9 Issues You May Encounter When You Are Grieving

In my work with grieving people I have found the following issues are very common.


What does moving on mean?

When I ask people that question they often cannot answer it.

What does moving on mean to you?

The usual answer I get is that other people feel they should have moved on.

Other people think they are crying too much, or focusing too much on their grief.

Occasionally I may be told “I am fed up with crying”.

The truth is you never “move on”. You just learn to live a new way that incorporates the pain you feel.

There may be factors that prevent you from incorporating that pain.


If you have experienced other losses in your life that you have not been able to process and find a new way to live with the pain, then you will likely find it hard to process your current grief.

If you have experienced trauma in the past you may find it hard to process your emotions.

If you find it hard to regulate your emotions you may find it hard to manage the processing of the emotions associated with your loss.


Are there any unresolved issues?

If there was anything unresolved in the relationship with your loved one it is hard to process the emotions until you resolve the emotions related to that.

Kayla was finding it hard to process the emotions over her father’s death. He was very abusive when she was a small child. The abuse tapered off as she grew through her teenage years but it was never resolved. She thought she had left it behind her and “moved on” from its impacts. But the death of her father left her with the anger of what he had done to her and the regret she had never challenged him on what he had done.

Before Kayla could process the grief over her father’s death, she needed to address the unresolved abuse.


Philip’s daughter died in a skiing accident when she was just 20.

Philip couldn’t shake his distress that he hadn’t died first.

Added to that was the belief that he had failed to protect her. The fact she was skiing with friends and he wasn’t there and that she was an adult who could make her own choices didn’t prevent him from suffering over that belief.


Therefore shut down and not experiencing the emotional experience of watching a loved one die.

Emma’s husband of 30 years died after a long illness with cancer. She became so caught up in her concerns for him and the pain he was in that she didn’t experience her own feelings at the time.


Ben’s brother was the one dying. He was the one who was dying too young and too soon. Ben was struggling to cope with the emotions he was feeling at his own much loved brother dying. He felt he couldn’t ask for help or talk to anyone because his brother was the one dying and deserving all the attention. And his parents were losing their son. Then there was his partner who was also devastated at losing the person they felt was their soul mate.

Ben felt selfish feeling upset and sad.


When Corinne’s husband died she felt she had to look after her young children and their needs. She felt she needed to put their need to comprehend and understand their father’s death first. She didn’t allow herself to experience the pain of her own emotions because she wanted to look after her children.


John came to see me because he was terrified he would forget his wife. He was frightened that if he stopped feeling the extreme pain of losing her, he would forget her.

When someone we love dies their physical life is over. But the relationship never ends. Some people can resolve and find meaning in that new form of the relationship. Occasionally people don’t. This is known as continuing bonds.

It is now accepted that the bond with the person you love continues after their death. This is why grief never ends. The relationship never ends and the longing for that person’s physical presence never ends.

What John needed was reassurance he would not forget his wife and help to negotiate a new way of relating to his wife that allowed him to continue to live without her, but still have her in his memory.


One of the worst things about losing someone you love is having to continue living when they are no longer alive with you.

It is so hard to accept that and feel able to live, to be happy, have fun, have new experiences that your loved one cannot have.

You don’t have to say goodbye. You can still have a relationship with this person. Yes they are dead, but the relationship you had with them is still very much alive. Yes your brain will remove the neurons that connect you to the living person, but not to the memories of your relationship.

You can continue with that person in your life, just not in your physical life.

Live and continue to remember them.

Live and be okay to live.

You don’t have to forget them and you don’t have to say goodbye to them. Just continue with your life and bring their memories with 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

*please note than whenever I mention someone in my blogs I never use real names and change the circumstances to de-identify the person who has generously given permission for me to use their story in my blog.

Finding the Real Wonderful You

• Are you finding yourself bored with your life?

• Maybe you feel depressed at how little you feel you achieve?

• Or do you think that compared to other people you life is so unimpressive?

• What can you do to fall in love with your life again?

• What can you do to feel motivated to change?


The first thing is to ask yourself if you really know yourself. This may sound weird but let me explain.

You are a unique individual. At your core, the bit others often don’t see, is a vibrant, curious person. This person is magical and able to express themself in honesty and love. In fact this person is totally lovable.

Sometimes this authentic self is called the Wonder Child. The pure little being born into this world to thrive, survive and achieve as themself.

Life however rarely allows the Wonder Child to be themself. The Wonder Child is bruised and battered by people and events in life.

To protect themself, the Wonder Child hides the parts that they feel are unacceptable to others. This self protection keeps them away from true connection with others through their Authentic Self.


As the Authentic Self is buried under these layers of protection, what emerges is the Wounded Child.

The Wounded Child knows they must put on a false self to protect themself from hurt and rejection. This becomes a Mask and it is designed to protect from hurt and rejection.

The trouble is that the Mask hides the true Authentic Self. Often you don’t even see the Mask as not being you and you miss out on knowing your Authentic Self.

So you live your life with the Mask that your Wounded Child hides behind as it protects your Authentic Self.

Small wonder you feel bored, depressed and that your lie is completely unimpressive.


How can you access your Authentic Self in order to change your life?

Sitting and thinking about it does little to help you. That Mask is very good at covering up those bits that are considered less socially acceptable.

There is a need for much deeper exploration of the unconscious in order to find that Authentic Self again.


One of the things I encourage people to do is use art to express themselves.

What do I mean by art?

Anything that is spontaneous, creative and allows you to express your authentic self.

This can include:

• Journaling in a dedicated journal

• Drawing in an art journal

• Painting

• Collage


The best way to find your authentic self and start the process of change is to spend a few minutes every day doing something spontaneous and creative.

I have already mentioned 4 things you can try but what you do depends on you.

The important thing is to let go and let the real you out to create.


If you choose to write in a journal, write with your non dominant hand. This will allow you to access more of your mind that writing with your dominant hand.


Drawing or painting can be great. Many people particularly love the flow of paint. My personal preference is for watercolour, but sometimes I draw with pencil, crayon or felt tip pens.

A lot of people are frightened of drawing/painting because they feel they can’t draw well. I draw stick figures, unashamedly. This is not about producing a masterpiece; it is about expressing yourself. Squiggles of paint, funny shapes, dots, lines. All these are great ways to express yourself. You need to paint what is inside, for your eyes only.


If you feel really challenged by drawing or painting then you can try collage. Many people find that really helpful. You just need some magazines/advertising flyers, stickers, scraps of paper. Anything you can find that you can glue to a piece of paper is great.


One way to challenge yourself is to do this for 30 days. It need only take a few minutes.

• To do this effectively start by bringing yourself to a place of stillness.

• Sit quietly, you can close your eyes or let your eyes not focus on anything.

• As you sit quietly tell yourself you are going to let go of everything in your life at the moment. You could say “Just for this moment I let go of everything”

• Breathe in and out gently. Focus on your breath. After a few breaths take a deep breath into your belly and then gently let it out. Now breathe a few more deep breaths. Continue to focus on your breath. If anything comes into your mind just gently put it to one side. Don’t engage with the thought. Once you have taken a few breaths and you are feeling you have stilled your mind you can move on to the next step.

• While you are still quite and reflective, ask yourself “What do I need to paint/write/draw/collage right now?”

• You could put your hands on the paper and ask the question. You can tell yourself that you are going to express what needs to be expressed.

• Now start. Just put on that paper what feels you feel like. Don’t have a plan. If you feel you want to paint a corner red then paint it red. If you feel you want to draw a smiley face, then draw a smiley face. If you see a picture of a bottle of perfume and you want it on your page, then put it on your page. If you want to write random words in your journal then do that.

• Whatever you put on the paper is the right thing.

• Keep going until you feel you are finished.

• Look at what you have done.

• Does anything about it strike you in some way? It doesn’t have to.

• It is always helpful to put the paper away and look at it later.

• Things you put on the paper that may immediately or over time give you insights.

• You may notice you keep drawing a particular shape, or use certain words. You may find your collages follow a particular theme. You may favour certain colours.

• You may find you look at what you have done and a thought will pop into your head about it. You may find yourself seeing a meaning in the picture.

• Over time you may find more insights in your expression than you realised when you were doing it.

• There is no right and wrong in this.

If you would like to join my Plentiful Life Exploration Facebook group you are welcome to join in a 30 day challenge of expressing yourself daily.

The link for the group is Plentiful Life Exploration | Facebook

I will be kicking the 30 day challenge off next Tuesday 16 August at 4am with a live feed on my Facebook page. You are welcome to join me for that or you can watch it later.

You can post your work on the page and share any insights you have or ask people about any insights they may have in it.


If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you find and heal the authentic you, 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

And don’t forget to join my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/761908951834983

The Paradoxical Purpose of Grief

Having encountered a lot of grief throughout my life, personally and professionally, I have had ample opportunity to explore the philosophy of grief.

Grief is hard. It is stressful. It involves often months at least of emotions that are turbulent and disruptive. There is a lot of sadness and misery. There are also negative feelings such as anxiety, anger, even guilt. These are all well recognised as being present in grief.


As part of my exploration of grief, I have read a lot of articles looking at grief philosophically.

From a philosophical perspective an exploration of grief and its purpose is not about looking at losing someone/thing we love but looking at how we perceive the grief we feel as a result of this.

Grief is horrible. It is devastating. It is intense. It is also stressful.

The tumultuous emotions of grief include sadness, sorrow, fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, anger and so on.

Here is the difficulty.


You are unlikely to get through life without losing someone you love.

Grief is the inevitable result of the death of someone you love. You grieve because you love and that loved one has died.

Grief is not bad. It is inevitable.

What would your life be like if you didn’t grieve?

What if someone you loved died and you didn’t feel anything?

Isn’t that worse?

We live in a society that is uncomfortable with other people’s emotions. Talking to a grieving friend and having them cry is something most people find hard to handle.

On the one hand you feel at a loss to know what to do to help them. On the other hand you feel uncomfortable. You feel uncomfortable at your friend’s emotions, which you may not usually see. You feel uncomfortable at their pain. It is natural to want to alleviate their pain.

What usually happens is that the response to another person’s grief is to shut them down. To shame them into hiding their grief. You may tell them their loved one is in a better place. You may avoid any discussion of their loved one. You may make their loved one’s name taboo. You may tell them they should be over the grief by now.

Of course, these approaches do not help.


The result is what I have often heard referred to as the paradox of grief. The paradox is the result of two conflicting facts around death:

• Grief feels bad so you should avoid it.

• Grief has a purpose and a value so you need to allow it and be grateful that you can grieve.

Being grateful for grief? How can you be grateful at your loss?

After all you grieve the deaths of the people whose presence in your life have been extremely important. Whose absence will cause you great pain. The loss of someone you built your life around. The loss of someone whose presence in your life gives you identity and fills you with a sense of great value in your life. The loss of someone whose value as part of your past and your projected future is infinite.


• It allows you to honour the person who died.

Yes it hurts to feel grief. But if you love someone that much would you want it any other way? Would you want to just get up and get on with life without shedding a tear, or feeling sadness at their loss?

The emotions of grief such as sadness are inevitable. We have lost someone important. Feeling sad is important to honour that.

Likewise sorrow is important in honouring the one you have lost.

• It allows you to rebuild your lost identity.

Losing someone that important in your life also causes a loss of the identity you built around that relationship. So losing that person causes you to lose your identity, to lose part of yourself.

If you don’t grieve, how do you rebuild your identity? What push is there to cause you to seek and build a new identity? Grief supplies that push. Nothing else will.

• It allows you to identify what you have lost.

Sadness and sorrow give you important messages. They allow you to know what you have lost. That may not seem important but they are. It is part of understanding the place that person had in your life.

• It allows you to identify what you want to commemorate in that person.

Part of understanding the place a person had in your life is understanding the things you loved about them. Maybe they are things you admired and would love to emulate. Maybe they are about things they were passionate about. These might inform ways of commemorating them. Maybe that person was the reason you chose a particular path in life.

• It allows you to put your relationship to that person into perspective

Another part of understanding is being able to understand the things you didn’t like about them. Those are important to. They make your loved one human. They help to put them into perspective.

• It allows you to identify important values and ways to rebuild your life,

Fear and anxiety are useful to help us identity the things we value that we may lose. They highlight the areas of life that need to be reimagined.

• It allows you to identify what you need to resolve.

Guilt and shame highlight the unresolved issues that existed in that relationship or occurred around the time of death. They help identify what we need to resolve.

• It allows you to identify unresolved issues in the relationship or around the death.

Anger highlights the hurts and frustrations around that death. It helps you to explore the things that can trap you in your anger.

• It allows you to find a purpose in life.

Anger can also help you to find a new purpose and meaning in life. For example: if your loved one was killed by a driver who was speeding you may find new purpose in your life campaigning against speeding drivers.

• It allows you to understand your loss.

Without the pain of grief it would be virtually impossible to understand your loss.

• It motivates you to process your loss.

Without the pain your would less likely to strive to process what you have lost. You would not struggle to work out how you can continue living in light of that loss.

• It allows you to form a new relationship with the one you have lost.

Without the pain you find it extremely difficult to continue a relationship with the one you have loved.

• It allows you to find a way to live in the future

Without the pain you would find it hard to know how you want to live your life in the future. Grief helps you to understand your values around your loved one’s memory and allow you to make choices going forward. These choices start with decisions around which of their belongings to part with and which to keep, even where to live.


Grief is devastating and horrifically painful. You will wish it could end and things could go back to the way they were. But your life will never be the same again. You will not return to the person you once were. Your life will always be tinged with the trace of sadness at who is physically missing from your life.

Despite this, life is possible. You can go on. You can find a way to live. You can be happy.

This terrible tangle of emotions contained in grief help you to recognise the things you value in your life. This allows you to rework your identity moving forward in life.

As a result of your grief you will develop a clearer understanding of who you are. It will give you the tools to live your life without your loved one.

Grief gives you the power that allows you to adapt to your loss.


As you move through grief you sometimes you the support of a counsellor to help you with that process. You need someone who understands grief, does not pathologise it, and will listen.

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