I feel miserable, is this loss?

If you see someone who has just lost a loved one you may say “I am sorry for your loss”.

But what do you mean?

Loss is a word that has so many meanings.

Loss applies to more than the death of a loved one.

You can lose a job, and grieve over it.

You can lose a relationship, and grieve over it.

You can lose your grandmother’s engagement ring, and grieve over it.

You can lose your pet, and grieve over it.

You can move to another country and lose your identity, community, family, friends and grieve over it.

You can lose your house, and grieve over it.

The list is endless.

All these losses are valid reasons to be miserable.

So what is loss?

Loss is something you feel that is caused by an event in your life that you consider to be negative. The event also causes long term changes in your life. The changes continue over a period of time. You also have a personal response to that loss. Others may respond in a similar way, but your way of responding to it is unique to you.

This means no one will ever fully understand your loss. That experience is your personal experience.

The biggest aspect of loss is change.

You will experience change in your social situation, your relationships and the way you see the world and interpret events.

As the result of loss, you will be changed forever.

Change is always a part of life. We change daily in response to our environment.

But some things in life result in bigger changes. Changes that may mean we no longer fit in in the same way.

Changes that may mean we move, or change friends, or change job.

Changes that may mean we no longer want the things we once wanted.

One of the biggest mistakes to make when processing a loss, is to think we can go back to the way things were.

That is not possible.

Life is a one way street.

There is no doubling back.

There is only forward.

That is something you may not want to do.

You may decide at some point that you need to see a counsellor.

That can be really helpful.

A good counsellor will listen and allow you to express your feelings and explore what has happened.

With a good counsellor you will be able to make sense of your loss and start being okay that life continues in a forward direction.

What a counsellor will not do is make everything the way it was.

A good counsellor will not fix those unpleasant feelings.

What the counsellor will do is help you process those feelings. Help you learn how to live now. Help you come to terms with the new life you now have.

It is so easy to get stuck in the pit of loss and the longing for what was.

In those times you need help to get out of the pit.

This is where counselling is helpful.

When you are struggling to make sense of the changes.

When you are struggling with people telling you what you should be feeling and doing.

When you don’t want to keep going because it hurts too much.

These are times when counselling is helpful.

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with links to my blogs, 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 wrong formula

Most people have a formula for grief that they believe all people should go through. It is based on their own grief experiences and those taught to them by society in general. The trouble is that when you don’t fall into that formula it can be even more isolating than the “normal” grief experience.

One thing I have noticed in my work is that so many people experience the death of a close family member and never know what that person thought of them. Their grief becomes entangled in never to be answered questions about their relationship with the person. Often grief unleashes unresolved issues in the relationship and the grieving person finds themselves having to deal with issues they cannot discuss with their dead relative and thus find difficult to put aside. Dead letter offices around the world are full of letters written to dead relatives expressing thoughts about them that the expressee cannot say to their faces. Many famous people have books written about them by their children damning them for all the things wrong with their relationship that the child was never able to express while their famous parent was alive.

In a session one day Jody shared: “When my mother died I found myself in this situation. I lost my mother, the chance to hear her say she loved me, my family, most of what I had (wrongly) used to define myself. My family had a taboo on touching and discussing emotions. My parents didn’t say ‘I love you’ and were super critical so I doubt any of us grew up feeling loved or good enough. We were never taught how to conduct a relationship so never learned how to develop relationships with each other or even notice if one of the family was excluded. I had an occasion when living interstate where my father had written a terrible letter to me abusing my husband and generally using words and thoughts that were inappropriate. After much consideration and discussion with my friends I wrote to him telling him his language was inappropriate and I did not like him speaking of my husband like that. I also mentioned that I did not feel part of the family and his attitude to my husband only served to feed that feeling. My father’s response was to totally avoid mentioning the letter but at the end he signed off with “Your family” (underlined) as if that was going to suddenly make me feel like a member of the family! I notice one of my brothers does the same thing. They just do not know how to have a relationship. The person who should have known, the relationship counsellor, my mother, didn’t teach anyone. She seemed to possess either an extraordinary inertia or incredible laziness and she never taught anyone how to conduct a relationship nor did she make any effort herself. She seemed to believe in free range relationships. Consequently I find myself in this terrible situation where I am excluded from the family relationship but those of my family left believe they have a relationship with me. They believe this despite the fact they never communicate with me, are totally disinterested in anything I do, never contact me and never express concern about me or have any interest in my children. They never come to visit or ask us to visit them. When I try to talk to them about this they think I am being stupid. It is so frustrating and demoralising and strips me of self worth.”

Over the past few years there have been a lot of social media posts circulating about people at the end of life regretting the time they failed to spend with family and regretting the words of love they felt for their family. There is a need to communicate our love for others to them. People don’t magically know they are loved. As for the toxic family with its fractured relationships. That is something to be dealt with in another blog.

Do not use your pain body for identity. Use it for enlightenment instead.

For the past few hundred years the mind and the body have been considered separate. The idea that our emotions can be expressed with physical pain has been dismissed. But in more recent years, this has been challenged. Research has shown that emotional pain lights up the same pathways in the brain as physical pain. It has also shown that the pain experienced with emotional pain is as severe as that experienced with physical pain. The evidence shows that our “minds” are not in our brains but in our bodies. We store our memories as sensations which use all our senses (touch, smell, vision, sound, taste) as well as our thoughts and emotions in our bodies. It makes sense when you consider our five senses are functions of our bodies.

If you consider that physical pain and emotional pain are felt in the same area of the brain. Then emotional pain is going to hurt. If you add to that, the fact that that emotional pain is stored as a memory in the body, the it is not hard to understand that the memory of an emotional pain is going to hurt somewhere in the body.

Much of the pain we feel in our bodies is due to stored painful memories. I am not saying that every pain in the body is caused by a painful memory, but a lot of pain is. The memories also affect the way we use our bodies. We may walk and sit differently because of a memory. We may move differently because of a memory.

If we have a painful memory and we are able to resolve that memory, then it does not leave pain or restriction in our body. It is the memories we cannot resolve that cause the problem. The memories of painful times in our past. The memories of trauma we were unable to process. Most of these memories are from childhood and just get added to by things that happen in adulthood.

Physical pain is hard. It restricts what you can do. Ask anyone with chronic pain. When the pain in your body restricts what you can do, it is easy to begin to identify with that pain. It becomes easy, without realising you are doing it, to hide behind that pain. It protects you. It protects you in many ways. It stops you hurting that part more. It also stops you experiencing any emotional pain that may be part of that physical pain.

Therapists who work with client’s bodies, both the feelings in the body and the way the body moves and is held, know that releasing painful memories can reduce or remove bodily pain.

If you take a group of children and give them a body outline, then ask them to colour the parts of the body where they feel angry or sad or other emotions, they can do it. They will colour in areas of the body and use colours to express what that emotion feels like. Children know that they feel things in their bodies. When they are taught to make that link they can become really good at understanding their feelings and the impact on their bodies.

A lot of adults never learned in childhood to feel and locate their emotions in their bodies.

Being able to sit with a pain or discomfort in the body and explore it is very helpful. I teach this as part of my teaching on mindfulness. I teach people to ask that part what it is feeling. To explore the feelings that are attached to that pain. It can be very enlightening. Once those feelings are identified it is possible to work with them and release them.

Many people report that when they use their pain to identify hidden memories and are able to resolve them, then their pain reduces or disappears.

If you would like a simple, mindfulness meditation to assist with this exploration you are welcome to sign up for my email list here http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz. When you sign up, I will send you a link to a mindfulness meditation for exploring the pain in your body.