Face the wave head on. If you try to avoid it and approach it sideways it will turn over your boat.

Wise words if you are on a boat. But they also apply to the difficulties we face in life. When we are dealing with difficult emotions it is often tempting to avoid facing them head on. It hurts too much. But the emotions keep coming. They don’t go away because we don’t want to deal with them. It is like being on a boat. Those waves exist. They can’t be avoided. All we can do is go over them in the safest way we can. That is head on.
If the waves we encounter are emotions and difficult feelings, we can try to ignore them and suppress them. We can try to distract ourselves with activity or alcohol or anything else that seems to hide the pain. But those actions do not remove the pain. They are like the boat approaching the wave sideways. We are more likely to capsize if we try to ignore and suppress our difficult feelings.
Dealing with the pain of loss is hard enough. Trying to avoid those emotions is harder still.
You may be used to suppressing the emotions. That may have been the way you were taught to attend to grief. You may not know how to approach the wave head on.
This is where counselling can help. Seeing an experienced grief counsellor can help you to learn to face your pain head on, learn how to sit with it and be okay. It is always possible to learn how to face that wave head on.

Guilt is a nearly universal imprint left behind by trauma

If you talk to an adult who has had a traumatic childhood, you will find a common theme running through their experience. That of guilt, or more accurately, shame. For the adult who emotionally, physically or sexually abuses a child, the blame for their bad behaviour is assigned to the child. “I wouldn’t hit you if you weren’t doing ….”, “I wouldn’t scream at you if you were good …”. And so on. Even when the child is not told they are to blame, it is normal for that child to accept blame. When a child feels to blame then they feel shame. Blame is about “you did something wrong”. Shame is about “I am a bad person”.
For a child, developing through the stages of dependence on their caregiver/s and feeling as one with that person, to understanding they are a separate person and discovering independence, the world does not operate the way we as adults see it operating. A young child will see the parents it depends on as being right. When the child is physically, emotionally or sexually abused they believe they must be the one who is wrong. I remember as a 5 or 6 year old, trying to be good because it was wrong to be bad. My measure of being good was whether my father would yell at me or hit me, or my mother would tell me how useless I was. This was evidence that I was bad. I never managed to get through a day without evidence that I was bad. I would be so disappointed that I couldn’t be better, and I would desperately try to work out what I had done wrong. This is a common experience for abused children. Whatever the abuse, the child believes and may also be told, it is their fault.
For a long time as an adult I was too ashamed to tell others what had happened to me as a child. This was because I believed people would look at me as being a bad person and I was ashamed of the evidence of me being bad. The first counsellor I summoned to courage to tell about some of my abuse told me I had a faulty personality. She was very new, inexperienced, and had no understanding of trauma. The next time I summoned the courage to talk to someone it was a psychologist who jumped in when I had spoken a few sentences and told me the problem was that my mother had post natal depression. She didn’t and that didn’t explain why my father was the way he was. I never went back to that woman. Then I discovered a counsellor who understood trauma. In fact she had experienced it. I tentatively told her about my experiences and instead of condemning me she made the comment that there was nowhere safe for me as a child. That was amazing. Her compassion and acknowledgement of something I had not realised was a great relief. Since then I have found other trauma understanding counsellors and have myself become trauma trained.
I understand that many adults still carry great guilt at the trauma they were exposed to as children. I will tell you the blame lies with the adults who failed to be adults and instead abused their power over you. I will listen as you tell me what you want to tell me. I will believe you. I will not tell you your personality is defective. I will not jump in and interpret your parent’s behaviour. I will listen. I will ensure you are safe in sessions, which may mean I ask you to stop telling me about your trauma for a little while because I can see it is triggering you and pushing you into a terrifying place. I will teach you how to find a safe place when those trauma memories come calling. I will teach you why you get triggered. I will tell you how amazing you are to have survived. I will help you to see the behaviours you learned as a child that allowed you to survive and help you to change the ones that no longer help you.
I will use a number of different methods to help you talk about the trauma you wish to talk about, to heal the memories and to learn new ways of being. That may involve sand play, art work, writing, journaling, story telling, symbols, movement, somatic work, even talking.
Never forget, the guilt of your childhood trauma does not belong with you. It belongs with those who traumatised you.

Sometimes the pain is so bad

Sometimes the pain is so bad all you can do is cling on as it washes over you and trust you will be there when it has passed.

When I think of the terrible pain of grief, I think of being caught on the shore in a raging storm. I am clinging to a rock. The wind and waves break over me. As I am buffeted by the wind and the waves try to tear me away, I am desperately clinging to that rock. As I cling to the rock I just hope my grip lasts the storm. There are lulls in the ferocity of the storm. Sometimes the wind drops and is not so powerful. Sometimes the waves do not reach me. The sun may even come out for a short while. I may venture along the shore lines. But inevitably the storm returns and I am clinging to that rock again. Desperately hanging on through the raging of the wind and waves.

For many people, this is what grief feels like. There are times when it seems almost normal. Then there are times when you wonder if you will survive the storm. Most people work out that this is how grief is. They may not understand it is pretty normal to experience this. But they will understand it is their normal for now.

In this picture of grief, there is another object. That is the rock to which you cling.

What is that rock?

For some, it is faith in God, or some higher being. For some it is family. For others it is friends. Someone else may find their rock is a support group or a counsellor. Those rocks tend to work well.

Other people may find rocks that are less sturdy. They usually work for a while but are very unstable rocks and inevitably will fail and you won’t be there when the storm has passed.

As I mentioned earlier, some people find visiting a counsellor is a great rock for them to cling to. It can be helpful to talk to someone who understands grief and will listen rather than tell you what to do or ask you why you aren’t over it yet. Counsellors can help you work through your grief and find a way to move forward. A counsellor can help you find those sunny times and teach you the skills to hold on during the storms.

For those who have not found sturdy rocks, counselling can be very effective at helping you to find a sturdier rock that won’t fail you. A counsellor can teach you the skills you need to cling to that rock and know that you can do it.

When choosing a counsellor, it is important to check that counsellor’s qualifications. There are many out there who say they are counsellors but do not have counselling qualifications. A counselling qualification is a bachelor’s degree in counselling as a minimum. I have a bachelor and master’s degree in counselling. I am also trained in Grief counselling and have extensive experience in these areas. I am passionate about helping people to survive and effectively navigate this experience in their life. If you need help clinging to that rock, call me on 0409 396 608 or email me on nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au. I am available for face to face appointments in my rooms in Buderim, or for those who live further away I am available for Skype appointments.

Why not call today and learn how to cling to that rock.

The Healer

“A healer does not heal you. A healer is someone who holds space for you while you awaken your inner healer, so that you may heal yourself.” Quote by Maryam Hasnaa

Many people who come to see me tell me how they have battled without success for years to heal themselves of childhood trauma. I understand that. That has been my journey too. In light of that, it may sound like a contradiction to say that you heal yourself, but that is true. We do heal ourselves, but rarely are we able to do that without the assistance of another person.

The other person, the healer, is able to see things you cannot see. They can help you to see those things too. They understand if you can’t see something, you can’t heal it. The healer is able to identify things that are important, that you may rush over because of your past trauma. The healer knows how to help you to sit with those things to allow them to heal. The healer allows you to do that without you being retraumatised.

The healer knows various techniques to help you safely explore and release past hurts. The healer understands that trauma is stored in the body and is not afraid to help you release that pain.

The healer has experience in working with trauma and understands the importance of you finding a safe place to be when working with trauma gets too much. The healer has trained in various proven safe ways to help others heal their trauma. That is who you need to see to heal your trauma.

Healers often have their own trauma history. They understand what you are going through. They care about your and are passionate about helping you heal.

I am a healer. I have my own trauma history and I understand the scars it leaves, the work involved in healing and the strengths those who have survived to this point in life have. I will not tell you about my own history, unless it is vitally important (it rarely is). I will understand the scars you carry. I will respect the work you have put in thus far and will continue to put in to heal. I will look on your strengths that have allowed you to put in that work and also survive and I will be in awe of them. I will show you those strengths because it is possible you have not seen them.

I have trained in many approaches to trauma work. The main training has been with the Blue Knot Foundation in their trauma recovery guidelines. I have learned from some of the great names in Trauma Therapy such as Bessel van der Kolk, Babette Rothschild and Pat Ogden. I am constantly learning new ways to work. I understand the importance of addressing the trauma memories stored in your body.

I am passionate about helping others to live plentiful lives as they recover from past trauma.

I can help you face to face or via Skype. If you would like my help please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

Grief – learning to swim

“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing, sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” -Viki Harrison

Grief is not easy. It is not easy to come to terms with, to process. It is not easy to manage the expectations of others as to how quickly you should be “getting over it” or how much you should be visibly grieving. The expectations of others complicate something that is already hard.

The main thing about grief is that it is never over. You don’t wake up some day and feel fine. If you loved someone that much, do you want to reach a point where they no longer matter? Most people will say, no. They are afraid of forgetting about the person, of not feeling anything for them.

Losing someone you love will change you forever.

There is the initial overwhelm of grief. Most people understand that, although many think you should be over it quickly. There will be moments when you almost feel normal again and are able to laugh, but they do not last long. Then there is the feeling of disloyalty at feeling happy when someone you love so much has gone.

You are not being disloyal. Grief ebbs and flows like the ocean. There are times when it seems overwhelming and you just want to shut the door and keep the world out. Then there are times when you are able to perform tasks of living as you have always done. Over time, you will find that the calmer times become longer and more frequent and the overwhelming times become shorter and less frequent.

Eventually, you will reach a place where it is possible to move on in life. The pain will still be there, but you will have learned to cope with it, to swim.

Do not expect to reach that place shortly after the funeral. There will be many birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries of their death and other important dates before you will be able to reach the point where you feel able to move forward in your life.

The most important thing you can do as you grieve is to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself the time to feel those emotions. Give yourself permission to have bad days and permission to have good days. Find someone who is willing to listen to you when you need to talk. If you can’t find anyone to listen, or feel overwhelmed, counselling can help.

I counsel many people who have been bereaved. I am passionate about helping people to understand they are normal. About allowing people the opportunity to be heard without judgement. About helping people find the way forward.

I am available for consultations in my rooms and over skype. If you need help call 0409396608 today or email nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au to arrange an appointment.