When your anger is really grief

“I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief” C.S.Lewis

I read this quote a long time ago. At the time it really resonated with me. I felt like that over the death of my mother. I had a family that didn’t communicate so I couldn’t talk to my family about it. My husband was sympathetic but he didn’t really understand it at the time. I most certainly was not going to talk to my children about it.

I thought I was going mad.

ELIZABETH KUBLER ROSS AND THE “STAGES” OF DEATH

As a teenager I had read the Elizabeth Kubler Ross books about death and dying and the “stages” of grief. But what I was experiencing didn’t make sense in that formula people were using for grief.

WHAT WE KNOW NOW ABOUT GRIEF

What I didn’t know until I studied counselling was that many other theorists had come after her and their theories made a lot more sense of my experience.

It was many years before I went to a grief group and discovered that my feelings were normal.

Since then I have sat with many people grieving loss and seen their anger as well.

The difference is that now, I can reassure them that what they are feeling, although distressing for them and those around them, is completely normal.

WHEN ANGER IS GRIEF

People come to see me about anger and discover that anger is masking grief.

Children are particularly prone to anger as an expression of grief. There is not much understanding about how children grieve.

HOW CHILDREN GRIEVE

A child will be sad and then go off and play. An adult watching that may reassure themselves that the child is over it. But they aren’t. The grief is still there, they are just attending to the other needs of life.

The grief a child feels may surface months or years later, often as anger and disengagement with school. It takes a long time to process grief. Don’t think that because a child appears happy they are over the grief.

HOW ADULTS CAN GRIEVE THAT WAY TOO

Adults can have similar experiences too.

It is worthwhile considering that your reactivity and swiftness to become angry is actually a reaction to grief. That the anger is trying to tell you to address something in you that is unresolved.

THE DANGER OF SUPPRESSING GRIEF

Grief that is not acknowledged or is suppressed often becomes anger because while you are suppressing your grief your brain and body feels abandoned and ignored. Your brain builds narratives that are not correct and develops assumptions about things. This creates a conflict in your mind and often results in anger.

GIVING GRIEF ITS IDENTITY

This reminds me of an exercise I often use with people who come to me for grief counselling. I also use it with people who come to me experiencing anger.

The exercise is based on the concept that strong emotions are signals to you about things you need to deal with.

In order to deal with those things, you need to be able to listen to your emotions.

My exercise is around centring with some focused breathing and preferably eyes closed.

Once you are centred, ask the feeling who it is. What does it want? What does it want you to know?

I then ask you to draw that feeling. On the drawing write down things the feeling has said. Who it is, what it wants and what it wants you to know.

Interestingly, I have never had anyone find that this emotion wishes them harm. It is always that it is there to help and it has wisdom to impart.

I have had angry people surprised at discovering the feeling is grief and that it wants to help them.

I have also had grieving people surprised to discover that grief loves and cares for them and wants to guide them through this time. Not the way many people see grief.

LEARNING TO BE

Learn to sit with your feelings. If it helps, ask them who they are, what they want and that they want you to know. Then draw them and write down their words. You may be surprised and reassured at what you find.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief or emotions you are experiencing, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Why my mistakes are not me

Have you noticed how people use shaming language?

Let me explain.

A small child is struggling to do something which is beyond their age related ability to complete. An impatient parent grabs the item from them saying: “You are so useless, I’ll do it”.

A child in school forgets to write their name on their exam paper. The teacher hands the other students their papers and announces in a loud voice that xx is a failure yet again because they didn’t put their name on their paper.

You make a mistake and your self talk immediately tells you how useless you are for making that mistake.

SHAMING LANGUAGE MAKES YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE USELESS

Can you relate to any of these examples?

I sure can.

How do you respond to the shaming of these examples and other incidents?

Do you believe those words are true and you are shameful? Do you then try to suppress those feelings of shame?

CHANGING THE LANGUAGE OF SHAME

What if instead of shaming and suppressing you changed the language?

What if you reframed those words instead?

Instead of:

• “You are useless” because you made a mistake. Try “I made a mistake”

• “you are so stupid” because you did something you think is wrong try “that was not the best idea” or “that idea didn’t work. What else can I try?”.

• “Why does this happen to me?” Try “Oh this is interesting, what can I learn from this?”

• “Why can’t I do this?” Try “how can I make this work?”

• “Why is this happening?” Try “what can I do to change this?”

• “How could they do this to me?” Try “how can I use this?”

• “Why can’t I make enough money?” Try “how can I add more value?”

• “Why is there never enough time?” Try “what can I alter to fit in these things I really want in my life.”

• “I am so useless, I don’t know how to do this”. Try “I don’t know how to do this, who can I ask for help?”

QUESTIONING THE LANGUAGE OF SHAME

When those thoughts pop into your head try asking yourself:

• Is it true? (Am I really stupid?)

• Is it sensible? (to think I am stupid)

• Is it helpful? (to say this about me – short answer NO)

After you have established what you have just said is not true, sensible or helpful, try reframing it.

REVIEWING THE THINGS YOU DO TO SEE THE POSITIVE ACTIONS

When you do something, it can be really helpful to review how it went. Next time try asking yourself these questions?

• What went well?

• What can be done differently next time?

• Is there anything I need to ask someone about, or learn more about?

I AM NOT MY ACTIONS

Don’t buy into shaming yourself. You are human which means you make mistakes. You don’t always know how to do anything. You don’t always get things right. The mistakes you make are not you they are just actions.

As a child once told her teacher – I am not messy I am making a mess. (Brené Brown).

There is a distinction.

One is wrong (I am messy) and one is right (I am making a mess).

Make sure your self talk switches to the statement that is right.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you learn to see yourself as the wonderful person you are, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

The Importance of Ritual in Grief

In the past, most people who were dying died at home and in many countries the deceased person was placed in the coffin in the front room, where they stayed until the funeral.

In our modern world. Funeral homes have replaced the front room and viewings are planned and something those paying for the funeral have to pay for.

Instead of home, death is hidden away in hospitals, nursing homes and palliative care units. It is less common for people to die at home.

WHAT TO DO IN THOSE EARLY DAYS

In my work I see many people in that initial stage of the death of a loved one. I see them either at critical incident debriefs, or as individual clients/family groups.

In that early stage the sense of unreality is so strong. It is hard to absorb the news. It is more about just surviving up to and including the funeral.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

I always tell people to be kind to themselves. To not expect to be running around looking after other people. Instead I suggest they be really selfish and look to their own needs. Naturally, if they have children they need to caring for them, but with other people their needs come first.

I once had a client who had been upset that an acquaintance of her sister came to her mother’s funeral, then came up to her afterwards demanding she do things for him. He didn’t even acknowledge her mother’s death. She felt pressured to attend to his demands and upset at his intrusion on her mourning.

This is why I always remind people to put themselves and their needs ahead of funeral guests. Guests at a funeral are there to support, not demand.

HONOURING YOUR LOVED ONE AFTER THE FUNERAL

The other thing I talk to people about is how they plan to honour the life and acknowledge the death of their loved one. Funerals are not always good places to do that. In my experience the guests usually find the funeral helps them, but those really close to the person often need more than that.

So I always ask the question “what can you do to honour your loved one?”

People have many different ideas about what they do:

• One planned to light a candle every day for a period of time.

• Another planned to go to the beach on Sundays, which they had always done together.

• Another client planned to devise a commemoration ceremony to hold periodically after the death of their loved on.

• Many people report setting up a small altar in the home with their loved one’s ashes, photo, a candle and something they loved.

• Distributing the ashes is another way many people find helpful. Some do this on their own when they feel ready. Others will plan a day with close family and friends.

These are just some of the ways people commemorate the loss of their loved one.

They are not the only ways. There are as many commemorations as there are people experiencing grief.

The important thing is that you do something to acknowledge your loved one and their loss. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it is helpful if it is meaningful for you.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Gratitude does make a positive difference – if it is done properly

Times that challenge us physically, emotionally, and spiritually may make it almost impossible for us to feel grateful. Yet, we can decide to live gratefully, courageously open to life in all its fullness. ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

In life there are good times and there are bad times. Sometimes the bad times knock you around so much it is hard to consider being grateful for anything. But gratitude is a choice.

You can choose to be grateful. To step out in courage. Because it does require courage to choose to be grateful. Gratitude allows you to live your best, most plentiful life.

Although gratitude as a therapeutic concept has been around for many years, it has become very popular lately.

I think it is a great idea. There has been much research into the impact our thoughts have on our mental well being. Filling our thoughts with the positives in our life has been shown to improve our health, our resilience and our overall mood.

It is true that the thoughts we fill our minds with have an influence on how we cope with life.

WHEN GRATITUDE ISN’T HELPFUL

What concerns me is that there is a lack of understanding on how to practice gratitude in a helpful way.

Some people opt for the false happy statements. These ignore the understandably difficult things that happen in life and make gratitude statements that are not authentic.

The result is more pain as the ignored emotions are suppressed, only to emerge later in an amplified form.

Then there are the people who will write long statements about how miserable their life is and how badly treated they are. Then they will say they are grateful for something that has just been negated by their long sad statement.

HOW DO YOU PRACTICE GRATITUDE THEN?

Gratitude is finding the things in your life that you are grateful for amongst the stressful and sometimes horrible things that are happening to you.

You may be dealing with terrible grief but you are grateful for the wonderful friends you have who are willing to sit with you and care.

You may be struggling with the triggers of childhood trauma but you are grateful for the trigger today that you were able to manage.

TEN GRATITUDES

The way I learned to express gratitude was to write down every day 10 things I am grateful for.

After I have written each gratitude point I write why I am grateful for that thing.

Once I have written the list, I go back and say out loud every gratitude and say “Thank you thank you thank you” after each one.

THE RITUAL OF GRATITUDE

It helps to make a ritual out of this. If it is a ritual you pay more attention to it and take it more seriously.

Being grateful should be something you give thought to and enjoy doing.

As part of my ritual I write my list of ten gratitudes at the same time every day. Some people do it in the morning but I prefer to do it at night before I go to bed.

I also have a stone that is special to me that I hold in my hand, against my heart, as I say the gratitudes.

My stone is a piece of Ocean Jasper I bought in a crystal shop, but your stone may be one you found on the beach. It doesn’t have to cost money to have this stone.

The best stone is one small enough to hold in your hand. It should also be smooth with no rough edges to hurt you when you hold it.

WHAT AM I GRATEFUL FOR?

There are obvious big things to be grateful for.

• I may have had a good day with something lovely happening and I felt so special.

• I may have walked on the beach and am grateful for that because the sand, water and breeze lifted my energy and left me feeling relaxed.

• I may have had a visit with a good friend and it felt to wonderful to chat and be together.

• I am grateful for my partner/children because of the love I feel for them.

There are things that I may have noticed during the day.

• The sunset was beautiful, and my spirits soared at the sight.

• I saw some birds in a tree and they were such lovely colours and I felt so happy seeing them.

• The sun was shining, and it was so lovely to sit in its warmth and feel at one with the universe.

There are the things we don’t think of to be grateful for.

• I am grateful for my feet that hold me up and get me places because it feels so great to be able to get things done.

• I am grateful that I have eyes that see the beauty around me because I feel so enriched by that beauty.

• I am grateful that my heart pumps constantly and keeps me alive because I love being alive.

• I am grateful that my stomach and intestines digest my food because then I am nourished and feel well.

Some other ideas.

• Being grateful for the opportunity to laugh at xxxx today because ….

• A good thing that happened at work that made me feel xxx because ….

• That other car letting me in when I needed to change lanes which I was so relieved at because I was getting stressed at the heavy traffic and I realised people do care after all.

The lists are endless.

THE ADVANTAGE OF TEN GRATITUDES

It is easy to find one or two things to be grateful for. But when you need to find ten then you have to work harder and think outside the box.

This is when you start being thankful for the mundane things you take for granted.

It is when you start to realise how much about what your body does to keep you alive and functioning is something to be grateful for.

It is when you pay attention to the moments in your day looking for something to write down as a gratitude point.

When you do this, you start looking for the positives and focusing on them.

Yes there are negatives in every day, but there are also positives in every day.

Acknowledge the negatives, but don’t dwell on them. Attend to what you can change and let go of what you can’t.

Notice what is positive so that when the negatives feel overwhelming you have a long list of positives to reduce that feeling of overwhelm.

A CHALLENGE

Here is a challenge.

• Start your own list of ten gratitudes every day.

• Write them in a dedicated notebook if you can. It works much better if you have somewhere dedicated to write them.

• Visit them when you need reminding of the positives in your life.

• Do them every day.

• Remember the little things you take for granted and acknowledge them too.

• Don’t forget to say “Thank you Thank you Thank you” after you have spoken every gratitude.

A Grief Reflection

Given the public holiday on the day I usually write these blogs, I thought I would post today a beautiful passage of prose from the book “How to carry what can’t be fixed” by Megan Devine.

This is a wonderful book that I highly recommend to someone struggling with grief. The book contains wonderful information and sharing on the difficulties of grief and some beautiful and helpful reflections/worksheet you may find helpful to do.

For today, here is a beautiful passage from the book.

We come to ourselves in softening, in tenderness, to become available to pain and to love. To make our hearts available. Yield, don’t fight. All is not well, and here we are with that. So we show up as tenderly as we can. Show up with tenderness for what is, softening into it. Yield.

Grief does not show you that you’ve lost your way. Grief is the way. Softening your heart is a radical act. Wanting for yourself something beautiful and gently and kind. Holding out your hands to see what comes. Holding out your heart as a place for meeting what has already come.

What is here now is love: it’s not here to make it better, not here to make grief go away, hot here to give you a reason. It’s just here.

And love sits beside you now, even when you don’t feel it, even when it seems to have disappeared from sight. Maybe love is still here with you in whatever form it can take: a love that goes beneath everything. It makes no sense. I don’t think it tries to. But there is love beneath and around and within everything.

And maybe this love knew, maybe love was there preparing you as best it could for what was to come, for what is now. maybe you have been companioned all along, through this whole life, by love in all its forms, and at all times.

As you breathe into this space, you feel a gentleness come into you now, rising up to meet you, surrounding your heart, holding your hands. Infinite love. Infinite tenderness.

Love is with you here. A love that is heartbroken for you, as much as it is heartbroken with you. Beside you, exactly here. And you breathe in all the love that’s available. All the gentleness. Meeting pain with love, we open into love.

And we come back again and again, making that choice to be present, to feel it, to receive even this – even this. All is not well, and here you are with that.

What began in love continues here along this road, on this path here.

                              May you know love.

                            May you know kindness.

                        May you be free from suffering.

And may you have hope in the continual, continuing experiment: to believe in a love that doesn’t save you, but is still your shelter and still your home.

May what you’ve found in this book help you carry what is yours to live.

Surviving the Fog and Wonky Brain of Grief

Many people suffering from loss complain about finding it hard to think.

• Do you have issues with memory?

• Do you have trouble comprehending what others are telling you, or what you are reading/watching?

• Do you have trouble with you attention span, which seems to have escaped through the window and is still absent?

These areas are the biggest area of complaint by people who see me.

GRIEF AS REALITY

The reality of grief is that it is an enormous event in your life.

You are experiencing:

• Grief

• Trauma

• Sadness

• Loneliness

• And any of a limitless list of other things you may be experiencing.

THE ENERGY LOAD OF GRIEF

Grief is a massive load for your brain to process.

Grief can take up to 99% of the energy that is available to your brain.

99%.

That is a lot of energy and a big drain on the energy you have available to you.

Thinking activities such as remembering things, comprehending things and attending to things also require a lot of energy.

WHERE DOES THE ENERGY GO?

But if 99% of your available energy is taken up by grief, how much is left for everything else?

1%.

From that 1% of energy you have to organise the tasks of daily living.

You may have a job you need to attend to.

You may have other family members who rely on you to get them through the day.

You have to continue to function in a world that doesn’t stop just because you are grieving.

With so little energy available to you for the normal tasks of daily living, it is no wonder you feel you are in a constant fog where you can’t even remember when you last ate and you struggle to remember what you have done in the last few hours.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO MANAGE?

So what can you do?

• A really useful tool is to write things down. Post it notes are great because you can stick them on most surfaces. You can even write on the fridge when you last ate.

• Also, don’t fight the brain fog. Accept that it is happening and will eventually pass. You may feel unproductive during this time, but you are achieving a lot. You are grieving and that is a major work in itself.

• Make sure your need to eat, drink water, sleep and move around is the most important task for you to do.

• Congratulate yourself on the things you achieve in the day. If you ate breakfast that is a great achievement. If you drank enough water you have achieved great things.

WHAT DO I DO UNTIL MY MIND COMES BACK?

So next time you feel you are losing your mind, don’t worry, a day will come when you will have your brain back and functioning. In the meantime, be kind to yourself and remember to congratulate yourself on everything you achieve in the day, no matter how small.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Understanding your emotions

There is a belief we in western societies hold about ourselves. We believe we are cognitive driven people.

We believe that any emotions we experience are stumbled upon and quickly shut down.

Emotions are things we push down so that we can get back to our thinking selves.

That is what we are taught. It is how we are expected to behave.

But this is incorrect.

THE REALITY OF EMOTIONS

The reality is that we are emotional beings who occasionally think.

Radical.

Maybe even scary.

Our behaviour and decisions are driven by our emotions.

This is not what we are taught as children.

WHAT CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT

Children are taught to listen to adults telling them what the right decision to make is. They are the ones who tell the child that they are being silly when they don’t want to go somewhere because they feel uncomfortable.

The child feels uncomfortable because their brain has observed a lot of non verbal signs and translated those into emotions to inform the child of danger. This is what we call intuition.

Then the adult is telling the child that is silly. They are telling the child to ignore their emotions. To ignore their intuition.

So we grow up believing our emotions are silly things we should run away from.

The truth is, our emotions are the driving force in our lives.

EMOTIONS THE KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOUR

Emotions are not the baddy we are told to ignore. They are the knight in shining armour come to save us.

I was reminded of this in conversation with someone the other day. I am going to call this person Rose.

Rose was raised by a mother who expected her children to earn love by doing what she told them. A child who is not loved is a child who is in danger of being rejected. In our childhood brains rejection is death, because a child cannot survive without an adult. So to prevent rejection Rose learned to fawn, otherwise known as people pleasing.

FAWNING A CHILDHOOD SURVIVAL BEHAVIOUR BUT IN ADULTHOOD A HINDRANCE

This was a problem in that in adulthood she fawned with everyone and had trouble setting healthy boundaries.

She ignored her emotions and instead listened to her formulaic learning around what she should do. In this case what she should do was allow other people to set the agenda.

PRUNING THE GARDEN PLANT

The situation Rose was in was that someone had asked her if they could prune a bush in her garden. She was so stunned by being asked this that she said yes. But deep inside she had misgivings about it. In the end she went to the other person and said no.

Rose’s behaviour was being driven by the need to earn her mother’s love.

This behaviour then became the automatic way she behaved.

SAY YES AND REGRET IT LATER

Rose kept saying yes to people and then regretting it later. It was hard for her to withdraw her permission. And people treated her as though she was weird. She wanted to stop.

In our discussion we identified that Rose would often be “okay” with something and only later when she had a chance to listen to her emotions she would realise she was not okay.

WHEN SHOULD I MAKE DECISIONS?

The truth is you don’t have to make a decision on the spot.

Quite radical isn’t it? How often are we taught that we must give an instant response?

What most of us need is time to think. And it is absolutely okay to do that.

If you are affected like Rose maybe you would like to try what she is now doing.

THE RIGHT WAY TO MAKE DECISIONS

When someone asks you something, tell them you can’t answer right away. You need time to think. You might want 5 minutes, an hour, a day, a week. If the other person can’t wait then the answer is no. Don’t be pushed into anything.

Take that time out to think.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

The first think you will be aware of is feelings in your body. This is where we experience our emotions. They are felt in our bodies. That is why we call them feelings.

Allow yourself to explore those feelings. If you don’t yet know what they mean, allow yourself time to learn.

Your feelings will give a strong indicator about what you feel about the question.

After you have identified and explored the feelings think about what the other person has asked. What does it involve? What are your feelings telling you about the request? What does your reasoning mind tell you about the request?

Once you have given yourself time to explore your feelings and think you are then in a position to give an answer.

IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO

Remember, it is okay to say NO. If the other person doesn’t like NO don’t give in to them. Be the broken record that keeps saying NO.

Don’t forget, you don’t have to explain yourself. No is no. You do not owe the other person an explanation.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with understanding and responding to your emotions, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How long does true grief last in the heart?

I get asked this a lot.

There is so much misunderstanding of grief.

Add to that the discomfort many people when in the presence of someone who is grieving and you have people being told a lot of things about how long to grieve. About what is “normal”.

AS LONG AS IT TAKES

The reality is grief lasts as long as it takes.

Don’t allow the discomfort of others to make you feel wrong in the way you are grieving or the length of time it is taking.

It takes as long as it takes.

Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

YOU WILL MAKE PROGRESS

Do know that you will make progress. But it will take a long time. You will have good days and you will have days when you feel no better than on the first day.

That is the experience of many other people too.

WHEN TO SEEK HELP

If over an extended period of time (months) you find you are still stuck in the same place you were in when your grief started then you may want to see a counsellor.

HOW TO SUPPORT A FRIEND

If you are supporting someone who is grieving the best approach is to ask the griever what love and support look like at this moment in time. That way you are letting them know you care and want to help. You are also letting them know the help you are prepared to give is what they want and need.

Remember our emotions are what makes us human.

Being sad is a beautiful part of being human.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Henny Penny and the Great Conflict

Jasmine came to see me about her anxiety. She couldn’t identify the source of her anxiety was, she just knew she spent her time worrying about what might happen.

THE VALUE OF FAIRY STORIES

I often work with stories. It can be helpful sometimes. I ask if there is a fairy story/myth that you can think of that relates to your situation.

When I asked Jasmine she replied the story of Henny Penny related to her.

HENNY PENNY

Jasmine wasn’t sure why, but thought it was because Henny Penny was constantly anxious about things. In this case, that the sky would fall on her head.

Henny Penny was a hen living in a barnyard. One day as she was pecking up food from the ground an acorn fell off a tree and hit her on the back of her head. She didn’t know what hit her. She jumped to the conclusion that a piece of sky had fallen on her head. She was terrified. The sky was falling!

The story continues but it was this fear of the sky falling that struck a chord with Jasmine. This was her feeling of dread. The same dread henny penny experienced at the looming danger of the sky falling.

BEING MINDFUL

Over time I taught Jasmine to be more aware of her feelings and to explore her anxiety when she noticed it. As she became more proficient at identifying her anxiety she identified her biggest anxiety being around work.

JAMES THE OFFICE BULLY

The biggest problem there was James. He was brash and loud and very toxic. James liked things his way. He liked to be the centre of attention. Everyone was expected to like him and he decided who was in the in crowd.

Jasmine’s manager thought James was wonderful and never offered her support or asked James to stop his behaviour despite being witness to it on a number of occasions.

James didn’t like Jasmine. She didn’t go along with his games, preferring to get on with her work. James did not like that and went out of his way to exclude her and interfere with her work.

He made noise, took things from her desk and spoke disparagingly about her sometimes within earshot.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

One day Jasmine had enough. James took her last pen from her desk. She was stuck in a meeting with no pen to write notes with. So she went to James to speak about it.

Jasmine had rehearsed in session with me how to talk to James in a “win-win” conflict resolution way.

THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

There were a few rules to adhere to:

• Decide what you want to resolve and stick to that

• Be a broken record, repeating what it is you want

• Use I language such “When xxx happened I felt xxx and I would like xxxx.

• Avoid the use of “you” which can be threatening. Of course you may have to use “you” on occasion but use it sparingly and in a non threatening way

• Don’t be led astray by “red herrings”. These are things the other person may throw in to take you off topic. Just say “We are not talking about that we are talking about …” and back to the broken record.

• If things get heated, or the other person refuses to participate in a healthy way with the conversation walk away after announcing that the conversation is getting heated/unhelpful etc. and it is a good idea for both parties to have a break.

• When you feel the conversation has reached a point where you have got your point across and the other person is still not accepting that. Reiterate what you want and walk away.

WHAT JASMINE DID NEXT

So that is what Jasmine did.

James did not like Jasmine having this discussion with him. He tried all sorts of tactics to gain control of the conversation.

“You did such and such to this other person”. We are not talking about that, we are talking about the things that are being taken from my desk.

“No-one likes you”. We are not talking about that, we are talking about the things that are being taken from my desk.

“You have never said this was a problem before”. Yes I have, I raised this on xxx occasion and you reacted by excluding me from the office team.

Whatever James threw at her Jasmine ignored it. She became the broken record that kept to task.

When she had her say she ended the conversation and walked away.

James tried to keep it going with more red herrings being hurled at her as she walked away, but she ignored it.

Jasmine also reported the incident to the HR department, in line with company policy.

THE DEBRIEF

When Jasmine came to see me she felt great. She wasn’t sure why but after discussions she realised that in this conversation she had been able to express herself.

Her voice was not silenced as it had been in the past. She had held on to her power.

James’s behaviour had been making her feel powerless and he continued that in this conversation, but she did not allow him to take her power this time. She held on to her power and controlled the conversation her way.

Jasmine was initially worried she would get into trouble with her boss but discovered James had said nothing to the boss.. James did not have the power she had given him.

BULLYING IS NOT RARE

Bullying is very common. It can occur in families, in friendship groups, among neighbours, in communities, in the work place.

There is a fear in this society about bullying and calling the bullies out.

Most people who were bullied as children will recall being gaslit when they tried to get help.

• “what did you do to start this?”

• “We must teach you to behave so that the bullies won’t target you”

• “You’re overreacting”

• “Xxx is such a nice person”

• “You just have to learn to get along”

• “In the Bible it says you must get along with people/submit to this person/honour this person”

Even adults seem paralysed when it comes to standing up to bullies, even when the bullies are children.

Most people prefer to keep their heads down and try not to get noticed. This is behaviour learned in childhood.

Few people have the courage to stand up to bullies or defend others from bullying.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING BULLIED

Bullying is frightening and disempowering. Even if you resist and stand firm, there is always that fear of the next time they try it.

Thus starts the Henny Penny anxiety.

I see a lot of people who are being bullied. It is awful to be on the receiving end of this behaviour. It is also awful to see how others are too frightened to stand up and support you or happily join in the bullying.

If it happens to you:

• Keep a record of every incident, no matter how trivial.

• Record anything that is said.

• Take photos of any damage/vandalism.

• Seek help. Ask the police if this person is doing anything they can act on. Ask your local council if this person is doing anything they can act on.

• If the person is a neighbour and is renting, make a formal complaint to the managing agent, listing the behaviours and providing evidence you have collected.

• If the person is a family member or part of your friend group seek help within the group. You may not get help, but it is important to try. You may find others in the group share similar experiences or a prepared to support you. If need be, separate yourself from this person and any who back them. That is hard to do, and it is unfair, but you need to keep your health and people who won’t support you are not necessarily the best people to be around.

• If the bullying is in the workplace report the issue to your superiors. Workplaces are supposed to have policies around reporting of bullying. If there is no policy contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

• Seek counselling support to help you with the trauma and hurt.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your anxiety and being bullied, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Writing the story of your grief

I have always loved stories. As a child I read more stories than I can remember. And when I learned to write I wrote my own. When I had no pen and paper I made them up in my head. There are stories that have been with me all my life. Stories that have become old friends. I bring them out every so often and visit them.

STORYTELLING IS HUMAN

As human beings we love stories.

We tell ourselves stories about who we are. Stories about the people in our lives. Stories about the people we love.

WHEN STORIES DEPART

The closest I have come to seeing stories depart is when losing a loved one.

How do you write a story that ends? Particularly when it is someone you love?

How do you allow an ending to that story when it is all so unreal and raw?

WHO HAS WRITTEN THE STORY?

When my mother died, I discovered that not only were the stories about her now out of place, but so were the stories about me.

So much of who we, you and me, are is tied up in the stories our parents tell about us.

What happens when the story teller dies?

How do you fashion a new story?

WRITING YOUR OWN STORY

When a parent dies the story you need to fashion is very much about who you are. Because your parents wrote the original story.

Now you have to write your own.

How do you do that when you are caught up in the unreal confusion and jumble of thoughts and emotions that is grief?

If the person who has died is your partner, sibling, or close friend then their story included you. How do you write the story when the hero of the story is gone?

How do you do that through the confusion and tumultuous emotions?

When the person is your child you have written most of the story. How does that story end when your child is no more?

It is likely you don’t know how to conclude this story. Nor for that matter do you want to.

WRITING THE EPIC STORY

I am reminded of the great epic stories of my childhood. The ones set in the past with great heroes and great adventures. The stories and their outcome were so important. Reading the story was a time of joy and sorrow. There was light and there was darkness. And there was always another day, more light, more darkness, light again and so on. One thing I always loved about these heroes was their determination to complete their journey. They were invested in what they were doing. So they persevered.

Maybe your grief is like some epic saga, a journey that traverses light and dark and comes eventually to a place where life seems calmer for a while.

Maybe your grief is something to endure. You may be so fed up with people talking about journeys.

STARTING NOW

Whatever you feel. You are here. Now. You are at the start of the rest of your life.

That start may be the first step in the journey of life, or it may be just a decision you are making to do something to cope with this place you are in.

Will you come with me?

You may call it a journey or just an exploration.

I am inviting you to leave your thoughts and the rationalisations of your thinking mind and come into the rockier, deeper truth of your heart.

It may be a scary place, but it is the place to start from if you ever want to get to a place where life is more bearable.

I am going to call this exploration a story.

WRITING THE STORY OF THE NEXT PART OF YOUR LIFE

The hero of the story is you.

You start this story at the point of leaving. You are here, wherever that is, and life is drawing you inexorably on.

Where are you?

THE SETTING

I am going to use the metaphor of a forest on a mountain range full of steep slopes, rocky crags and cliffs that fall away forever. There are wild mountain rivers, autumn, winter, spring and summer. You will journey long and hard but at the other side of the mountain range there are meadows where the sun shines longer than on the mountain range. Where the weather is kinder and there are bridges when you meet the placid rivers.

What are you going to write about where you are?

WHERE ARE YOU?

Are you at the edge of the forest with the glow of the life you had with your loved one still providing some light to show you the path?

Are you deep in the forest struggling to clamber up a steep slope?

Are you in the early stages of the forest in autumn with the leaves, a multitude of colours, being flung around you by a bitter wind?

NOW TO START

That is your task for today. To start your story. It doesn’t have to be a classic piece of literature. It is your story and that makes it beautiful.

You may choose to draw a picture of where you are, or make a collage.

Just tell the story of your loss and where you are at now, using the metaphor of the forest.

If you can’t think of how to start the story then try starting with:

“This is my story about …”

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and its story, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz