What to Do When You Are “Eating Your Feelings”


My father passed away in August 2021, and I was unable to see him before he left. To make matters worse, my extended family handled everything in their typical dysfunctional manner.

As my grief spread deeper and deeper, my stress escalated because one sibling got into a conflict with another. I was in the middle, feeling like I was disappointing everyone and unable to control the consequences of the texts being sent and the various alarming actions that took place.

At home, my husband and visiting adult son had their own life situations stressing them out. Thankfully, we are a compassionate little trio. During times of stress, we practice living gently, understanding we’re all suffering, each in our own way.

And I was suffering mightily. So, guess what I did alone late at night? Comfort eating. Emotional eating. Stress eating. You name it.

I’ve gotten better at it over the years. I don’t want to sabotage my health, so I am pretty good at mitigating the damage. I know what to eat so I don’t do myself in. But the ritual is still in me. I begin to have intense feelings, I wander into the kitchen, I grab a handful of walnuts, and go back to streaming a show that will distract me from my pain.

I think a lot of people are doing things like this right now. Maybe you are. Have heart, though. It is possible to acknowledge where you are, forgive yourself for being human, and set the intention to do “the next right thing.”

Honestly, I just keep getting up again and again. This always, eventually, works for me.

In addition, I practice the rituals I know will help calm me – the rituals that quiet my system’s trauma response, that help me feel my feelings with acceptance and kindness, that move me through things, so I don’t get stuck.

Today, while I was making my coffee, I stood perusing our coffee mugs. I always like to choose one that matches my mood or mental state on a given morning. But as I searched inside myself to understand how I was doing and what coffee mug I needed, my eyes teared up.

Dad is gone.

When I become aware that I’m feeling grief or sadness, I do the practice of mindful self-compassion. I gently pat my chest near my heart and acknowledge to myself, this is suffering. Then, I remind myself that this is a human experience. We all grieve. We all have loss. I am not alone. Finally, I offer myself words of kindness.

May I be present and allow my tears. May I take care of myself with love. May I have peace.

And I want you to remember that you are suffering, too. Because you are human. And no matter how you are handling it now, you can create or reinforce your own rituals to help you “get up” again.

May you be present and allow your tears. May you take care of yourself with love. May you have peace.

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