self-care is crucial in maintaining your overall well-being. Plan something intentional for yourself during the coming week that is restful and unrelated to work or even grief relief. This could be as simple as scheduling a walk or drinking a few extra glasses of water. Maybe by chopping extra veggies at dinner time, you can set yourself up for a healthier and easier snack tomorrow. By prioritizing self-care, you are nurturing your whole self, which will ultimately enhance your future practically and your perspective about a positive future, too.


Thank you for listening to episode 124 of Restorative Grief. As you move forward, remember that you possess the strength and resilience to practice positive visualization. It’s not just the optimists among us who can heal from grief, although learned optimism is a huge trait of happy grievers. You are a human being in progress and in possession of great self-efficacy. That is, the ability to grow and change. As you take small steps towards self-care and self-compassion, remember to celebrate every moment of growth and healing along the way. Celebration and seeing yourself in a positive future state is crucial to integrating your healing beyond each moment of feeling a little better.

If this is your first time listening to the podcast, I want to thank you for making time to intentionally approach your grief. Please remember to subscribe to the show and leave a review so others in need of grief support can find us here, too. There are more episodes, transcripts, and resources available at MandyCapehart.com and as I mentioned at the top of the episode, we would love for you to become a Patron of the show as well. Honestly, you might pause now and visualize what it could mean for you to be a financial supporter of the show. There are a lot of new resources available to you as a Patron that may be just the support you need in this new year for healing. Check out the show notes for more details and how to find me on social media because you know I’d love to hear from you.

And as always, one last thing before we go. Please remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.

Links + Resources from this episode: