7 things to know about grief

There a so many opinions about grief and about the way grief plays out. But in all these words some of the most basic things are left out. Below are the things I tell people who come to see me.

  1. Life will not always be this awful. It will not happen tomorrow, but one day you will realise you are beginning to feel better. There is a lot of misinformation out there about everything being better after 2 years. For some people, after 1 year they are starting to feel better. For others, after 2 years they are feeling much better. For others it takes much longer than that. The main thing is that gradually, little by little, you will start to feel better.

Think in terms of years to recover. That is a much more realistic time span than months.

  1. You will survive this. Yes you are in dreadful pain. But instead of fighting it, allow it. Be okay to have days where you don’t want to get out of bed. Be okay to have days where you just want to cry, where anything that reminds you of the one who is gone leads to floods of tears. Be okay to have days where you find yourself laughing. All this is normal and you will survive. You will be bruised and battered emotionally, but you will survive.

Allow yourself to hurt. Give yourself time off away from the busyness of life, walk on the beach, in the bush, alone or with friends. Go to Yoga, Zumba, the Gym, whatever allows you to move stretch and feel good about yourself. Meditate or just sit quietly somewhere. And if tears join you, that is okay.

  1. Get plenty of sleep. If sleeping at night is difficult have daytime naps. Make sure you eat healthy food and get enough water to drink. Your brain is working hard and that is exhausting. Try to avoid junk food and alcohol – they will make your grief feel worse.
  2. With grief I use the metaphor of the seasons to explain to people the variable nature of grief. If you think about it, the seasons are a circle that goes on year after year. Just as autumn passes into winter, which passes into Spring and then summer, your emotions will pass through many different seasons as you adjust to your grief.

Here is the link to a blog I wrote about the seasons metaphor of loss The Journey of Demeter – PLC Blog (plentifullifecounselling.com.au) https://plentifullifecounselling.com.au/wp/the-journey-of-demeter/

  1. Grief encompasses a multitude of emotions. Everyone expects a grieving person to feel sad and that is the emotion most people experience. But there are other emotions that can be experienced as well. Many years ago, the husband of a friend died suddenly. At the funeral his widow was angry, very angry. That anger was the predominant emotion she experienced for some time.

Other people experience relief, guilt, shame, regret, fear, a sense of abandonment, feeling lost, feeling confusion. Many people feel bad if they feel emotions around how they will cope, or feel angry at their loved one for dying. They feel they are being selfish. But it is not selfish to worry about you, how you will cope, how you will attend to practical matters. There are also many aspects to grief and not all are emotional.

  1. Be willing to think about how you will fit the loss of the person you love into your life. This is often referred to as meaning. What meaning will you find in your life because of the loss of the person you loved? The meaning can be as simple and profound as finding what your life as a single person is, what your life as the parent of a dead child is, what your life as one whose mother, father, or both are dead. And so on.

An important aspect of grief is finding that meaning and learning how to live with the loss and grief.

  1. Be kind to yourself. At the funeral don’t run around worrying about everyone else. Be okay to drop the ball and cry, lock yourself in your room, go for a walk. Whatever you need to do to cope. After the funeral be okay again to look after yourself. Obviously, if you have children, you need to care for them. But make sure you look after yourself too.

If you have a spiritual practice that brings you comfort, then do it. If you want to have a lovely long soak in a bath, then do it. If you want to look through old photos and reminisce, then do it.

One important thing to remember is that your brain has a lot of work to do processing the loss of your loved one. It has to rebuild the neural networks that connected you to the one you lost. This takes time and hard work on the part of your brain. Roughly about 3 months. You are likely to feel physical discomfort, confusion, woolly thinking, rapid changes in emotions and myriad other feelings. Your ability to make decisions at this time is compromised. If you can avoid it, try not to make major decisions for a few months. I have seen too many people quit jobs, move, even end or start relationships that they have later regretted.

To summarise, when you grieve, be kind to yourself and allow yourself to fall apart if necessary. Allow yourself to feel the full impact of your loss. If it is too much, allow yourself to take time off grieving and come back to the grief later when you can cope with it. Ignore the people who say you should be over it, or you can’t be happy and go out/on holidays because you are grieving. You know what you need. Be sure to allow yourself to meet your needs.

If things get overwhelming, or you need reassurance you are not going mad, or you feel you have been grieving too long then see a grief counsellor.

Can I Help?

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 helpful 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

10 Myths About Anger

Just the word “anger” is enough to evoke fear in people. As a society we fear anger. As children we are taught to fear and avoid anger.

But every person will experience anger occasionally or frequently.

Anger is an emotion that serves an important purpose. This is because Anger is a secondary emotion that always has an underlying primary emotion.

You may be angry because you are afraid, frustrated, sad, or feeling threatened. There are many emotions that can underly anger.

Anger helps you to cope with the underlying emotions. It can help you to take action to protect yourself, to make a decision, to problem solve, to set goals you wish to achieve, to take action to remove threats from your life.

When might anger be a problem?

When the underlying emotions are ones caused by trauma anger can become problematic.

When others fear your anger and try to shut you down, this can escalate your anger and make the situation worse. Sadly this happens often because there is a lot of ignorance and fear around anger.

I watched a receptionist in a doctor surgery try to shut down a client who was calmly expressed his frustration at waiting an hour to see the doctor. Instead of acknowledging how frustrating it was for him, she ignored his words and changed the subject. Not surprisingly the man became angry. The receptionist then branded him as difficult and a problem instead of recognising her contribution to the situation.

This receptionist, like many people, was ignorant about anger and healthy communication.

The role of healthy communication in resolving anger

It is really distressing to see how people’s ignorance about anger and healthy communication causes so much trouble. This is something I am so passionate about that I am currently putting together an on line course on peaceful communication which addresses this issue.

In the interim, what are some of the myths around anger?

Myth 1 Anger is inherited.

That is only true in that we all have the capacity to express anger. It is innate to us as human beings.

We do learn how to approach anger from our parents and those around us growing up but we do not inherit “anger” from our parents.

Myth 2 Anger and aggression are the same thing.

This is one of the reasons people fear anger. Because they believe that anger is aggression. Anger is an emotion. You feel it.

Aggression is a behaviour. Sometimes we become aggressive because we are angry. But at other times we don’t. An angry person is just as likely to use healthy methods of expressing their anger without needing to become aggressive.

Research into aggression that results from anger suggests that there are three factors that cause aggressive anger. These factors are:

• Initiation events, where something has happened to set off anger. This can range from someone being rude to you, being cut off in traffic, or finding out your partner has been having an affair.

• Triggering event, where something impels you to become aggressive. It may be a release of hormones in response to a fight or flight response. It may be a belief that the behaviour you have been subjected too is really wrong and must be defended. It may also be that in our society expects us to react aggressively to the triggering event. An example of that is to hit someone back when they hit you.

• Inhibiting factors, where factors in your life reduce the likelihood of you behaving aggressively. This may be that aggression in this instance is socially unacceptable, or fear of negative consequence, or the opportunity to step away from the situation and take perspective.

Myth 3 Other People Make Me Angry

Other people can be irritating and difficult to ignore, but your behaviour is your responsibility. It is your choice how you are going to respond. Often, walking away from a situation to get some space and perspective is a good way to decide your response. And if you are still angry, that space can give you the opportunity to decide how you will respond to that person in a helpful way.

Myth 4 It is better to let anger out than hold it in.

Although it is true that suppressing anger and ignoring it is harmful, giving in to anger without any control is also harmful.

As I mentioned with Myth 3, it is often better to walk away to give yourself space to process your feelings and decide how you are going to respond to them.

When my youngest son was in Year 1, he had a mentally unwell teacher who decided to teach all the boys in the class to hit pillows when they felt angry. I was angry to learn this. Researchers have found that hitting something when angry sets the person up to react to anger by hitting something every time they are angry. Each time the person hits something the reaction of hitting is reinforced and leads to an expectation that hitting is an acceptable response to anger.

This unwell teacher was teaching the boys in the class unhealthy ways of dealing with anger.

In my anger, I sat down and researched this technique. Then, armed with the information, I made an appointment with the teacher and the principal and sat down and expressed my concerns about this teaching and showed my evidence of its harmful impacts. The result was that the teaching was terminated, the principal realised the teacher needed help and she took time off to attend to her mental health, and a new teacher taught the boys healthy ways to attend to anger.

Holding in anger is problematic but letting it out in an unregulated way is also problematic.

Learn to be curious about your anger. Learn to explore ways you can attend to the problem, if it needs attending to. Allow your anger to guide the way you attend to the problem in a healthy way.

Myth 5 I can get what I want and be respected by using anger, aggression and intimidation.

Although it is true that people, including adults, are frightened of bullies, this doesn’t mean they respect them. It also doesn’t mean you will get what you want by bullying others. Some people may fear a bully, but others will stand up to you. And if an adult uses aggression and intimidation with others they are more likely to face serious criminal charges.

The best way to earn the respect of others and get what you want is to be respectful of others. By communicating with others, which includes listening to them as well as telling them your needs, you are more likely to have an outcome you can be happy with. And you will also be more likely to experience healthy relationships with other people which will feel safer and more comfortable than always having to be alert to use aggression and intimidation.

Myth 6 Anger only affects certain “types” of people.

There are many who believe that people of certain ages, genders, socioeconomic status, education levels, nationalities or religious beliefs are the only ones who become angry. Of course in this belief aggression is seen as being the same thing as anger.

The truth is anger is experienced by everyone. It is an emotion and we all feel emotions.

Sometimes the stressors in your life can make you more likely to act out your anger, but there is no one group of people more likely to experience anger than others.

Myth 7 I can’t control my anger.

This can be a frightening belief.

It is true that sometimes people who have experienced trauma in their past can be triggered to react with behaviours that may include feeling the emotion of anger with sometimes an aggressive expression of that anger.

But it is possible to learn strategies to control the way that anger is expressed. In the short term these strategies can be employed. In the long term working with a counsellor to identify and treat those triggers will be really helpful.

Myth 8 I say what I really mean when I am angry.

Although it is true that when angry people can say things to others without filtering the words they use, it is not necessarily what they actually believe that is spoken. Uncontrolled angry outbursts are more about winning the argument and controlling the situation than speaking the truth. When people express their anger they are usually more likely to say things that are designed to hurt the other person.

Myth 9 It is healthy for me to speak my mind when I am angry.

There is a belief, and a very attractive belief, that if you are upset or angry about something you need to speak out about it. The belief states that if you don’t tell people at the time of the anger inducing incident you will dwell on it and become angrier later. Then you will say worse things than you might have at the time.

The trouble with that belief is that when you are feeling angry you are less likely to be perceiving the situation in a realistic way. You may perceive other people are behaving in uncaring or provocative ways when in fact they are not. You may perceive the words spoken to you as being worse than they might seem when you have calmed down and had a chance to reflect on them.

In myth 4 I related the story of my son being taught by his teacher to punch a pillow when he was angry. I related that I was angry when I learned about this. But what I did with that anger was to make a decision to approach this issue in a productive way. I wanted this faulty teaching to stop. I decided that a more effective way to stop this was to present my case with the teacher and principal. I could have decided to speak my mind, but it would not have led to as successful an outcome as me stepping back and waiting until I was more in control of my emotions.

How many times have you spoken your mind when angry then wished in a calmer moment that you hadn’t said those things?

Myth 10 Men are angry, women are much calmer.

That old myth about boys being made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails and girls being made of sugar and spice and all things nice!

Everyone gets angry. Everyone expresses their anger.

Men are more likely to express their anger in a more aggressive, acting out way but this is more due to cultural conditioning.

Cultural conditioning has taught women that they must be more constrained. Women are more likely to make comments about things, talk negatively about the other person, or even cut off contact with them. When women do act out in a more aggressive way they are often sanctioned more heavily by society than men because they are behaving in a way that is seen as being culturally inappropriate.

To summarise

When people use the word angry they are often referring to the acting out of anger when people may yell, say hurtful things, become aggressive etc. That is a behaviour that may be exhibited when a person is angry. It is not the totality of anger.

Anger is an emotion that does not necessarily lead to any of those behaviours. Many people who feel angry may absent themselves from a situation and take steps to calm down and explore their anger and what they really want.

Why am I feeling angry?

Maybe you are feeling angry because:

• you felt ignored,

• your hurt or pain was ignored,

• the other person’s behaviour led you to feel you didn’t exist,

• you felt afraid,

• you felt frustrated,

• you were disappointed.

• And so on.

What can I do about my anger?

There are many things you can do. You can seek counselling. Another is to participate in a course on communication and conflict. Later this year I will be releasing a course in Peaceful Communication. If you would like to be notified when that is ready you can subscribe to my newsletter and other communications on http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Can I Help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful 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

Seasons of Grief

You sit in your grief
It is as though an icy reminder of winter has invaded the autumn
You suddenly find yourself in.

You sit in the icy numbness.
Then the numbness passes.

And you are tossed around by the autumn winds
Blowing their cold breath
Causing all to hunch forward and rush to shelter.
Leaving you alone in your grief.

You stand there
In the midst of the swirling leaves
Reds, oranges, yellows and brown.
Echoing your own swirling emotions
And you long for the time when you felt only numbness.

Then you sighed
And settled in for the long haul of the winter of your grief.
The days when it was icy and still.
When snow muffled every sound
And the world seemed deserted.

Just you and your pain.

As you stood on the edge of the ocean.
Antarctic blast hitting you with its icy needles
The waves whipped to a frenzy by winter storms
You remembered that all healing comes in waves.

The intensity varies.
Sometimes you can feel almost normal.
Other times you feel like you can’t go on.
You are out there in the white caps

And then you realise you will heal
You look around and notice the gradual budding of leaves at the ends of branches.
You look at the ground as tiny flowers emerge from their bulbs.

The wind comes warm and you dance in the beauty of it.
Then the wind blows cold and you are back in the thundering waves

Be okay to feel what you are feeling.
To feel those exhilarating days of warm breezes
And those terrifying days of drowning.

Allow it to take time.
Don’t rush.

You will be fed up with grief
Long before it is finished with you.

Allow the pain.
In that pain is growth.
In that pain is the way to learn how to live with your loss.

A day will come when you will stand on the edge of the ocean
The sun will dance on the gentle waves
A warm wind will gently caress you
And you will feel at peace.

Nan Cameron 24/7/2023

Can I Help?

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 helpful 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

22 Things You May Not Know About Grief

  1. Grief is how we as human beings express loss for what we love
  2. Being open to grief deepens and widens your loving. Grief is how you love when someone is not there any more. It is the natural expression of your heart for what you miss.
    Set an intention to allow yourself to feel even what seems unbearable. If it needs to be felt then feel it. Don’t try to overcome what your body, heart and mind want to travel through, experience and feel. Remember grief is ongoing, not a temporary thing. It is natural and you will learn to live with.
  3. Grief is a reality.
    There is a story of father racing across the US to see his daughter before she died. As he sat with her body after she had died he commented to palliative counsellor that the grief was familiar. He had encountered this before.
    The reality is life is a series of small losses and deaths. We experience grief when we lose a beloved toy as a child, when our childhood friend moves away and the friendship ends, when we break up with romantic partners, when we suffer financial losses, when we can’t have the baby we long for, when our dreams die, when things we had are lost, when we lose time.
  4. Grief is more than the emotions we feel.
    It is also a lot of losses and fears. Maybe you are suddenly alone. Maybe you have to face limitations you never had before, maybe you are lonely, maybe you are scared.
  5. Ultimately grief is about living. You miss someone you loved but you are still alive and that is why grief is ultimately about living.
  6. Grief is something we as humans do.
    It is how we know we exist. You don’t reach a point of being able to accept the uncertainty of life and the certainty of loss by suppressing the pain of grief or trying to spiritually bypass by telling yourself they are in heaven, or have been reincarnated. Or telling yourself you don’t have to feel the emotions and trying to meditate or pray them away. The more you try to push away the feelings of grief, the more tenaciously they cling to you and the harder it is to let them go.
  7. Unless you let the world in and let your pain in and let your emotions in you cannot let go of the grief.
  8. You can’t transcend feelings of loss. To do so is to deny your humanity.
  9. Grief is a wide variety of experiences. Sadness, loneliness, change, anger, numbness.
  10. If you accept and allow your grief you can walk through it and live life with grief there as well. To grieve and accept its presence is to come to the fullness of your humanity and aliveness.
  11. People think to allow themselves to miss their loved one their world will fall apart. But connecting to your pain and allowing it is how you come back to yourself, to your soul. To the essence of who you are.
  12. Grief contains love and wisdom that is way beyond the ways of this world. You are an apprentice to sorrow. Grief is also a wilderness. Open to nature and allow yourself to wander in grief. Don’t try to control it as we humans try to control nature and fail miserably.
  13. Uncertainty is so frightening that we try to hold on to it. Grief is a stark reminder of the uncertainty of life. The grieving person is in freefall and there is no control. Forgive yourself for trying to control what is uncontrollable.
  14. You can only progress through the wilderness of grief if you are willing to be there, to be awake and free. Ask yourself, what are you unwilling to feel?
    Undo your resistance to grief. If there are any stages in grief it is here that you will find them. Allowing the sorrow and grief is how you work your way through the darkness of grief. You meet your edge and soften. Be intentional about that. Soften into grief and the apprehension of loss. Allow tenderness to accompany grief.
    “We manage our lives so powerfully externally as to forget the incredible mystery we are involved in.” John O’Donohue.
    Certainly you want to scream “no” but “yes” is the only way you can answer the world as it is. All the “no”s in the world will not change anything.
  15. Love can grow after death. Allow yourself to be open to that. Open to what is.
  16. Change is always happening. Learn to relate to the groundlessness of life without resisting and wanting to control. Instead be expectant and curious.
  17. What would happen if you stopped clinging to the person who has died? Many people blame themselves for the death of their loved one. This is how people try to hold on to the person who has died. But that is not the solution.
    Instead let go. Forgive yourself for the things you feel you omitted or did wrong. Let go.
    This is when you will merge with the one you lost and will have them there. In a healthy and beautiful way.
    “When the work of grief is done the wound of loss will heal and you will have learned to wean your eyes from the gap in the air and be able to enter the hearth in your soul where your loved one has awaited your return all the time.” John O’Donohue.
  18. Grief takes as long as it takes. There is no magic number for how long it will last.
    You cannot force your way through grief. You can only be willing to experience it, patient for the pain to shift, curious at what you are experiencing, gentle with yourself and knowing there is wisdom that yearns to surrender you to the waves of grief.
  19. Honour the power of goodness, beauty, and necessity in grief. Allow yourself to be open to the groundlessness of grief.
  20. You are not a victim. Be open to the moment of grief. Open to the resources your compassionate self has. Share your grief with others. Take the power in naming your grief and learn it will give you an ability to be in the ever changing difficult world you live in.
  21. Give permission to allow sadness. To allow crying. To feel it in your body. In time you may find turning to the suffering of others helps you lessen the grief of your suffering.
    Depression comes because grief is not processed.
    Listen to your heart and follow it. It knows what you need.
    Ask the pain what it wants from you. Draw comfort from the knowledge that pain gets less because it comes in waves and all waves come and go. Give the pain the acceptance it wants.
    Be with your grief and emotions. Ask what they mean. Remember the pain of grief does not always appear as grief. It can express itself as anger, depression, numbness, shame.
    Go into your body again and again. Sense the longing to feel and feel that. Ask the numbness to let you know what you need to feel.
  22. Grief is not bad. It is not wrong. It is. It is life. It is being.

Can I Help?

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

Breaking The Cycle Of Unhealthy Relationships

Many people come to see me reporting a history of failed relationships. Some find they keep choosing the wrong person, who treats them badly. Others report not understanding why their relationships fail. Others have a history of seeing many therapists, seeing each one for a period of time, then moving to another therapist with no resolution of their difficulties.

All report being dissatisfied with their relationship histories but don’t know what to do about it. They feel stuck and unable to change the way things are happening.

I Am Not Good Enough

A lot of the time, when I explore with them their feelings about themselves they will report feeling not good enough. Often they believe they are not worth anything better.

Often they are looking for the perfect parent to fill the void left by less than perfect parenting that left them traumatised. This happens especially with friendships and therapists.

Insecure Attachment And Poor Attunement

For these people, they have not formed a secure attachment relationship with their parents in childhood. They will also have had parents who were not attuned to them. This leaves the child feeling unsafe and invisible.

This may not seem like a big issue, but this happens at a time when the child’s brain is developing. When the child’s template of relationships, their view of the world, their view of themselves is developing.

Attachment Is

Research has shown that human babies have an inbuilt need for secure attachment. If a parent cannot meet a baby’s needs, then the baby will die. For that reason, it is vital a baby can trust that their parent will feed them, change them, hold them when they are scared or in pain. In short, the baby needs to trust that their parent will keep them safe and alive.

This continues as the baby grows into a child. A child still needs care and protection.

This is what is referred to as attachment.

If a child does not have a secure attachment with its parents, then it is not safe. That is terrifying for a child.

Attunement Is

Attunement is a measure of how well a caregiver understands the child and is able to meet their needs, especially emotional needs. It means the parent seeks to understand why the child is crying, or acting out.

Instead of judging the parent may seek to understand what is wrong with the child. Are they tired, hungry, upset about something, unwell?

To be understood, to be attuned to, is to be seen. If you are seen then you are more likely to have your survival needs met. If you are not seen you are invisible and then you are at risk of dying because you will not be cared for.

It is worth noting that the parent who spends their time on their mobile phone instead of looking at their child and interacting with them is at risk of exhibiting poor attunement with the child.

If You Can’t Spend Time Caring For Me or Seeing Me Then I Am Not Worthwhile

Lack of attunement is a terrifying situation.

Insecure attachment is a terrifying situation.

They leave the child with the message that they are not worth anything because their parents don’t take the time to attend to their needs, seek to understand them or notice them.

Physical, sexual and emotional abuse can also leave a child feeling they are not worthy of love, that they are not good enough, that they are not worth anything better. I will talk about those issues more in other blogs.

I Am Not Worth Anything And Counselling

This is the situation many people who come to see me find themselves in. They were not worth enough to be securely attached or attuned to their parents.

People come to see me because they want help to feel better in relationships with other people. They want to have successful relationships. They want to have relationships with people who they can feel safe with.

But when there is a history of insecure attachment and lack of attunement it can be hard to work with a counsellor. If all other relationships are unsatisfactory, how can you be sure the counsellor will be a safe person to work with?

The Therapeutic Relationship (Alliance)

Counselling is a relationship referred to as the Therapeutic Alliance. Research has shown that the relationship between you and your counsellor is responsible for the majority of healing that takes place.

When you come to see me, the relationship we have will be a model of a secure relationship. The difficulty is, can you trust that the relationship is secure? When all you have known is insecure relationships, can you be sure I will give you the secure relationship you crave?

The Therapeutic Alliance Must Be A Secure Relationship

I can give you that secure relationship, but will you allow me to?

Growing up in an insecure relationship is terrifying. Children know intrinsically what they need. They can’t name it, but they will seek what they need.

A child who cannot trust relationships will constantly look for evidence that the person they are relating to cannot be trusted. Often, to avoid the pain of failed relationships the child will end a relationship before the other person can end it. This happens even when the other person is committed to the relationship.

Bids For Attention

As humans, we make constant “bids for attention” from the people we are in relationship with. As adults those bids are usually fairly subtle, but if those bids are not met, they can become more obvious, even angry.

For a child, who lacks the skills of an adult, the bids for attention are more extreme. The child may misbehave, break things, yell at the adult. They will do whatever it takes to get attention. This is because it is only when they get attention that they can know they are seen.

You have no doubt heard the saying “any attention is better than no attention”. The ignored child doesn’t want the bad attention, but if that is all they can get they will seek it.

The trouble is, the bad attention doesn’t meet the child’s needs fully.

The Traumatised Child In An Adult Body

As the child grows up, the small traumatised child who was desperate to feel safe and get their needs met is still there.

Normally, as we grow into adulthood, we learn new behaviours to replace the old behaviours. Then we behave in ways that help us to form and maintain relationships.

But for the child whose childhood needs were never met, those behaviours that worked temporarily in childhood don’t get an opportunity to transform into adult behaviours.

I see this often in my work. The small child, desperate to feel safe and get their needs met, demanding attention, demanding control, unable to consider others or collaborate with them. That adult with the small child behaviours is often labelled narcissistic, selfish, even aggressive. Yet they are not a true narcissist. They are just a child who lacks the nuanced skills of an adult.

How I Work

In my work I seek to heal the child and allow the adult self to take control. That is the way for you to feel safe in life. For you to have those relationships you crave. The way for you to feel worthwhile, safe and seen.

But for you, working with me is dangerous and scary. How can you trust me?

Therapy Is No Quick Fix

Healing the pain of your childhood will take a long time. Additionally, I will work with areas of your life your traumatised child is desperate to protect. I need to work with those areas, because they are what is holding you trapped in unsuccessful relationships. And you need to be able to let me do that.

It takes a long time to work through childhood trauma.

I will use many different approaches to help you work through this.

You may want me to wave a magic wand and fix you instantly. You may want me to work the way you decide, even though it is not a way that will help you. You may get frightened and decide you don’t want to be healed. You may know that you don’t want healing, or you may convince yourself that you just want another approach, or another therapist will meet your needs better.

Communication Between You And Me Is Vital

It is important we both communicate well.

I will tell you how I envisage working with you and ask you if you are okay with that.

I will explain things to you and review often to see if you are happy with the direction therapy is taking and discuss different approaches we can take for each stage of treatment.

You can help by telling me about your feelings and concerns so I can hear you and meet your needs.

When we communicate well with each other, then we can plan your therapy to best help you heal.

Therapy Is Long Term

Don’t expect this to be quick.

It is quite likely we will work towards a goal and you will then stop therapy for a time while you learn to live with this new goal. Over time you may find another area that needs attending to. Then you will either come back to me or to another therapist to do more work.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your difficulties, 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 End of a Relationship: An often ignored grief

When someone dies, the living relationship you had with them dies also.

The person you love is no longer in your life and what also dies is the hope of ever seeing them again.

That is incredibly hard, but it is final.

Gone but not dead

When a relationship you are in ends and you part company with someone, they are no longer in your life. However, there is always that small hope that you will see them again.

There is therefore no finality in that relationship.

Often when a relationship ends, there is hurt and acrimony left. So that any time you may see that person it is not the same.

How do you grieve a relationship that has had no finality?

If you add to this the complication of dividing up property and child custody and access arrangements, it gets even more difficult.

The difference between losing someone to death and losing them to a relationship end

There are similarities between losing someone through death and losing someone through the end of a relationship, but there are also differences.

For anyone who has lost a relationship, whether to death or a break up, life has to continue. You still have to go out there and work.

There are still bills to pay. If you have children, there are still their needs to attend to. You can’t just lock yourself away from the world until you feel better.

As I already mentioned, the death of someone involves the death of hope that you will ever see them again. But when your relationship has ended, that hope is still there. If the relationship has become acrimonious, the pain of seeing that person again is compounded.

The hope is there but you hope for the old relationship, not what has now developed. It is like twisting the knife.

It is okay for the bereaved to grieve. But what about those whose relationship has ended?

Another difference between the death of a loved one and the end of a relationship is the recognition given to the pain of bereavement and not to the end of a relationship.

People understand that initially you will feel hurt, but the support you will receive is likely to fade away faster than if you were bereaved.

Plus there are other things to grieve for as well as the end of the relationship.

Am I defective or unloveable?

If someone stops loving you, what does that say about you as a person? Does that mean you are unloveable? Does that mean you are defective? If the other person left you for someone else does that mean you are not worth having a relationship with? Even if you are the one to end it, what does it say to you about your romantic choices?

In a close relationship you define yourself through the relationship. When that relationship is gone, then your definition of self is damaged.

If the relationship end is acrimonious and there are nasty things being said, particularly about you and your parenting ability, it is hard for you to see yourself as worthwhile.

My idea of being a parent just disintegrated

There is also grief at the end of your picture of parenting. You are likely facing co-parenting. No matter how well you and your ex handle that, your picture of what being a parent was has disintegrated. Maybe in time you will build a new picture, but for now that hasn’t happened.

I have to leave my dream home

You are quite likely going to have to leave your family home. If you own it, selling it becomes part of the property settlement. If you are renting, you may not be able to afford to continue to pay that rent on your own.

I struggle financially now

Your financial situation may deteriorate as well. When there are two incomes, then you can often live comfortably. With one income it becomes a lot more difficult.

Grieving the end of a relationship – a summary

When a relationship ends you have many things to grieve:

• The person you loved is no longer in your life.

• You may continue to see them, but the relationship has changed, so there are constant reminders of what was and what you cannot
have any more.

• Where there was love, there may be hurt and acrimony.

• They may start another relationship.

• Your picture of how you would parent your children has disintegrated.

• Your sense of yourself as being a good and loveable person is damaged.

• Your financial status is reduced.

• You may lose your home.

• And so many more losses not listed here.

What can I do about this?

One of the most important things to do is to love yourself. Surround yourself as much as possible with people who will hold you in their love and support you.

Never forget you are wanted. You are lovable. You are not defective.

Remember, emotional pain is processed in the same part of the brain as physical pain. Don’t dismiss your emotional pain. You don’t dismiss physical pain and emotional pain is just as real as physical pain.

Be kind to yourself

You are grieving.

You have lost a relationship, your future dreams, your financial security, your sense of safety in the world.

You spent a lot of time with this person you loved. They occupied your time and your emotions. Their departure leaves a large gap in your life.

Just as with the death of a loved one, your brain has to rearrange its neural networks to adjust to the loss of this person from your life.

Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to grieve. Allow yourself days to be upset and not cope well.

Grief takes time, so be patient.

Remember you are grieving and it is okay for you to grieve.

Grief takes time. It must run its course. Things may seem hard right now, but there will be a day when it will feel easier.

Give yourself permission to cry, scream, lock yourself away for a short time.

Be okay with hating your ex, with being angry, with being sad, with frustration and confusion.

To heal, you must first grieve. There is no way of skipping the grief step.

Give yourself some slack to have bad days.

If it gets too difficult to manage then seek help from a counsellor.

The way of the Triskelion

A few years ago I read about applying the idea of an ancient symbol, the triskelion, to your situation.

This ancient symbol has been used in many cultures for thousands of years. In our world the Celtic interpretation of this symbol is
often applied.

For the Celts the Triskelion had many meanings.

One was that it represented birth, death and rebirth. In terms of your recovery from the end of a relationship that has died there is
the rebirth that will come later.

It is also considered that the Triskelion revolves around strength, progress and the ability to move forward and overcome extreme adversity. These can all be goals to aim for as you allow yourself to grieve.

The path of rebirth

As you work your way through your grief don’t expect to find the type of closure you get with death. In death there is an end to things and eventually a sense of meaning.

With relationship endings it is not possible to end things. You have to find your own resolution and your own meaning in the uncertainty of the end of a relationship.

Over time you will heal and be able to remember the good times and process the bad times.

It will be scary, but you can continue to live after the end of a relationship.

In time you may find another relationship. Or maybe you won’t.

The important thing is that you have survived grief. There will always be that pain, but you will be able to live a happy and productive life.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your relationship 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

7 Words of Advice When Seeking Trauma Healing

If you have trauma in your past. Trauma that is impacting how you are in the world today. You will likely at some stage seek counselling.

Maybe you already have been to counselling.

Maybe you found it helpful, but now feel you need more.

Maybe you thought your counselling was amazing then became scared because you felt useless and the counsellor seemed so capable in life. You may have then decided to stop going.

Maybe you became frightened they would treat you like everyone else had in the past so you ran away from counselling, frightened of imagined judgement.

Maybe later you searched for another counsellor, only to eventually decided to stop seeing them also.

Maybe you heard about or read about some different treatment and grabbed on to that as the miracle cure. When you pursued that cure, maybe you found it helped a little was certainly no miracle cure.

Maybe you have despaired of ever healing this past trauma.

Here are some words of advice for you.

1. First Word of Advice

You’ve got this. You can do it. Yes, your life may well be a mess, or you feel it is, but you can do it. The fact you are here, reading this, speaks volumes for how much you are capable of.

2. Make Sure The Counsellor You See Is Properly Trained

It is important to check out the credentials of the person you are seeing. Are they trauma trained? Blue Knot Foundation is the peak body for trauma treatment in Australia. Has this counsellor completed training through Blue Knot Foundation?

3. Do Your Research

Once you have established that this counsellor has completed this training, you may like to look at their website, social media page/s, or talk to them. Do you think the way they work will suit you?

4. Stick With The Therapy

So you decide to see this counsellor. The important thing to do now is to stick with the therapy. Yes it will be expensive. Yes, the initial session particularly will feel scary. After all, all new experiences are leaps into the unknown and therefore scary.

5. You Are There For The Long Haul

Don’t expect to see your counsellor for a few sessions then finish. Trauma therapy takes a long time.

6. Therapy Is No Walk In The Park. But It Shouldn’t Be A Trip To The House Of Terrors

Therapy will get hard at times. And you may feel you want to stop, but discuss this with your counsellor first, unless your traumatic memories are becoming overwhelming and your counsellor seems disinterested or unable to help you with this, stick with it.

7. You Will Build A Relationship With Your Counsellor

One of the really scary parts of therapy is the relationship you develop with your counsellor. This is known as the Therapeutic Alliance and it is the foundation of all counselling work.

What Childhood Has Taught You About Relationships

It is rare for someone who has experienced childhood trauma to have a secure attachment with their primary caregiver. Secure attachment is where you feel you are safe, secure and that your caregiver understands you and cares about what you are going through. You are confident that this person will always protect you and that you will always be safe. This relationship builds a template for future relationships, where you expect all people you meet to be safe and secure.

If your primary caregiver is not able to protect you, or is the one who is traumatising you, you are likely to develop an insecure attachment style. You don’t expect to be safe, to be secure or to be comforted by this person.

This also builds an expectation of future relationships. If the person who is supposed to love and care for you doesn’t, then you don’t expect others in life to do that same.

The Therapeutic Alliance

When you come to a counsellor, you are going to form a relationship with them. This is often referred to as the Therapeutic Alliance. It is the way you and the counsellor work together. It is your expectation of being believed, supported, accepted, safe and comforted.

Acceptance is a major part of the therapeutic alliance. It is often referred to as unconditional positive regard. It means that I, your therapist, accept you as you are. I don’t judge you. I don’t look at you and think you are defective or unacceptable. I look at you with acceptance. Whatever you do I seek to understand and accept.

If I don’t accept you, then it will be impossible for us to work together. How can you work with someone who doesn’t think you are acceptable?

What if I Expect All Relationships To Fail?

When your expectation of relationships is that they will fail you, it is hard to learn to trust your counsellor. You may work happily with me for a while. But then your past difficulties with relationships will start to niggle.

You will feel that all people have let you down and you will start to feel that I will let you down too.

It is important to discuss this with me. Because I will continue to accept you. I am very aware of the fears you have around relationships. I want you to learn that you can have safe, secure relationships and I want to model this for you.

You Can Learn How To Have A Secure Relationship

Did you know you can learn to have safe relationships. That you can learn to trust. That there are people in life with whom you can have safe relationships. That you can learn to find those people and believe you are worth a good relationship?

As you learn to love yourself more, to learn your worth, to be able to set healthy boundaries and say no, you will develop confidence in your ability to have healthy relationships with others, including your counsellor.

Of course, this learning goes hand in hand with the work on healing your trauma. But remember, trauma wounds impact many areas of your functioning. It is not just the actual trauma but your sense of self, boundaries, worth, trust and the ability to have relationships that is impacted.

Trauma Treatment Takes More Than Just A Few Sessions

Remember, trauma treatment is long term. You may see a counsellor for a while, complete some healing, then take time to consolidate and allow your brain to absorb the changes. Then you may go back to the same or another counsellor for more therapy. This is ongoing. But each time you engage with therapy you heal another area of trauma.

There are techniques that can help heal some areas, but there will be many areas to heal and your brain needs to grow new neural networks. You also need to learn how to be as a person with all the changes. As I have already mentioned, you need to learn to set boundaries, to see your true worth and more.

There Are No Miracle Cures

Remember, there are no miracle cures, but there are techniques that can help you along the way with your healing. Some of the techniques that I use that can give you relief fairly rapidly and assist you with your healing journey are EFT and EMDR. They are best combined with other methods to help you learn new ways of being.

You may feel that you don’t make much progress in sessions, but believe me, you do make progress. Slow and steady progress is how you will heal your trauma. You have to be able to replace the old trauma networks in your brain with new healthy networks. You cannot have a vacuum there where you have removed a trauma impact and have no new behaviours to replace it with. That is why slow and steady works better.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma healing, 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 Extra Support Needs Of Traumatic Grief

Recently two incidents at sea where people were killed have been mentioned in the media. One was the death of 5 people in a submersible craft deep sea diving. The other was around 600 refugees fleeing war and persecution whose boat sank with the loss of around 500 lives.

For the submersible, the media reports stressed that they would have been dead in an instant, not aware that they were dying. No one talked about the slow drowning death of the mainly women and children trapped inside the sinking refugee boat. Their death would have been one they were fully aware was happening.

It was more comforting to think that they people killed in the submersible died quickly, unaware they were dying. It is horrible to think of the refugees and their slow drowning death.

Your Loved One Has Died a Traumatic Death

When your loved one is killed in an accident, murdered, died lost in the bush or desert, suicided, grief becomes complicated by the way they died. You are mourning two things, the loss of their life, and the traumatic way they died. It makes a difference to the way you grieve.

As well as being traumatic, suicide is a unique bereavement so I will address that in another blog post.

How do you cope with knowing your loved one was killed in an accident? Or worse, was killed deliberately? Were they aware they were dying? What was going through their mind? Did they suffer? Were they calling out to you for help or support?

How Society Thinks You Should Grieve

There are many ideas in our society about how you should grieve. Some, particularly if they are based on personal experience, are valid. Others are completely wrong and cause great harm to those who are grieving.

Much of how we grieve is learned from childhood experiences with grief.

Death As An Existential Concept

I am often called to conduct critical incident debriefs. When I talk to people I always seek to find out about their previous experience with grief, and any customs they practice after the death of someone they know. I also seek to identify those for whom the death I am debriefing them over is the first time they have encountered death.

Death is a massive existential concept. It takes a lot to comprehend its meaning and place in our lives. It is the great certainty of life but also the great unknown. It is something we tend to ignore, until we are confronted by it.

I remember my first encounter with a person dying. It was my grandmother and I was 12. I remember asking myself what death was. For me at the time it meant my grandmother would not ring us up anymore. We would never visit her again. I would never be able to learn more from her. She would not be there.

Other people report different meaning making around death.

Always, there needs to be understanding and patience for those who have never encountered death before.

The Meaning of This Death In Your Life

When I work with the first time bereaved, I always try to help them explore the meaning of this death in their life. I also let them know it is okay to have a multitude of feelings. Such as being confused, to feel it is unreal, to feel angry, sad, numb, restless, frightened and so many more things.

One thing I always work to dispel with people is that idea of grief being one of stages. This idea became popular in the early 70s when Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published a book “On Death and Dying”. I remember reading it in the years after my grandmother died. I found it didn’t match my experience at all. When I became a nurse I found it was more applicable for people who were dying than those who were bereaved. I later found out there is a reason for that. The book was aimed at those who were dying, not at those who were bereaved. The book was embraced as being about bereavement and that has been hard to shake.

Since that time there has been much research which has been more applicable for those who are bereaved. None of these research findings list “stages” as being part of the grieving process.

However, the idea of stages still persists. I still have people come to see me who are concerned because they are not following the stages. They have either formed the idea themselves they must follow stages, or they have been told by others they must follow stages.

What Is Known About Grief?

Grief is a total body experience.

We not only emotionally experience grief. It is there in our thoughts, actions, physical sensations as well as emotions. Grief is physically experienced by our brains as neural pathways in the brain are removed and the remnants altered.

As the core of grief is sadness. There is often disbelief, a sense of unreality, anger, fear, brokenness, confusion, hyperactivity, shut down, crying, numbness, guilt, regret, disbelief, lethargy, loss of appetite, feeling overwhelmed, unable to make decisions, and many more. Moods are unstable and change frequently. Any little trigger can throw you back into deep grief.

The intensity of grief will slowly abate. Most people find that after 18 months to 2 years they are feeling their pain less intensely. In the initial stages of grief, it is hard to focus on anything other than the grief. Although you can if they need to, it is often exhausting to do this. Sometime after a few months it becomes easier to put the grief aside to attend to other things.

This is how grief plays out normally.

What happens when the death is traumatic?

Many of the experiences of grief are amplified in traumatic grief. Some of that is due to your body’s defence systems being activated. You may feel combative as your body tries to fight its way out of the situation. Or you may feel agitated and want to run away. This is your body trying to run from a situation it judges you cannot fight. Or you may feel like you are frozen as your brain tells you there is no escaping this terrifying situation.

Traumatic grief leads to more frequent, more intense reactions. Many people report visions of their loved one being hit by a car, stabbed in a fight or whatever caused their death. They may envisage their loved one lost in the bush (if that is how they died), they may experience the horror of imagining their loved one giving up hope of being found alive. All this is heartbreaking.

The pain of losing a loved one in traumatic circumstances is more intense. The idea that someone or something else has caused your loved one’s death adds an extra layer to your grief. The if only’s are very powerful in this type of loss.

Your World View Changes

All grief causes your world view to change. But traumatic grief has a much deeper impact on your world view. The type of traumatic grief will influence the change in your world view. There is a difference to way you will process death due to, for example, a car accident, murder, faulty equipment, and being lost in the bush.

The manner of traumatic death can also impact on the type of support you will receive. One person I saw some years ago lost her son when he was stabbed. She found that people were judgemental about what he was doing out at night in a party area. Did he have a knife too? Was he drunk? Was he looking for trouble? Did he deserve to be grieved if he contributed to his death by being in a party area?

The Blame Game

When a person dies they die. There is no blame. We all make errors of judgement. For your loved one this may have resulted in their death. It doesn’t make you any less deserving of the grief you are experiencing. Nor does it make their loss any less worthwhile.

Another person who came to see me had lost her sister in a car accident. Another driver changed lanes directly into her car and wiped her out. People questioned if it was her driving skills that contributed to her death, this despite the fact the other driver was clearly in the wrong and admitted it.

Fewer People Are Willing To Offer Support

Many of the people I see who lose a loved one traumatically find that they receive less support. Or there is a lack of understanding of the more intense nature of their grief. There is often a lack of support from other people, who will often avoid the grieving person because they don’t know how to respond to their grief.

If you are experiencing traumatic grief, know that your experience is likely to be more intense and last longer. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t push yourself to “get over it” quickly. If you have friends or others in your community who are supportive and seek to understand, keep in touch with them. Avoid the people who are unhelpful. Allow yourself the time you need to heal. If you need it, seek help from a grief counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your traumatic 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