Growth in the Spirit: Embracing All My Feelings

I still remember the moments shortly after my Dad died. I was standing in his hospital room and, with uncontrollable tears running down my face, I ripped my glasses off. I almost snapped them in half but caught myself and stormed out of the room into the empty hallway. 

I remember standing there, in my head begging God to take these feelings away. I did not want to feel heartache. I did not want to be angry. I did not want my Dad to be gone.

The next thing I remember is my husband rubbing my shoulders and my Dad’s wonderful nurse, Rhonda, grabbing my hands. She continued to lock eyes with me and offered words of comfort. I remember thanking God for my husband and my Dad’s nurse. Through exhausted, grief-stricken emotions, I remember wondering how it was possible to be so grateful for Kevin and Rhonda while also feeling bone-deep sadness and heartache. In that moment I told myself I would let myself feel my feelings over the next several days as I tried to process my Dad’s unexpected death.

Giving myself permission to embrace my feelings not only allowed me to feel deep sadness and anger, but it also let me enjoy and cling to the moments of happiness and joy during those days following my Dad’s death. I went to dinner at one of my Dad’s favorite restaurants with my husband and brother a few days after his funeral. We laughed and shared stories and memories- it was a true celebration of his life. I also remember grabbing my phone one evening to find over a hundred selfies of my then four-year-old son. I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of joy as I smiled at all his self-portraits.

Society tells us we are supposed to be happy and to find the silver lining when we are feeling down. While I do not think we should sulk or stay in these less-than-ideal feelings forever, I do think it is important to remember that everything has been given to us as a gift from God, including our feelings. While initially I wanted God to take away my heartache, I realized my heart was broken because of the deep love I had for my Dad and the love he had for me. And while I am getting a bit weepy even typing these words, I can thank God for these feelings as I cling to all the great memories I have of my Dad.

Fast forward a few months: I was in prayer at the end of the day, again crying out to God. We were only a few weeks into lockdown during the beginning of the COVID sheltering in place. I do not remember all the details of that day, but I remember treating my family in a way that I wished I could take back, and feeling like I was spiraling out of control, failing in all aspects of my life. For the first time, I pulled up the feelings wheel and used it to help name my feelings and to bring them to God.

I used the feelings wheel often during my prayer when I was feeling sad or angry or bad. The more I began to name my feelings, the easier it became to embrace them. While we may not enjoy feeling sad, overwhelmed, and angry, it became much easier to accept these feelings as feelings when I was able to name them, and not as something that defines who I am.

Sometimes we can name why we feel the way we do. I felt heartache and anger because my Dad had just died. I felt like I was spiraling out of control because our world had been shut down from a novel virus. Other times, though, we may not be able to name why we are feeling the way we do. Even when we do not know why we are feeling sad or anxious, or whatever else it may be, we can still bring these feelings to God in prayer. We can ask God to help us name why we are feeling this way.

When we are feeling happiness, excitement, and joy, let us also remember to acknowledge these feelings as a gift from God and remember to thank God. Because I am now more comfortable naming when I am experiencing hard feelings, I better appreciate the good feelings.

I can thank God when I walk outside and immediately say, “Wow!” when I see a supermoon. I can thank God when I catch myself smiling at our kids as our five-year-old tells his little brother, “You’re my best buddy!” and puts his arm around his shoulder. I thank God for feeling proud as my daughter beams with pride from getting a perfect score on a hard test, or my son when he wins his football game.

Our God, full of unconditional love, gives us our feelings as a gift. When it is hard to embrace our feelings, we can take comfort in knowing they will not last forever and they do not define who we are. We are much more than our feelings, good or bad; we are all beloved children of God. 

Are you embracing all your feelings? I encourage you to spend time in prayer this week naming your feelings and bringing them to God in prayer.  Take time to listen to what God may have to offer you about these feelings.

 

 

Going Deeper: 

  • Read more about the feelings wheel and naming our feelings in Stephanie’s article here.
  • Read Jenene’s article about the importance of tears from our current series here.
  • Read Beth’s article about praying when we are angry here.
  • Read my article about experiencing joy in a simple everyday moment here.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on unsplash.com

With experience in youth ministry, campus ministry, faith formation, and as a high school theology teacher, Charlotte has worked in numerous parishes and schools along the Gulf Coast and in the Diocese of Rockford. She holds a B.A. in Theology and Master of Pastoral Studies from Spring Hill College. Charlotte and her husband live in New Orleans with their four young children, where she enjoys Ignatian Spirituality, reading, listening to live music, and bike riding with her family.

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