Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You are listening to episode 28, titled How Your Values Affect Your Healing. This week’s topic is a personal favorite of mine. We discussed value alignment back in Episode 22, titled Healing Through Realignment, but I didn’t go into the way our values affect our healing or how we can uncover our values in the first place. I know the first time I decided to write out my values, I was faced with simultaneous dilemmas. Did I write a grocery list of characteristics I felt were defining of my character, or did I try to narrow down to a single value or two that would be all-encompassing and make me feel really well-rounded and super human? It’s tempting to do both, but neither is a very effective practice for healing. (stop)
The values we hold dear are the way we move through the world. Values give our character a track to run on, allowing us to understand our reactions to life with a lens that we’ve intentionally cultivated. But when we are not intentional with our values, then sometimes our reactions surprise us, and that can lead us down the rabbit hole of questioning everything we hold dear. So in grief, that is true tenfold – our values will influence how we treat ourselves and others in the wake of loss. Which means that by knowing our values and giving them space to breathe, we can shift how we respond to grief and in turn, take ownership of our healing.
So how can we begin to uncover the values we find most meaningful when we are grieving? When you know your core values, you can pay attention to how you are in or out of alignment with them, and consequently, find some pain points in life that contribute to ongoing big griefy waves. The values we find meaningful will be the ones that point to who we want to become. The things we admire in others will shine like beacons when we witness them on display, and that’s where we want to start paying attention.
Maybe we are deeply grateful in this season of grief – yes, it’s possible – and we start to notice the ways others are expressing gratitude. Maybe we recognize a shift internally with our thoughts or emotions when we express our own gratitude. Or maybe it’s a value like hospitality, generosity, integrity, kindness, or honesty. Obviously I could go on for a while. The point is that finding our values often starts with noticing what really moves the needle for us – both inside and outside of grief.
If you’re not sure what that means, think about someone you look up to. What is it about that person that draws you in? It can be difficult to observe our own lives while grieving, so taking yourself outside of the grief world for a while can bring the clarity you need for this activity.
The question is this: In this season of life, what values most exemplify what you want and who you want to become?
Take a day and really let the idea of values swirl in your mind. It’s okay to try on a “value” for an hour or two and see what you think. Maybe you want to see if integrity is a core value. It doesn’t mean you find integrity meaningless if it’s not a core value for you. It just means that in this season, integrity isn’t the value that drives you back into alignment with your sense of self and wholeness.
Once you feel comfortable with at least one core value, you’re ready for part two: How do my values affect my healing? First of all, be sure you haven’t made a list of more than three values. It’s tempting to make that long list, but I assure you, that draw is akin to the shame of perfectionism. There are no perfect people; there is no perfect or correct way to grieve, and unless you start sabotaging the hopeful things your life after this episode, you cannot mess this up.
Our values affect our healing because they show us what will bring healing to our lives. When we say grief is different for everyone, it’s because everyone is different. This isn’t reductive; this is simplicity offered to one of the most complicated human experiences ever. For example, if I place a high value on curiosity (which I do), then when my grief surfaces, I know that becoming curious about what I am thinking, feeling, and doing is going to create clarity and understanding for myself.
Maybe I haven’t noticed that my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are perpetuating my pain. Curiosity allows me to first notice those things, but also to ask bigger questions about why those things are happening in the first place. Curiosity leads me further still, allowing my shame to fall away as I ask questions about what I could be thinking, feeling, or doing differently that would fuel my healing rather than keep me feeling unwell.
If curiosity as a value sounds familiar, it’s because much of my grief work is built on that value! As whole individuals, we are looking for ways to heal and come back into our sense of self when everything else has flipped upside down.
And the truth is, this easier than you want it to be (and that’s scary) because you already recognize where you are in alignment with your values and where you are out of alignment – in a lot of ways.
You may not have connected the dots from your values to your healing. You may not know how your values are reflecting in your behaviors and attitudes toward life and loss. You may not even realize that some of the values you hold dear are perpetuating harm in your life. No value is neutral, but they can play out in ways that cause us to remain misaligned. For example, maybe my curiosity goes so far that I never feel satisfied with any conclusion. I function as perpetually unwell, asking so many questions of so many people simply because I think I’m building myself a wealth of affirmation when really, I’m undermining what I already know to be true.
But we can’t know that is happening until we know the values we hold close. So start slow. Pick one value in your life that means you can examine your grief story with a new lens. Look for where you hold that value close, and where it might be causing you to act outside of your intention. All the time you invest here will bring insight, and insight is where we begin to regain our authority over our grief. Once we identify our values, we can turn our attention toward how each value manifests in how we treat or experience ourselves through our mind, heart, body, and spirit, and how we experience or even miss out on healing.
Thank you for listening to episode 28 of Restorative Grief. Next week, I am bringing another interview your way, but after that we are going to dive into the second part of this conversation about value alignment and learn a practical technique that can help us apply those values to our whole selves – mind, heart, body, and spirit. Don’t feel like you’re missing out if you only hear this episode but YES, episode 30 is going to wrap up this conversation so make a plan to listen. In fact, if this is your first time with restorative grief, thank you for making time to listen. Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss any future episodes, thank you for leaving a review! I love reading what you have to say on social media and in the reviews and emails. And lastly, you might even consider sharing this episode with someone brave. Someone who you know is willing to do this hard, intentional work I’ve uncovering healing, no matter what it takes.
Okay, one more last thing: Please remember, the only solution to grief is to do the work of grieving. Thank you for listening. I’ll see you next week.
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