Atomic Emotions
Atomic Emotions



Understanding How We Feel In The Midst Of Grief

Have you ever seen a diagram of an atom? There’s usually a nucleus made up of tightly packed protons and neutrons at the core, and that nucleus is surrounded by electrons moving in tight oval rotations around the center. There is enormous energy generated when those electrons crash into one another! Now consider what this might look like on our healing journey. In the Atomic Emotional Response Model diagram, imagine the varied emotional responses to your loss flying all in, around, and through a self-contained circle just like electrons orbiting a nucleus.

The Atomic Nature of Grief

Add into the mix the metaphorical “protons” of worldly tasks related to resuming life duties, finances, ongoing relationships, and daily interactions with others. Everything is spinning faster and faster within a finite space. The potential for collisions is clear, and as emotional responses and worldly tasks collide, explosive emotional energy can be released. In the early stages of your grief journey, as your emotions and tasks can feel more compressed and compacted, there is greater potential for even more corresponding impacts and collisions.

As you gain time and distance from your loss, you have more emotional elbow room to manage life tasks and decisions.

The atomic dynamic is not just present in the earliest stage of the grief process but persists throughout each stage of the Survive-Alive-Thrive model. As you can see in the Atomic Emotional Response by Stage diagram, each stage has an atomic nature, but the intensity and frequency of impacting emotional collisions lessen as you progress through the healing journey.

A significant contributor to that lessening is the concept of emotional space and time; what I like to call emotional elbow room. For example in the Survive stage, our emotions are most intense and packed into a tight timeline filled with daily tasks and responsibilities related to your loss. Think of it as putting ten ping-pong balls in a goldfish bowl and shaking it; there will be a lot of collisions in that confined space. As you gain time and distance from your loss event and healing steps are engaged, you have more emotional elbow room to manage life tasks and decisions in less of a pressure-packed timeline. A similar number of emotions and tasks may remain, but now think of those ten ping-pong balls in a larger space such as a storage pod you see outside a home. When shaking the larger container, the emotions are still flying around in an atomic manner, but the space is less confined and the collisions less frequent. In the Thrive stage, your emotional elbow room is even greater, so imagine the contained area is now a hot air balloon! Again, the same number of ping pong balls exists, but they collide much less frequently and with less destructive energy.

You Are Not Alone

There is hope and happiness ahead for you, and we are here to help. You might wish to read more or listen to our podcast. If you have a question, please ask. If you feel you are ready to connect with others in the same place as you, please consider joining one of our free small groups.



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In Survive-Alive-Thrive: Navigating the Journey from Loss to Hope to Happiness, Mark Negley takes you on a journey through his loss experiences, using his story and the stories of others to teach a new model of grief recovery from a totally different perspective. You don’t have to settle for just surviving the trauma of your loss experience! Set your sights higher and learn how thrive again.