April 19, 2024

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Knowing How to Stop Negative Self-Talk Makes Grief Recovery Easier

3 min read

You and I can become our own worse enemies while we’re grieving. Negatives are all we see and the future looks black and bleak. Worse, we wonder if we will survive such tragedy. Before we realize it, negative self-talk has become automatic. Unfortunately, this talk alters your perception and changes life.

I slipped into negative self-talk after losing four family members, including my daughter, in 2007. Despite the uncertainties in my life, one thing was certain: Self-talk is harmful. So I had an internal talk with myself about my recent thinking.

It began with the assurance that I know a lot about grief because I have experienced it before. Thanks to accumulated birthdays (I’m in my 70s), I have good coping skills. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is a sign of self-awareness. During my grief journey I may practice a skill I learned years ago, turning negative thoughts into positive ones.

Negative self-talk can seep into every corner of your life. According to an untitled article on the New Health Partnerships website, “If you believe you can’t do something… you may not even try.” The article divides negative talk into groups: Overgeneralization, Fortune Telling, Focusing on the Negative/Ignoring the Positive, Blaming Yourself or Others, All or Nothing [Thinking], Magnifying, and Personalizing. These categories build on the work of David Burns, MD, author of “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.”

According to Burns, negative thinking is the result of self-critical internal dialogue. We can turn off this dialogue, he continues, by recognizing negative thoughts, understanding their causes, and “talking back” to them. Looking back now, I think much of my self-talk came from fatigue. Not only was I grieving, I was grieving for four people and my twin grandchildren’s legal guardian.

Mayo Clinic addresses negative self-talk in a website article, “Positive Thinking: Reduce Stress by Eliminating Negative Self-Talk.” Automatic thoughts can be negative or positive, Mayo explains. Some self-talk stems from logic and reason, but other self-talk stems from misconceptions or lack of information. As I discovered during my grief journey, it takes effort and concentration to monitor personal thoughts.

Are you mired down by negative self-talk? If so, it’s time to take action. The New Health Partnerships website offers these tips for turning your thinking around.

  • Identify the negative thought. Write it down or repeat it aloud.
  • Rate the truthfulness of this thought on a scale of 1-10.
  • Check the thought against reality and rate the truth on a scale of 1-10.
  • Re-state your original negative thought. “You may no longer find the distorted thought so true.”
  • Become our own best friend.

I learned how to turn my thoughts from negative to positive long before I read this article. The instant a negative thought came into my mind, I countered it with a positive one. For example, when I thought I would not survive multiple losses, I said to myself, “I am a strong person and I will get through this.”

Developing this skill takes time and practice, but it is worth all the effort. Your recovery will be easier and may even go faster. Here’s to positive self-talk and the happiness that awaits you!

Copyright 2012 by Harriet Hodgson

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