Is it possible for grief to become quiet tender joy?

Self-compassion is very important when life is painful.

Psychologist Kristen Neff says, “all pain deserves to be held in the warm embrace of compassion, so that healing can occur.”

Such beautiful words.

I have spoken about this before when I have talked about mindfulness. One of the most powerful mindfulness practices is the RAIN meditation, where you apply self compassion, using mindfulness, to pain in your life.

Self compassion applies to everything you encounter in life. It is particularly important in grief.

It is as simple as giving yourself love and compassion. Of being patient. Of allowing yourself to feel pain and of comforting yourself.

It is a matter of being as caring to yourself as you would be to a friend in the same situation.

It is a process that takes a long time. You work through this pain slowly, over time.

Self-compassion has been important for me in healing from the pain of grief.

I have learned to give compassion to my pain. And through that learning I have been able to heal.

Dostoevsky wrote “it is the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy.”

That sounds quite radical.

When I first heard these words I was outraged at the idea that grief can become “quiet tender joy”.

But I now realise that it can happen.

I am not saying that it doesn’t hurt anymore. But it is possible to feel the gentle joy of precious memories.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief journey and learning how to give yourself self compassion, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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:

8 reasons you were bullied/abused. And they are nothing to do with you.

Some years ago, there was a young woman I would regularly see socially. We often chatted about how her family were going. We particularly chatted about her nephew. He was 3 and she was so proud of him. One time we met she mentioned he was getting bullied at day care. As someone who was abused and bullied as a child I was horrified that a 3 year old was getting bullied. Surely someone was doing something about that. Her response? Oh yes, he was being taught how to change his behaviour and fit in better so he wouldn’t be bullied! I was appalled. People are bullied/abused because of the other person’s issues, not because of anything they have done. To place the blame on the victim is like saying a murder victim was to blame for their murder. Or a rape victim was to blame for being raped. Or a child was to blame for an adult sexually abusing them.

For some reason, people cannot deal effectively with bullies. The thing that needed to be done in this situation was for the bully to be taken aside and treated. There were two things that bully needed.

The first, was to have good healthy boundaries set. The bully needed to know that behaviour was not acceptable behaviour. If you stop the behaviour when it first starts it is easier to stop. Once the behaviour has become full on bullying, it is harder to stop and harm has been caused to the victim.

The second thing that needed to be done was to find out why the bully was behaving this way. Bullies are often hurting. Listening to the bully, while setting firm boundaries, is the most effective way to understand and treat the underlying causes of the behaviour before it cases the bully serious damage. How much easier it is to identify problems and treat them at age 3 than at age 13, or 43.

I suspect people are frightened of dealing with bullies because of fears around their own childhood and their dealings with bullies. But adults are grown up now and can defend themselves. They have a duty to protect children from this behaviour.

A video that circulated a few years ago had adults acting child bullying in an adult setting. This behaviour in a child setting is dismissed as “just kids fooling around”. But the reaction to this video was one of horror that someone was subjected to this obvious assault. So why is it okay for children to be assaulted but not adults?

As adults we need to take a stand and be firm in how we deal with bullies. I am sure many of you had your bullying dismissed by adults as being nothing and something you were overreacting about and needed to get over. You may feel you do not have the power to deal with bullies. But you do.

I also know, because for a long time I suffered this too, that you are most likely ashamed of being bullied. Shame is a big issue for those who were bullied/abused as children. A child believes something is wrong with them for this to happen to them. Often that is reinforced by adults who tell you it is your fault.

So what are the 8 reasons you were bullied and or abused?

Those reasons are all about the bully/abuser and their issues. You were not/are not weak, a loser, stupid or not enough in any way.

Reason No. 1: The bully is a narcissist. This is a personality disorder that develops in childhood. The narcissist is self-absorbed, entitled, and needs admiration and attention. If you don’t do what they want then you are bullied.

Reason No. 2: the bully has poor emotional regulation. This bully does not know how to control their emotions. So when they are angry, or hurt, or embarrassed, or frightened (and so on) they use bullying/abuse to try to calm themselves down.

Reason No. 3: The bully has low self esteem. They don’t feel good about themselves. They feel shamed, inadequate, weak and powerless. They think that what they need to do to feel better is to “tear you down”. Of course you can never get power from other people. The only way to increase your power is to build it up yourself. But the bully doesn’t know how to do that.

Reason No. 4: The bully has a need for social approval. They think the way to get approval is to impress others with their dominance. Maybe they learned that from their family or observing other people. This is what they believe they need.

Reason No. 5: Modelling. The bully has copied the negative behaviour of a parent/sibling/peer group.

Reason No. 6: Lack of empathy. The bully has enough trouble understanding and processing their own emotions, let alone understanding and caring about yours. So they hurt you and don’t have the empathy to care that you are hurting.

Reason No. 7: Poor Impulse Control. The bully has trouble regulating their emotions. A person who can regulate their emotions will stop and think before responding to something. A bully will just react. There is no stopping and no thinking the bully just acts impulsively. Usually that acting is outwards to other people.

Reason No. 8: The bully is Selfish. This bully wants their own needs met. The cost of meeting their needs at the expense of others is not a consideration.

Many bullies may have more than one reason they bully.

The reason they picked on you? Because they could. Because you were the first person they encountered they thought they could safely pick on. No reason for that. You were just the person there when they wanted someone to bully.

If you still believe you were somehow to blame it is time to think about what you would say to someone you love, say your own child, if they were the victim of bullying. Would you say they were to blame? Would you tell them to “get over it”? Would you tell them they had to behave differently because their behaviour was why they were being bullied? Or would you show them compassion? Would you care? Would you hug them? Would you do something to help them?

Give yourself the same compassion you would give someone you love.

Bullying/abuse in childhood leaves wounds that need healing.

Many victims of childhood bullying/abuse lose trust in the world and in other people. And there are good reasons for that. After all, who supported you when you were suffering that way? It is quite likely the world seemed to turn their back on you.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your bullying/abuse related difficulties, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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:

Can you relate to this experience of grief?

There are many articles written about grief, and how to live with it. The views they express, and the ways to live with that grief are many and varied.

Recently I read an article about a different way of managing grief. The woman who wrote the article, Kathryn Lane Rossi, is a clinical psychologist who developed the field of psychosocial genomics with her husband Ernest Rossi.
Psychosocial genomics holds that our personal and subjective states of consciousness affect the ways our genes express themselves in the brain and body. That may sound complicated, but I mentioned it because it had a profound impact on the way Kathryn grieved after the death of her husband.

It is well accepted the way we grieve is impacted by our beliefs about life and living.

A friend once told Kathryn “Even on the worst day of your life 95% of it is great. The Sun comes out offering nourishing, rejuvenating light. You have clean water to drink, good food to eat and someone(s) who loves you deeply” (Lee Lawson).

After the death of her husband after a short illness, Kathryn realised grief had become her closest companion. Because of her beliefs about life, she invited grief to be a spiritual experience. In describing this, she used the word ‘numinous’ which was described by Rudolf Otto many years ago as meaning ‘fascinating, tremendous and mysterious’.

Kathryn found that tremendous and mysterious definitely fitted with her grief, but fascinating? How was she going to welcome that to a world that didn’t feel fascinating?

So she researched the meaning of the word. The research showed fascination was a suggestion of something new and different to what came before it. She concluded that therefore fascination was describing something new and original.

The death of her husband was a new and original experience for her.

As a neuroscientist she was interested to understand the neuroscience of her grief.

According to the theory she and her husband developed we have a creative cycle that enables us to change and adapt through our consciousness influencing our mirror neurons. This influence on our mirror neurons then impacts on how our genes express themselves in our bodies and changes our brains.

Mirror neurons are part of our brains that allow us to connect to other people’s feelings. They are what causes us to wince when we see someone else hurt themselves. We can relate to the pain they are experiencing through the activation of our mirror neurons.

We can connect with anyone, but we form stronger attachments with people we are in close relationships with, such as our life partners.

When that person dies, or is no longer with us, our mirror neurons that connect to them have to change. In order to do that, the old neurons have to be removed and new ones have to form.

As a neuroscientist, Kathryn knew that neurons take about a month to come to maturity and a further two to three to make new connections in the brain and body. So she decided that she was not in a good place to make any decisions until these new pathways were developed.

So the first thing she did was resolve to make no important decisions for at least three months.

Instead, she decided to observe her body, mind and emotions.

Every one to two hours she tuned in to what was happening physically and emotionally to her. This gave her structure that she found personally comforting.

She found that just before falling asleep she noticed memories flipping through her mind, like a deck of cards that was being shuffled a card a second.

Many people report being flooded with memories during the day as well.

Kathryn’s research into memory found that the purpose of memory was to help us in the present moment. We constantly adapt memories to help us in our daily life.

Her brain was sorting through her memories to sort those that were more important.

She also noticed that her memory was made foggy by her grief.

Many people experience that in grief.

She observed she was getting brief headaches and pain around her heart. Again, this is not uncommon for people to experience.

She concluded these things were occurring for several reasons.

One was that the growth of new neurons caused pain.

Another reason was that her logic and her emotions were not in agreement. Her brain was saying “accept he is gone” and her heart was saying “I don’t want to”.

She also noticed digestive issues and found she could not eat and do other things at the same time. Her brain was so busy creating new neuronal pathways it did not allow multiple tasks to occur at the same time.

She also found that in common with most people, she often cried or sobbed. Most of these sessions lasted 5 minutes, although she had periods where she cried for about 90 minutes, stopped for 5-20 minutes before resuming crying.

Kathryn was comforted to notice that these difficult times did not continue. Over time she become able to function for longer.

As a scientist she was aware of the impact grief has on inflammation in the body and the depressive effect it has on the immune system. So she set out to exercise in nature every day, usually for 90 minutes.

Many people report that no day is like the rest. One day you can be in the depths of despair, the next you can get things done, the next you may even feel like going out. Kathryn experienced that too. She saw that as positive, because she saw it as evidence she was growing.

Kathryn wrote her article as she approached three months after the deal of her husband. She was aware her immune system was almost completely recovered. She was also aware that the future would hold a lot more pain.

For three months, Kathryn was able to use her own skills as a researcher to cope.

You will use your own skills to cope too. It may not seem like you are coping, and it may not seem that you have any direction or structure in your life, but you do.

You may also notice that some of Kathryn’s observations match your own experience. May that knowledge that you are not alone in what you are experiencing bring you comfort.

You may find it helpful to understand the cause of some of your physical and emotional reactions.

You may also find it helpful to talk to a qualified counsellor.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief journey, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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:

It is not the traumas we suffer in childhood that make us emotionally ill but the inability to express the trauma

This quote was written by Alice Miller, a world renowned child abuse expert. She was at the forefront of those who recognised and demanded a changed approach to child abuse and its aftermath in adulthood.

She was initially a Psychodynamic practitioner until she concluded that psychodynamic theory blamed victims for the abuse perpetrated against them. This created the precedent for all psychological theories to blame the victim for the abuse. It has only been in recent decades that this has begun to change.

Alice also was highly critical of different world religions that preached forgiveness. This forced people into suppressing their trauma and anger. She believed that much of that anger was displaced onto other people and was the cause of abusive parenting, anger in society, eating disorders, drug addiction, depression, and in the extreme was responsible for violent leaders.

Alice also contended that our society forces people to suppress the truth.
When I first started hearing the early discussions on child abuse in the 1980s, I was a very young adult, fresh out of school and home. What I was hearing appalled me. People were describing the way I had been treated as a child. My mother, herself a counsellor, had always kept a strong narrative about what wonderful parents they were and how I “overreacted” to things.

As these forms of abuse were becoming more widely discussed, my parents adopted the attitude of laughing off these claims. They mocked what they called the “blame it on the parents” brigade. The message was strong. Nothing happened here.

As time went on I found a deep need to get away from my family. The perfect opportunity presented itself in a posting in Europe. While I was living in Europe I was able to distance myself from my mother’s controlling narrative and began to see what had actually been going on in my childhood. I was able to dismiss much of her narrative as not true. I was shocked to realise the extent of my mother’s lies.

My mother died only a few short years after I left Australia. Her death was the release I needed to properly explore my childhood abuse.

In the wake of my mother’s death, I realised the impact my parent’s behaviour had on my siblings as well. Without my mother’s camouflaging narrative, I was able to see my sibling’s dysfunction. I dysfunction I finally decided almost ten years ago to step away from. I realised their dysfunction was not healthy for me.

As time wore on, I was able to access memories of events in my childhood. The pressure on me to hide them was immense. This pressure came from my siblings and from the church.

I became more aware how much society in general calls on people to hide their stories of abuse.

It was during this journey that I decided to go back to university and get my counselling qualifications.

I see the damage trauma in childhood does to adults.

I see the damage being largely them not being heard, or not being allowed to speak out their trauma.

When children act out, or lose their focus on school, or become incredibly withdrawn we as adults need to ask what is happening. We need to do that through a trauma lens. Instead of racing to judge and punish, we need to ask what has happened to trigger this.

Judging from the stories of the adults I have counselled, the answer would be that trauma has happened. It may be trauma from family. It may be trauma from outside the family. It may be emotional, physical, sexual. It may be because that child lives with a coercive controller parent in a terrifying Domestic Violence situation. It may be because the broken Family Law Court system places children with that coercive controlling parent who continues to abuse them.

What is the message in all this?

If you are adults, don’t rush to judge children who apparently misbehave. If you are a teacher, educate yourself about the impact of trauma on a child. If you are a parent, ask those questions in a non threatening way. You may not be abusing your child, but someone else might.

If you are an adult survivor of childhood trauma. Let your story be heard. Sometimes the safest place to do that is with a counsellor who is properly trained in trauma therapy.

Tell your story. Don’t suppress it. The person or people who abused you have done the wrong thing. Don’t protect them. Protect yourself. Get qualified counselling help and express the trauma that has happened to you.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your childhood trauma, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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:

I leave you with the following words by Alice Miller.

These answers to the question posed me by my readers show how they have attempted to find the way to their own truth. Initially they recognize the lifelong denial of their reality and sense for the first time the pent-up though justified anger caused by the threats they were exposed to – beatings, humiliation, deceit, rejection, confusion, neglect, and exploitation. But if they manage to sense their anger and grief at what they have missed out on in life, almost all of them rediscover the alert, inquisitive child that never had the slightest chance of being perceived, respected, and listened to by the parents. Only then will the adult give the child this respect because he/she knows the true story and can thus learn to understand and love the child within.

To their great surprise the symptoms that have tormented them all their lives gradually disappear. Those symptoms were the price they had to pay for the denial of reality caused by awe of their parents.

Unquestioning adulation of parents and ancestors, regardless of what they have done, is required not only by some religions but by ALL of them, without exception, although the adult children frequently have to pay for this self-denial with severe illness symptoms. The reason why this is the case is not difficult to identify, though it is rarely taken into account. Children are forced to ignore their need for respect and are not allowed to express it, so they later look to their own children to gratify that need. This is the origin of the Fourth/Fifth Commandment (“honor your father and mother”).

This intrinsic dynamic is observable in all religions. Religions were obviously created not by people respected in childhood but by adults starved of respect from childhood on and brought up to obey their parents unswervingly. They have learned to live with the compulsive self-deception forced on them in their earlier years. Many impressive rituals have been devised to make children ignore their true feelings and accept the cruelties of their parents without demur. They are forced to suppress their anger, their TRUE feelings and honor parents who do not deserve such reverential treatment, otherwise they will be doomed to intolerable feelings of guilt all their lives. Luckily, there are now individuals who are beginning to desist from such self-mutilation and to resist the attempt to instill guilt feelings into them. These people are standing up against a practice that its proponents have always considered ethical. In fact, however, it is profoundly unethical because it produces illness and hinders healing. It flies in the face of the laws of life.

A reflection for the New Year with grief

A new year invites us to reflect and consider what has been and what may lie ahead. As the first blog of 2021 I thought it was appropriate to encourage that reflection with two contemplative poems.

The first is a Jewish meditation before Kaddish. Kaddish is the ritual for mourning used in Jewish Culture. This meditation is particularly beautiful and is often quoted.

When I die give what’s left of me away

To children and old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,

Cry for your brother walking the street beside you.

And when you need me, put your arms around anyone

And give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something,

Something better than words or sounds,

Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,

And if you cannot give me away,

At least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me best by letting hands touch hands,

And by letting go of children that need to be free.

Love doesn’t die, people do.

So, when all that’s left of me is love,

Give me away.

Another beautiful poem that is aimed at parents on the death of a child is written by John O’Donohue.

No one knows the wonder

Your child awoke in you,

Your heart a perfect cradle

To hold its presence,

Inside and outside became one

As new waves of love

Kept surprising your soul.

Now you sit bereft

Inside a nightmare,

Your eyes numbed

By the sight of a grave

No parent should ever see

You will wear this absence

Like a secret locket,

Always wondering why

Such a new soul

Was taken home so soon.

Let the silent tears flow

And when your eyes clear

Perhaps you will glimpse

How your eternal child

Has become the unseen angel

Who parents your heart

And persuades the moon

To send new gifts ashore.

Grief is not an easy place to be. But there are always moments when the sun peeps through and you glimpse hope. It is these times that are often places where such poems seem to fit.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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: