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What Your Unusual Sadness and Irritation Might Mean

How to grieve the loss of possessions and dreams.

Key points

  • Grief may occur after the loss of a dream or meaningful possession, which can be difficult to identify.
  • The pandemic led many people to feel atypical pessimism, hopelessness, and irritation, leading to loss of motivation.
  • To overcome loss, allow yourself to grieve, discuss your insights, and consider new possibilities for the future.
Source: AndrewLozovyi/Depositphotos

We often relate grieving to the loss of a person. Did you know you can go through the cycle of grieving when you sell or give away something that was a big part of your life, such as a home, car, or your child’s clothing? Maybe the unusual sadness or irritation you feel is from having to give up a dream.

If you ignore the signs of grieving and don't allow yourself to process the loss, your emotions can hijack your brain any time. Atypical pessimism, hopelessness, and irritation will show up in your conversations and infect your motivation.

Grieving is painful, but the experience is a natural part of living a full life. When you acknowledge the ache or emptiness in your heart, you can fully process the loss, and then go forward with courage and strength.

Grief Can Be Difficult to Identify

Ten years ago, there was a week where I didn’t want to get out of bed. I dragged my body around all day. I’m usually very productive in the morning and stay busy until night. I thought I better see a doctor or therapist for depression. I decided I would first call my coach. She asked me if I had lost someone or something I cherished. I said, no. Then she asked, “What had you hoped you would be doing now that didn’t happen?” I immediately knew what was going on.

I remembered that a year before when my book I wrote for women leaders, Wander Woman, was published, I told myself I would give myself one year to see if I could shift my business to work more with women. It was 2010. The recession cut funds to women’s programs. Many women lost their jobs. My marketing efforts weren’t paying off. I couldn’t afford to keep trying to make the shift. When my coach helped me realize my dream had died, at least in the form I had imagined, knew I needed to grieve the loss so I could move on.

I told my coach about my promise to myself. Then I committed to giving myself the space to grieve. A week later, the idea for my next book came to mind. I eagerly responded to work requests for coaching both men and women. My energy was back. Grieving allowed me to let the past go, making room for the success that followed.

How to Move Through the Tunnel of Grief

So how do you know you are grieving? When you experience major life changes due to personal events such as switching jobs or systemic incidents such as the pandemic, you are likely to experience stress and loss. Usually, you have little motivation when you wake up or your energy is drained early in the day as your brain slows everything down to help you heal. You may experience anger that seems to come out of nowhere, triggered by minor events at work and at home. You blame Covid-19, the economy, or a friend who didn’t listen to you.

If you think you are grieving, let the process take its course. Try to identify the loss of something you loved or the hope something would happen that didn’t. Talk about your experience with a few people who you know won’t judge you or advise you what to do while they listen. Talking about the loss in a safe space is healing.

Let yourself have a good cry. Tears can help wash away the past so you can see a path forward more clearly. Some people find comfort in gardening, listening to music, hiking or walking along a beach, allowing them to reconnect with something that fills in the empty space in their hearts.

You may go through a grieving cycle. Depending on the significance of the loss to you, you might skip a step or two. These are the phases defined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross(although research has shown that grief is a more personal and individualized process than previously thought):

  • Shock, denial and numbness
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance and reconstructing your new reality

When I processed the loss of my dream about my business, I went from feeling numb and mildly depressed to acceptance, and then I reconstructed. Bargaining means you tell yourself you will be a better person or you will give something up to make the pain go away. People grieve differently, and you might move through grief differently each time.

When you are ready, talk about what you want to happen now. Recognize what you are learning from this experience. Take time to notice what is beautiful about your life today.

Healing from grief requires time to reflect. Be gentle with yourself. Gifting yourself space to be sad will give you the breath you need to move on when the pain fades away.


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. Scribner; 1st edition, August 1, 2014.

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