Last night I found myself choking up while reading a Thomas the Train book with the kids. The story itself wasn’t sad, but I had the hardest time getting through bedtime because something was welling up in me. Why was I feeling so sad?

It certainly had been a frustrating day, with news of an annoying setback clouding my thoughts. But this sadness felt far bigger than just the events of the day. After the dishes were clean, I instinctively grabbed my phone and started scrolling.

The past couple of years have been incredibly challenging for me. More painful than any other time in my life. Going through a difficult divorce, transitioning to being a single dad of two young kids, and moving out of the family home to a new town. The pandemic and political concerns certainly didn’t make it easier!

When I catch myself “doom scrolling” as I did last night, I’ve come to recognize that this was me just avoiding going inward. So right as I was reading about yet another COVID variant, I caught myself and put down my phone.

Before the phone even hit the table, I burst into intense, retching sobs of grief. I wasn’t even aware of what was coursing through me or why. Whispers of thoughts of worthlessness, loneliness, and jealousy floated by my mind. Powerful waves of emotion were crashing over me and it felt like they would never abate.

Being open to experiencing emotion like this is entirely new to me. It was never really modeled for me growing up, and through the years of reflections of various teachers, friends, and romantic partners, I came to think of my sensitivity as a weakness. That it was better to move through the world being numb to my feelings.

I am forever grateful for learning through therapy and better examples that strength comes from being brave enough to sit with my emotions.

So here I am grieving, thinking I may be stuck in this place forever, but then the sadness abated as abruptly as it came. Once I passed through this emotional portal, I felt lighter. Something had gone through me and transmuted.

If we avoid feeling our emotions all the way through, all this unprocessed pain seeps out in other ways – usually through illness, anger, or by projecting it onto others. Through practice, I’ve found it far more transformative to just let the grief wash over me.

This wasn’t the first emotional portal I’ve traveled through, and it won’t be the last. I am so incredibly thankful for the great support in my life and for healthier relationships where moving this powerful, transformative energy is not just welcomed but celebrated.

Are you aware of how you avoid experiencing your own strong emotions? I know I have a number of other tricky techniques myself, like staying busy – I welcome the dialog and learning!