How to hold space for another person, and have space held for you in return

Have you ever had this happen?

Something momentous has happened. Maybe you just got your dream job. Maybe you accomplished something you are proud of. Maybe you are feeling down. Maybe you just want to share your thoughts with another human being.

You talk to another person and they don’t respond as you want. Maybe they jump in with their own story, not even acknowledging yours. Maybe they rush to tell you how to sort the problem, when all you wanted was to be heard. Maybe they said something negative.

It is really hard when another person doesn’t listen.

What you want is for someone else to hold the space for you. To honour you in that moment. To see you. To really listen actively by focusing on your and respecting you enough to pay attention to what you are saying.

Sharing your story is a bid for connection. People make these bids all the time. But those bids are often ignored. When that happens you can feel invisible.

It is really important to give other people time and space to express themselves. And it is really important other people give you that time and space as well.

It is easy when chatting with another person to get caught up in telling your own story, just as they can find they get caught up in telling their story and now hearing your own.

Sometimes you just need to listen. At other times the other person needs to listen.

When you are having a conversation with another person, try to put thoughts about how you might reply out of your mind and just focus on what they are saying. Give them empathy and love because that is usually what they are seeking.

It is important to honour others with your presence.

It is also important that others honour you with their presence.

A good friendship has give and take. Sometimes you listen and hold the space for them. Other times they listen and hold the space for you.

If you find your friend is always expecting you to hold the space and never holds the space for you then maybe it is time to find another friend.

Honour yourself and set healthy boundaries.

Hold the space for others, and expect them to hold the space for you as well.

If you have things going on in your life that you need to talk to with something and be heard, and you can’t find anyone to do that, you can see a counsellor.

Can I Help?

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

If you see me, I will listen, offer empathy and love, and help you make sense of your problem. I will never tell you what to do.

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:

5 Steps to Healing Grief

Grief happens to everyone. Although it is always assumed to be about the death of a loved one, there is more to grief than bereavement.

Grief is about anything you lose.

It may be about getting older.

It may be about losing a job.

It may be about the end of a friendship or romantic relationship.

It may be about moving house.

It may be about being burgled.

It may be about losing your wallet.

It may be about leaving school.

It may be about the loss of your imagined future.

It may be about anything that involves losing something.

Below are 5 steps that are vital for healing.

1.Acknowledge that you have lost something important to you and that you are experiencing grief.

If you don’t recognise that you are experiencing a loss, you can’t process it properly. So much in life involves loss. If you can’t recognise it is a loss it makes it hard to move on in life and in time may hamper you from pursuing new life experiences.

2. Acknowledge your feelings and accept them.

Now that you have recognised you are experiencing grief, acknowledge that grief and accept that you are going to experience a range of emotions that are difficult and that is okay. Grief is most recognised as being sadness, but it can also be anger, guilt, numbness, confusion, irritability, forgetfulness, loss of faith in the world and people and more.

Allow yourself to grieve. It is not “just a wallet”, “just another birthday” or “there’ll be others” to name a few. It is something that you have lost and need to heal from. So be okay to grieve and process what you have lost.

Not acknowledging your grief and trying to avoid feeling the emotions has negative consequences in the future as the pain you were not allowed to process continues to bother you.

Remember that healing takes time, so don’t be impatient to heal, allow the healing to proceed at its own pace. You have the skills and the strength to heal. Remember, there will always be pain and sadness, but it will be easier to cope with.

3. Seek support from your friends and family.

One of the first questions I ask people who come to see me is who their support network are. Most people have at least one or two people they can talk to. If you don’t then counselling can help. There are also crisis lines such as Lifeline 13 11 14 and Griefline 1300845745 that you can talk to if you need one off support.

It is important to connect to people who will listen and be present for you. Sharing your feelings, being understood and offered words of care and support is important.

4. Self Care is vital.

Allow yourself space to grieve. You are worth taking time out to look after yourself. If you want to spend some quiet time processing your grief instead of going out with people then do that. On the other hand, if you want to go out with friends then do that. Give yourself time to engage in activities that bring you comfort, renewal and peace.

One of the things most people find helpful is getting into nature, even if it is sitting under a tree in a local park. The beach is also another wonderful place to be. Having a massage can be helpful too. Meditation can also help, especially after the initial intense grief period.

Allowing yourself time to cry and be sad is also important. As long as you have periods in between where you go out and interact with the world it is good to have time alone. If large numbers of people overwhelm you, just go out with one friends who you find comforting.

You may find getting involved in hobbies, exercise or social groups may help as well.

5. See a Grief Counsellor.

If you continue to find your grief overwhelming, it may be helpful to see a grief counsellor. A counsellor trained in treating Grief can help you to process your grief without the misinformation that is out in the community.

When I work with you I will help you to acknowledge and explore the many different feelings you are experiencing. I will guide you to seek understanding of what you have been through. I will assist you to find in that understanding new meaning in your life and new paths to walk on as you journey into the future.

Can I Help?

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

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:

Hope: A Vital Ingredient in Survival

Over the years I have worked with many people who are suicidal.

One thing I was introduced to early on in my suicide training was the concept of Hope.

What researchers have found is that Hope is a vital ingredient in survival. It is not possible to ask someone who has killed themself what was going through their mind at the time they took the actions to end their life. All researchers have been able to do is to ask people who took steps to kill themselves but survived. What researchers found was that people took the actions to end their lives when they had lost hope.

But hope does more than keep you from killing yourself. It also affects how you cope with life’s crises such as serious illnesses, bereavement, and financial reverses.

Hope is the first Dose

I was recently reading a book by W. Lee Warren “Hope is the First Dose: A Treatment Plan for Recovering from Trauma, Tragedy, and Other Massive Things”.

Dr Warren is a Brain surgeon who works with people who have Glioblastomas, a type of brain tumour.

He always struggled with how to help his patients as they struggled with this rarely survivable, aggressive cancer.

What Dr Warren did was to research how people manage with diagnoses of diseases that will never be cured. He observed his patients, and he researched as many papers on the subject as he could find.

What emerged was 4 patterns of response to the trauma. He named these responses Crashers, Dippers, Untouchables and Climbers.


These are people who seem to have their life together. They have faith in life and are happy. Then something bad happens and they crash emotionally. This crash changes them permanently. Even if the event that caused them to crash and lose faith in life is resolved, they never recover from it. This event becomes the focal point of their world view.

When I work with people who have experienced a traumatic event, such as a bereavement or a serious illness in themself or someone close to them, I frequently notice they have lost their faith in life.

Traumatic events are devastating. They very effectively remove all sense of the certainty of life and of the world as a trustworthy place. It is not surprising that people can crash and not recover without professional help.


Other people enjoy good lives and are doing well. Then when the traumatic event happens they lose their hope and faith in the world.

After some time they start to recover their hope and rebuild their faith in the world.

They learn how to bounce back, often with professional help.


There are some people who are in a bad place when traumatic events happen. Maybe they are struggling to be mentally healthy. Maybe they have a chronic illness. Maybe they struggle with addiction. Maybe they are just not happy with their life.

Traumatic events are accepted as though that is just another horrible thing happening in life.
What Dr Warren found was that the climbers would discover joy, hope and faith in the world. Sometimes they made this discovery on their own, other times the discovery was made after seeking professional help.

They would emerge from this event with a better outlook on life than before. For many their lives were transformed by this experience.

It is as though it gave them something tangible to work on and they were able to use skills they didn’t know they had to improve their outlook on life.


These are people who are seemingly unaffected by traumatic events. They just pick themselves up and get on with life. And they lead full, happy lives.

The Discovery about Survival

Dr Warren discovered that hope was the key in how people coped with traumatic events.

Those who held on to hope were the ones who coped well, even found life better afterwards.

From his observation, that holding on to hope depended on the ability to separate happiness from circumstances.


From my experience as a counsellor and in my own life, that ability is about gratitude. Being able to find things to be grateful for, no matter what is happening in life.

You can always find something to be grateful for, and that will change your perspective from one without hope to one with an abundance of hope.

Another aspect of holding on to hope is being able to accept the difficulties in life. It is about making a choice to see the traumatic events in life from a different perspective. To choose to heal.

This is what Dr Warren did when his own son died, and that is what you can do. It doesn’t change the traumatic events and their aftermath, but it does change your perception and willingness to heal.

Can I Help?

Sometimes it helps to talk to a counsellor to help you find that different perspective and to receive the support you need in difficult times.

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

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:

Taking Grief Seriously

When my mother died, I was living on the other side of the world.

I left my husband and children and flew across the world, not knowing if she would still be alive when I got there.

Losing my mother without the support network of my husband and children around me was hard. I felt completely isolated.

Everyone else involved in the process of her death had someone there for them. I felt very alone and without comfort.

After The Funeral

When I returned home I was isolated from those who knew my mother. Yes my husband knew her, but she was never interested in having a relationship with him so he wasn’t able to relate to my pain. My children were too young and, as my mother was not the grandmotherly type, had little relationship with her anyway.

I tried to communicate with my siblings long distance but they were just not interested in talking about her or sharing their feelings.
I don’t even know if they were upset that she died.

My friends, especially one close friend, were supportive for a few days. Then life went on. And I was expected to be over it.

The Toll of Grief

Grief can demolish your life.

Grief can demolish your sense of who you are.

Grief can destroy your trust in a fair world.

Grief can fling you into the deepest, darkest pit.

Yet it is dismissed as if it doesn’t matter.

The Difficulties of Having Your Pain Taken Seriously

When I first learned my mother was dying I thought I would never get to see her again or attend the funeral. So many are in that position. I was lucky. The expat contract my husband worked under allowed for paid flights back home if a close relative died.

And then you fly home and life is expected to get back to normal.

Except it doesn’t.

After The Funeral

I see a lot of people who take time off work for the funeral but then find themselves incapable of getting back to work when their leave is up.

They can’t manage to function well enough to do anything.

Many report feeling totally without interest in life. They report experiencing brain fog. They feel numb. Many can’t sleep or eat. Many cry sometimes for hours at random times. Others experience severe anxiety, even panic attacks.

Grief Is Not Taken Seriously

A colleague once commented that if someone went to a doctor with these symptoms they would likely be diagnosed with depression and put on medications. They would also likely be given a lengthy medical certificate for work. Because it is grief, there is no such option.

Grief is not recognised as being something you can be signed off work for.

I remember feeling totally lost. I had no idea who I was. I worried I was mentally ill because I had no pleasure in life, in doing anything. I couldn’t focus enough to do anything. Sometimes I felt angry. Other times I found myself crying for no reason at all. I have always been an optimistic person but suddenly I lost all hope. The colour drained out of my world.

It was only years later when I attended a grief support group that I learned I was experiencing totally normal reactions to grief.

The Support Just Drops Away

Apart from the initial support when I returned home, there was never any more support. It was just as if “that’s over let’s get on with life”.

Years later I would feel inexplicably down and realise it was the date my mother died or her birthday.

Complicating Factors

So many people come to see me and report feeling life is just not worth continuing. In fact bereavement is a risk factor for suicide.

For some people their grief can be complicated by other factors. Lack of support is one of the biggest issues for people as they grieve.

For some people I see, the death of their loved one has left them financially devastated. Not only are they trying to work through the fog to grieve, but they are also having to try to navigate the financial mess they have been left. Trying to make decisions about finances at a time like this is virtually impossible.

Prolonged Grief Disorder

Most people will eventually be able to work through the pain and find a way to function and move forward with life. But occasionally people can’t do that. Sometimes people get stuck in their grief. Then it becomes prolonged grief.

Prolonged grief is a more complicated form of grief. It requires specialised treatment to help the person process their grief and find a way to continue with life. I am trained in working with Prolonged Grief Disorder.

You Are Normal

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, please know it is absolutely normal to experience brain fog, numbness, inability to sleep or eat, or sleeping or eating too much. It is normal to cry a lot and at inconvenient times. It is also normal to be anxious. It is normal to wonder if life is worth living. It is normal to feel hopeless and that your life is devoid of colour.

It is normal to grieve. It is normal for that grief to last the rest of your life. It is normal for you to be able to function again and live your life again. It is normal for you to sometimes feel sad about what you have lost in the years ahead.

Find people who can support you. If you need to talk to someone more objective then seek counselling support. Expect to one day feel somewhat better, but don’t force yourself. It all takes time.

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

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:

I have been in a traumatic situation. Will I develop PTSD?

I see a lot of people who have been involved in traumatic situations. One of the biggest fears they express is that they will develop PTSD as a result of the trauma.

What does PTSD look like?

I am including this information to demonstrate how complex PTSD is. People are often afraid they have PTSD but are actually just experiencing a normal reaction to a really traumatic situation.

This information is not to be used to self diagnose. If you are concerned it is best to see a professional who is experienced with PTSD and can make a correct diagnosis.

Formal diagnosis of PTSD includes experiencing at least one of each category of the following symptoms for at least a month:

Re-experiencing the trauma – at least one of these:
• Flashbacks including reliving the event and experiencing physical symptoms of fear such as a rapid heart beat or sweating
• Recurring memories or dreams of the event
• Distressing thoughts about the event
• Experiencing a rapid heart beat, sweating or other physical symptom of stress

Avoiding reminders of the trauma – at least one of these:
• Avoiding places, events, objects or anything that reminds you of the trauma
• Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event.
• Changing routines to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma

Symptoms of arousal or reactivity that have arisen or worsened since the event– at least one of these:
• Easily startled
• Feeling tense or on guard
• Difficult concentrating
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
• Feeling irritable, even having angry outbursts
• Engaging in risky, reckless or destructive behaviour

Thoughts and mood symptoms – at least one of these:
• Having trouble remembering parts or all of the trauma
• Experiencing negative thoughts about yourself or the world
• Feelings of blame directed at you or others that are exaggerated
• Experiencing negative emotions that persist. These include fear, anger, guilt or shame.
• Losing interest in enjoyable activities
• Feeling socially isolated
• Finding it hard to feel positive emotions such as happiness.

How likely is it that you will develop PTSD after a traumatic event?

More people recover from trauma than get PTSD.

Research has shown that previous trauma, especially in childhood, increases your likelihood of developing PTSD. But even that does not mean you will develop PTSD.

The Normal processing of trauma

Many people will report some memories of traumatic events for some time after the event, but these memories fade over time.

People can become stuck in the traumatic event. Triggers that throw them back into the event time and time again are distressing and interfere with healthy daily functioning. Others will avoid talking about the event and situations, people or places they associate with the event.

Trauma processing is similar to Grief processing

There is another life event that can have a similar effect. That is the death of a loved one. For some people the only way to cope with the grief is to avoid all reminders of the loved one.

Another thing that researchers have found is that the more you avoid memories and reminders of traumatic events, the more likely it is that you will develop PTSD. Just as the more you avoid memories and reminders of a loved one, the more likely it is that you will develop Complex Grief Disorder.

Avoiding these memories and reminders is usually due to the extreme discomfort of experiencing these memories and reminders. The emotions associated with them can be extremely difficult to experience.

The importance of processing trauma

When a traumatic event happens it is essential you emotionally process what happened. Much as with grief, it is considered the best way to process this is to titrate your emotional exposure to the event. You allow yourself time to think about it, then allow yourself time to think about other things.

Debriefing after a traumatic event is very important. 30 years ago it was considered essential for everyone to talk about what happened. People were forced to take part in debriefing when they weren’t ready to talk. This caused extreme distress for some people. Not everyone is ready to dive into processing something immediately after it has happened. They need more time to titrate the emotional exposure.

Debriefing today is more an opportunity to talk if you want to and access to trauma counsellors who can help you debrief.

Having your story witnessed and acknowledged

Sometimes after a trauma the focus may be on certain people who are considered to be “worse affected” than others. This may mean that you are not given the chance to tell your story and have the impact of the trauma on you acknowledged. In can be helpful to talk to a trauma counsellor to allow you to share your story and have that story acknowledged. This allows for a better resolution of the trauma.

Some people process things by talking and talking. Others process by reflecting. That is why the debriefing I do, and the format that is recommended, involves letting you talk if you want to or allowing you space if you don’t want to talk.

Sometimes you will need to talk to a counsellor to help with processing the trauma, especially if you are avoiding the emotions and memories due to the pain they cause. A trauma counsellor can help you learn how to cope with those overwhelming emotions and how to titrate your exposure to them.

Unhelpful coping behaviours

In trying to cope with trauma, some people may adopt behaviours that are extremely unhelpful and keep them trapped in the trauma. Substance abuse and increased alcohol consumption are the most common behaviours that I see. They may provide temporary respite from troubling thoughts and emotions, but they are dangerous in the long term and actually keep you trapped in that place of trauma.

When to seek help

Traumatic events take time to recover from. Most people will recover in time. Recovery will usually involve talking about what happened, reflecting on the incident, being willing to cry or experience other emotions.

If you feel that you are stuck in these memories and emotions and don’t seem to be getting better, then it is helpful to seek counselling.

To summarise:

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Previous trauma exposure, especially in childhood
• Getting hurt or seeing others hurt or killed
• Feeling helpless, horror or extreme fear
• Thinking you are going to die
• Having little or no social support after the event
• Being exposed to extra stress after the traumatic event such as pain and injury, loss of job or home, loss of a loved one.

Things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:
• Seek support from friends, family, support groups. Accept offers to engage in critical incident debriefing, either when the counsellors are present or at some point in the next few days.
• Allowing yourself to be upset and impacted by the traumatic event
• Allow yourself to process what has happened and learn from it
• Seek counselling if you need support with the impacts of the event and processing the feelings around the event.

Can I Help?

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

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:

10 Animated Movies That Can Help You Teach Your Child About Grief

I often have parents ask me how to teach their child about grief. They may have a family member dying and they are trying to determine how to prepare their child for death. Or they may have had a family member die and they are trying to help their child understand and process grief.

Death is a major existential event in life. The first time you experience death you are faced with the existential aspects of death. What is it? What does it mean? How does it impact me? What is different in my life? Life isn’t safe anymore. What happens when you die? And so on.

What children need to learn about grief

Children need to learn about death and what it means. They also need to learn about grief.

After all, grief is not just over the death of someone.

Grief is experienced when you experience any loss. It may be the death of someone. Or it may be losing a much loved soft toy. Moving and losing the comfortable home and neighbourhood you felt safe in. Losing a friend, a job, a pet. There are more losses than I can list here.

It is natural to grieve. It is important to grieve. Without grief you cannot heal from the losses you experience in life.
Sub heading Teaching your child about grief

There are many books about grief that can be read to children. There are also a number of movies that children can see. I am going to focus on the animated ones as children often relate to the animated movies better, especially if they are very young.

Here is a list of movies that are recommended as great ones to watch with your child. It is important that you discuss the issues in these movies afterwards. They provide good thoughts that your child can ponder and you can talk about together.

When you talk to your child don’t make it formal. Be relaxed and share what you felt about the movie. You might say how you felt at a particular event in the movie and leave it open for your child to share their feelings and ask questions.

It is important to remember that you teach your children how to grieve. If you can manage grief with openness and compassion, then your child will learn that it is okay to express your feelings and be kind to yourself when grieving. Your child can learn not to suppress what they are feeling and instead accept and embrace those feelings.

1. Charlotte’s Web

This is the original animation of Charlotte’s Web released in 1973. There has been a more recent live action remake, but I am using here the animation. This movie is a lovely gentle movie that is easy to watch and understand concepts presented in the film.

If you don’t know this movie, it is about a girl called Fern who saves a piglet that was the runt of the litter. She feeds him and looks after him and he grows big. He becomes a friend to her. When Wilbur gets too big, he is put in an outside pen where Fern visits him. He is frightened and makes friends with a spider called Charlotte. Wilbur hears that he must be slaughtered for meat. This is terrifying for Wilbur and Charlotte helps him by spinning words into her web. This gets the attention of people who come to visit the farm. Wilbur becomes more valuable alive so his life is safe.

However, Charlotte is a spider and they don’t live long so Wilbur loses Charlotte and grieves her death. But Charlotte has left behind an egg case so Wilbur soon has new friends in Charlotte’s children.

This film introduces the idea that the people we love die. This allows a discussion on death as a general concept. It also allows a discussion on the sadness when someone you love dies and the fact that life goes on and there can be good things happening after someone you love dies.

2. Big Hero 6

In this movie Hiro is a budding robotic scientist. His brother Tadashi is killed in a fire. In the aftermath of Tadashi’s death, Hiro shuts himself off from his friends and family. Eventually he starts to explore what happened to his brother and asks his friends and family for help.

As he investigates his brother’s death, Hiro becomes angry and seeks revenge on the person who started the fire. Eventually he realises that is not the answer and lets go of the need to assign blame and seek revenge.

This is a wonderful movie to show how many emotions are experienced in grief. It also covers the way many people isolate in the early stages of grief. Hiro’s journey from isolating himself, to starting to look outward, to asking friends for help, to wanting someone to pay for his brother’s death and eventually to finding a new purpose in his life is a wonderful example of a grief journey. The new purpose Hiro discovers in his life is what is commonly described as the meaning Hiro discovers in his brother’s death. A meaning he can then use to build his life moving forward.

3. Onward

This lovely movie is about a boy whose father died when he was too young to get to know him. Ian is the boy and we start his story on his 16th birthday.

Ian is given a magic wand that will allow him to spend one day with his father and he sets out of find the crystal he needs to operate it. He enlists the help of his brother Barley. Both boys are hurting over the death of their father. Ian hurts because he never knew his father. Barley hurts because he never got to say goodbye.

As the brother’s seek the crystal and the meeting with their father, they discover each other and the needs each has. They realise they can support each other in their grief.

This movie is wonderful to show how the death of a parent lasts throughout childhood and life. It also shows how important it is for families to reach out to each other and offer much needed support to each other.

4. Up

This beautiful movie is often remembered for the talking dog and its comic wandering thoughts about squirrels. But behind this humour this is a beautiful love story.

In this movie we meet Carl. He is an old man whose wife, Ellie, has died. He lives in their home, isolating himself from the world he used to love. In his sadness he becomes bitter and unpleasant to other people. He remains in the house, reliving in his mind all the moments he and Ellie had together.

His house sits in the middle of a new development. Carl has refused to sell his home, but the developer has an idea. They claim Carl should be in a nursing home and he is about to become evicted.

Carl doesn’t want this and he attaches thousands of balloons to his house so it will float and he can visit a place he and Ellie dreamed of visiting.

Unintentionally a young boy, Russel, is in the house when it floats away.

Over time Carl warms to Russel and the things they do together help him to reach out to another human being. He learns to love again and engage with life. He is finally able to move on with his life.

This movie is a great illustration of the importance of allowing healing and the dangers of holding on too tight to grief.

5. Brother Bear

Kenai’s brother is killed by a bear. Kenai believes he was responsible for his brother’s death. He finds himself unable to face this so he turns his anger onto the bear and kills it.

He is then turned into a bear and discovers the dead bear’s cub. The cub helps him find the place he needs to visit to be returned to human form. As he journeys with this young cub he learns to love and care for it.

Kenai’s other brother, believing both his brothers have been killed by bears, sets out to hunt down the bear to kill it.

Eventually the two brothers let go of the desire for revenge, they learn to forgive, and they learn how to reach out to others for help.

Kenai makes a decision at the end to stay and care for the bear cub and the brothers resolve their differences.

This movie shows the dangers of revenge and how it is often hiding guilt. It shows the importance again of sitting with grief and allowing it to unfold. It also shows the importance of reaching out to each other in grief.

Forgiveness is another theme that is presented in this movie.

Sometimes, when someone is killed in an accident, or by another person/animal, revenge takes on a great importance. It is helpful to see in this movie how revenge is not the answer. Kenai looking after the bear cub is able to see the bear’s perspective and understand her actions more.

Kenai also learns to let go of his guilt and forgive himself and the bear.

There are a lot of emotions present when processing grief, and anger, desire for revenge and the need for forgiveness are powerful ones that frequently show up.

6. Kung Fu Panda 2

This is the story of Po, a panda who has become Dragon Warrior and protector of the Valley of Peace. His antagonist in this story is Lord Shen who has sworn a vendetta against Pandas and, after being banished by his parents, is now waging war against China.
Po lost his parents in the Panda massacre Shen instigated and he still grieves for them. He doesn’t remember what happened and this haunts him.

Shen is grieving the rejection by his parents. He has allowed his hurt to become anger that has been turned into a desire for revenge.
Po directs his grief into more positive pursuits. He accepts his pain but, instead of living in the past, he focuses on the present. This allows him to grow from the trauma of losing his parents.

Shen did not accept his pain. He tries to defeat his pain instead of accepting it and focusing on the present. As a result, he is not able to grow and move forward in life. Instead he is trapped in anger and revenge. He seeks to conquer all of China to overcome the pain he feels. His conquests, instead of bringing him peace, only exacerbate his pain.

Shen’s anger destroys him. Whereas Po’s acceptance and willingness to sit with the pain and accept it allows him to grow.
These are important things to discuss with your child.

7. The Land Before Time

In this gentle movie, Littlefoot’s mother is killed by other dinosaurs. Much time is allocated to showing how Littlefoot grieves for his mother. In time another dinosaur, Rooter, comes and offers Littlefoot comfort.

This beautiful movie shows children the grief at losing a parent, which is important. It also shows the processing of that grief allowing a time when it doesn’t hurt as badly. But it also shows children how comfort can be found in the support of other people and sends a message about the importance of accepting help from others.

8. The Lion King

The 1994 movie is the one to watch, not the recent live action film.

Simba is distraught when his father is killed in a stampede. He believes he is to blame for his father’s death and he runs away. He grows up and adopts a lifestyle where he doesn’t care for anything and avoids the past.

When he is asked to come back to help his family defeat their enemy Simba refuses. His grief has not only impacted on him, but also on the rest of his family.

Eventually Simba is able to put his guilt aside and return to liberate his family from the enemy. In the process he learns he was not responsible for his father’s death. He is able to let go of his guilt and use his grief to honour his father.
Children will often take on the blame for the death of someone close to them. It is important as parents to be aware of that possibility and include that in discussions with your child.

This movie is great for discussing the impact guilt has on grief, that running away from grief doesn’t make it go away, and that no one grieves in isolation. The grief one feels impacts on others as well.

9. Inside Out

This movie has been much loved for its handling of the emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.

But there is another side to this movie. It is about the grief the girl Riley experiences when her family moves away from her happy community to a major city.

Instead of allowing Riley to experience the pain of the loss, Joy tries to bury it. This is something people do so often with grief. This movie shows the ramifications of trying to push away grief instead of processing it.

Because the movie uses the emotions to show Riley’s thoughts, it is great for showing how many different emotions are involved in each memory. Even the happy moments in life have sadness in them.

The movie also demonstrates the importance of reaching out to others for comfort and reaching out to comfort others.

10. Frozen

If we look beyond the passion many young children have shown for this movie and the much played theme song, there is a very important message in this movie.

This movie is about unresolved grief and suppressed emotions.

Elsa’s emotions are demonstrated in her power over ice. As a child, when she is still learning to control her emotions, her ice creating happens often. Her parents are frightened of this and force her to suppress her emotions. She becomes expert at suppressing her emotions, but this also causes separation between her and her sister Anna.

Then their parents die and Elsa becomes isolated from everyone.

This suppression of her emotions causes the icing over of the kingdom. This is a powerful metaphor for the impact suppressed emotions have on you and those around you. So often people suppress their emotions out of fear of feeling them, or what will happen to their behaviour when they feel them.

But emotions need to be experienced in order to resolve them. When you allow yourself to feel emotions you become better able to control your reaction to them and express them in a healthy, helpful way.

So many people are taught to suppress their emotions, including grief. Fear is a driving force behind that suppression. Suppressing emotions can also lead to isolation from others.

This is what happened to Elsa.

The freezing of the kingdom is only resolved when Elsa learns not to isolate herself from her others and learns to not be afraid to experience her grief.

Can I Help?

Teaching your child about grief means you have to confront your own issues around grief and death. That can be hard. Sometimes you need help to give you the tools and resilience to take your child on this journey. There may be unresolved issues from your past that need to be processed to allow you to be present for your child.

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

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:

How to reduce relocation trauma for your child

For 8 years of my children’s childhood my family lived as expats. They had to move to a non English speaking country and attend an international school that was British based. They had to cope with the isolation of not speaking the local language, the multiple strange British accents in the school they attended, a different culture (yes British culture is very different to Australian culture), a different way of teaching and so much more. My older two children moved from primary to high school, but my youngest two changed primary school and then went on to High School. That was a lot of change for them.

Returning to Australia was not easy. They had to negotiate a different school system and children raised in a monoculture, when they had been raised in a multicultural setting. Not surprisingly my school age children made friends with the foreign children in the Australian school.

My children managed this transition. They were helped by the International School being one where there were always new students, so there was more openness to make friends. When they returned to Australia they attended a school which was expanding and meant there were many new students joining with them. They all made friends and the older ones got after school jobs. They settled very quickly.

Children can find moving difficult

Not all children, however, find the move to a new area and new school is easy.

Often there is a focus from parents on the positive benefits of the move. I know that is what I did. Other parents I have spoken to also focus on the positives. If the move is the result of a conscious decision to move then the parents will be enthusiastic about it.

But it is not always easy for children to make that move.

New schools can be traumatising

In fact, children can be traumatised by the move and that trauma most often happens in school.

The best parents in the world who have prepared their children well for the move can still find one or more of their children are traumatised by that move.

The trauma lasts into adulthood

Many adults who come to see me about their past moving traumas will report the difficulties of moving to a new area, leaving behind their friends and everything familiar, and having trouble settling in to their new school and establishing friendships.

The losses and grief of moving

Moving to a new area is exciting for everyone, especially the adults who made the decision to move. But there are many losses involved in moving. These losses will be felt by the parents as well as the children.

How to help your child through these losses

Acknowledging those losses and allowing them to be expressed is important. Giving your child a hug and telling them they will make friends soon is not what they need. What they need is to know you have heard them.

It is important to acknowledge verbally that your children are sad they have left their best friend behind, or the activities they used to do, or the lovely tree they sat in when they needed a reset. It is also important that you are silent to allow them to talk if they want to.

You can’t and shouldn’t fix their grief. But you can allow space for it to be there, for it to be acknowledged, and for them to express what they need to express. Your child’s grief at what they have left behind is not a judgement on you, it is a normal part of change.

You grieve too

If you are honest, there are things you miss too. Maybe you already grieved for those things too but did it as part of the process of making the decision to move. Children may not developmentally be able to grieve in advance. Nor did they make the decision to move. It makes a difference to how they grieve.

The pattern of adjustment when you move

In the last 25 years I have moved a lot. What I came to understand, and observe in myself is that there are phases of adjustment you go through when you move to a new area.

At first it is exciting and new. There are definitely areas of uncertainty and stress. But there are also areas of excitement and the thrill of things that are new and novel.

After a few months that excitement wears off and you are left trying to manage in a new area where you have to work harder to meet your needs and those of your family. That is when the sadness can creep in. And the comparisons with the old life you had.

Eventually you will settle in and find a new rhythm. You may always miss things about where you were before, but you will have worked out ways to meet your needs and be okay with that.

Warning: Be careful what you say to your children

Be careful of what you say in your children’s hearing when you reach that sad/comparison stage. I have seen many children who were managing the move relatively well but then had to listen to one or both parents express how much they hated living in the new location.

Remember, when you reach the sad stage, so will your children. Research has shown that children will cope better with change when their parents are coping. So it is important that you give your children the security of feeling safe because you are managing this.

You can do this by resisting the temptation to criticise and express the wish to return to your old location. Instead be honest about the fact you weren’t able to do something or you missed someone but also instil hope in that statement. Maybe you can say that it is hard to find everything in a new location but you will work it out.

Being open about your difficulties gives your children permission to be more open about their own.

Take time to sit and listen to your children

Stopping to talk to each one of your children about how they are managing is also important.

Allowing them to not be happy about the move is important. Remember, this is not a judgement on you. I have known families who have made decisions their children were not happy with. They have allowed the children to express their unhappiness and supported them. Many of those children have shared later in life that they settled and loved their new life. They just needed time to form new networks and find their place.

Some children will cope. Others will not

It is also important to remember that some children in the family may cope well with a move and others may not. This may be as simple as the type of children in their year at school.

The child who did not fit in

One adult I saw recently moved towards the end of primary school. She had very supportive friendship networks where she had lived. She had grown up with these friends and they all went to the same school, living in close proximity to each other so that they could just wander from house to house whenever they wanted to.

In the new location there were no networks of friends she had known all her life. There was no way to just pop to a friend’s house. She was isolated in the new home.

Her brothers were into sport and quickly found sporting teams and made friends. Her sisters were teenagers and had the confidence to slip into the friendship groups in their years at school.

But this adult, then a shy 10 year old, found it harder to fit in. She was at the start of puberty and still trying to work out who she was. In her old location her friends knew her well and accepted her. But she was trying to fit in with new children who did not know her. They were not as accepting.

Her sisters were at high school and her brothers were off pursuing sport so she was very alone at school.

As often happens when a child does not fit in she was bullied. That made it even harder for her to make friends.

Her parents thought her unhappiness was something that would pass. They had busy lives and did not take the time to sit with her and understand she was being bullied. They brushed over her difficulties.

This adult told me how she had felt really self confident when she moved. Over the ensuing years her confidence in herself and her ability to make friends nose dived. For her the move had been very traumatic and had resulted in lasting impacts on her life.

She also found her relationship with her family was impacted. She had felt unsupported and over looked. She felt her parents could have done a lot more to support her and her siblings could have paused occasionally to offer words of support and comfort.

Her life has been impacted to the extent that as an adult she is still needing to work through the trauma of that move.

She has little contact with her siblings and her relationship with her parents has been strained. She has communicated to her parents what happened to her as a child and they have acknowledged the damage done to her, but the years of trauma have been difficult to overcome and their relationship has never recovered.

Plan your move to allow support for your children

Moving is often necessary. But there are ways you can help your children cope. These ways were discussed in the blog. The most important one is to remember to always be available to sit and listen to your children. Don’t assume that everything is okay.

It is important to reach out for help if you are not coping with your move. Remember, if you are finding it hard to cope then be willing to reach out for help.

If your children are struggling, then reach out for help.

Can I Help?

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

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:

Grieving as a Community

We all remember terrible incidents over our lifetimes when there are deaths of a large number of people. They are shocking. But nothing is as shocking to the world community than the death of a large number of children.

The horrifying number of children killed in American schools by mass shooters is distressing. So too are school bus crashes when multiple children are killed.

The Community Horror of Tragedy

A large part of what most people feel in the wake of such incidents is horror at what the parents are going through.

As a community we also feel the horror of those beautiful lives that have ended far too soon.

For the families of these children there is terrible grief, especially when more than one child has died. But
I am not going to talk about that today.

What I am going to talk about is how we as a community grieve the loss of lives, especially those of children.

The Cost of The Loss of an Individual

How do you quantify the loss of a child?

When a child dies their physical body and presence on earth is lost. But there is more than that which is lost.

There is the potential that is lost. Who might that child have become? How will the future be impacted by their absence? What relationships will never form because they are not there? What contribution may they have made to the world? What might the descendants that will now never be born have contributed to the world? How will their death change the course of our lives?

What The Loss Means to Family and Community

How do you quantify what the loss of each child means to their family and friends?

How do you quantify what the loss of each child means to their community?

As each layer of society is affected by the loss of each child, the impacts radiate out into the next layer and the next layer. Very much like ripples in a pond.

How Individuals Are Impacted

As citizens of this earth, we are all impacted by these mass deaths.

We feel deeply for the families. Many of us will imagine how we would feel if it was our own child and we feel such grief for the parents. We feel their pain and it hurts. Many will cry over the pain of the parents.

As an individual in a community you will likely grieve for those lost lives. It may not consume you in the way it would if the child was a family member, but you will still feel the impact of their loss. Your brain will not be as impacted as you had no neural connection to the child, but you will feel the pain of caring for a fellow human who has suffered the unimaginable loss of a child.

As you absorb the horror of these losses, your own grief for those you have lost in the past may surface. And that is something you will need to attend to.

Secondary Trauma

The deaths of so many and the horror you feel is known as secondary trauma. You may not have personally been involved, but you can put yourself in the place of those who have been personally involved. When you do that, you can feel the horror they are feeling.

Don’t fear secondary trauma. It is a beautiful reminder of how interconnected we humans are. We are not isolated communities in separate countries. We are all citizens of the earth. One large interconnected mass of humanity.

We Live In A Connected World

It is hard, in this world of mass communication and heavy news coverage, to avoid being exposed to terrible tragedies. And would you want to live your life unaware of the need to show compassion for others?

From devastating house fires, school shootings, earthquakes, tsunamis, bushfires, floods and more you experience so much of the horror of the world. You may not hear of every tragedy, but the ones you hear about are difficult enough.

What Can I Do?

When something terrible happens on the other side of the world, or the other side of your community, what do you do? What can you do? It is hard to feel anything but helpless in these situations. What can you as an individual do?

When something terrible happens there is such sadness. You may not personally be involved but you still feel sad. Maybe you even feel guilty that you are enjoying life with your family in your home. You may well long to rush out to offer comfort to those who are hurting.

So often after terrible events the community draws together. The number of people who donate money to assist others caught up in disasters is one such instance. After floods, the people who turn up to help with the clean up is another instance. Communities draw together and offer support. In large disasters help comes from all around the world.

Community Healing

This drawing together of people is part of the healing of the community. Honouring the lives that were lost is another way of healing. Ensuring changes are made to reduce the likelihood of the incident happening again is another way of healing. As is setting up disaster protocols and teams to respond more effectively to any future incidents.

The pain of what happened will always remain, but the community will move forward with the sadness of what has happened.

The Power of Compassion

Importantly all will remember that compassion is a powerful tool to give to others. And you will do well to remember that you are a member of a community. It may seem you are alone, but in reality you are not.

If a tragedy leaves you feeling unable to cope. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. That may involve talking to understanding friends, or seeing a counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you process these difficult events and your own grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or

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:

7 Ways To Reduce Stress

When stress levels are high you can feel that things are out of control. You can feel overwhelmed with tasks and feel unable to cope with your massive To Do list.

Here are 7 “C” suggestions of things to do to feel better able to manage that stress.


When you feel overwhelmed with things to do you don’t feel in control of your life. It feels more like life is controlling you and you are drowning in the busyness of it all. It is really important to find some space to think. So take time out. Even a few hours. Review everything you have on.

• Is there anything you can pass on to someone else to do?

• Is there anything non urgent you can move to another day/week/month?

• Which tasks need to be done so that your life can continue to function? (such as clean clothes, food, clean dishes, caring for children if you have any.)

• Which tasks are “like to do” rather than “need to do” tasks?

Question: what can you do to feel more in control of your life?


When you feel capable of completing the tasks you have to do, the tasks are easier to do. That doesn’t mean they won’t take time. You do need to be realistic about the amount of time a task will take and the amount of time you have available to complete your tasks.

Question: what skills do you need to learn or improve so that you can feel more competent?


If you are confident that you can manage the unexpected obstacles to completing a task you are likely to feel less stress around attending to tasks. Fear of things going wrong and not knowing what to do is a major contributor to stress.

Question: how confident do you feel? Describe that level of confidence. What can you do to increase your confidence?


One of the best buffers against high stress levels are healthy relationships with other people. It is not so much about having great friends, but more about feeling you have a community around you that you belong to.

It is about having a network of people you can turn to for help when you need assistance, advice or other resources to complete your tasks.

Questions: Who are the people in your life you can go to for support or belonging? How might you make connections in the community? Do you have strong connection with family, friends, and your community?


This may seem odd, but it is important the tasks you have to complete align with your values. Doing something you feel uncomfortable about is going to make you feel stressed and going to make the task a hard one to complete. That then leaves you with a To Do list with uncompleted tasks. That is a recipe for high stress.

Things to consider in this situation are:

• Who has assigned this task to you? Is it work related? Has a friend/family member asked you to do something? Is this something you feel you have to do because you don’t know of any other options?

• What is it about this task that you feel uncomfortable about?

• Which of your values does this task not align with?

• What other options are there for you to consider regarding this task?

• Do you have to do this task?

Questions: What are your values? What things you do make you feel uncomfortable? What is it about them that is uncomfortable?


There are myriad ways of coping. Some of those ways are helpful and some are unhelpful. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to cope, but these are unhelpful because they never allow you to resolve the problem. It just becomes buried and that causes more problems. It is better to see a counsellor to learn coping techniques than resort to substances and behaviours that bury the problem. Some ways to cope are:

• Self care – take time out to do the things you love to do. Maybe you like a massage, or a visit to a float tank. Maybe you love seeing family or friends. Maybe you love walking in the bush or walking along the beach. Maybe movies are your self care.

• Relaxation – learn how to meditate. Guided meditations can be really great for that. Mindfulness is also a good meditation to do. Yoga or Qigong are also great for relaxation. Or you can find activities that are relaxing such as going to the beach, hugging a tree, a bush walk, jogging, walking, going to the gym and many more.

• Spending time on a relaxing hobby.

Questions: What do you usually do to cope when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Is it helpful or unhelpful? What is something more helpful you could try?


This one refers to the contribution you make to the community in which you live. It is about volunteering to help others. It may involve dropping in to say hello to an elderly neighbour. It may involve volunteering at a Homeless Shelter. It may be as simple as giving a family member a lift somewhere.

Contributing is part of connection. When you contribute to your local community you feel more connected and invested in your local community. Research has also found that people who are willing to help others are more likely to reach out for help when they need it.

Part of Contribution is allowing others to contribute to the needs in your life.

Questions: What can you do to contribute to your community? What can others do to help you?

Putting the 7 “C’s” into practice

Here are some important things to consider when managing high stress levels:

• Have healthy boundaries. Learn to say “no”. Learn to be okay to ask for help, but also to not be involved in something you don’t want to do. Learn how to stop people encroaching on your boundaries. This is an aspect of control in your life and also coping.

• Accept who you are. You are like anyone else and that is wonderful. You are unique. There are things you are good at, and things you are not as good at. There are things you know how to do, and things you have yet to learn how to do. Know your limitations and accept them. Learn the things you need to learn and accept it will take time to be competent. Know also when it is time to stop because you have realised you will never be able to do something competently. This is an aspect of control, competence, confidence and character.

• Practice a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you get enough sleep. Eat a diet that is well balanced and low in junk and high sugar foods. Move and exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the Gym. It may mean you take a walk on the beach, go dancing with friends or dancing in your own living room. This is an aspect of control and coping.

• Ensure your routine includes time to attend to essential tasks and allows time for play. This is a big part of self care. If you don’t spend time relaxing and recharging your batteries you will not be able to complete those essential tasks. This is an aspect of coping and control.

• Embrace mistakes and failures. They are a normal part of life. They are also opportunities to learn and grow. A popular learning theory holds that we learn about something then try to do it. After we have done it we evaluate its success. Do I need to do it differently? Is there more I need to know? Have I learned something from this attempt to show me how to do it again? After evaluating, you try again. This goes on until you are able to complete the task. According to this theory mistakes and failures are a vital part of learning. This is an aspect of competence and developing confidence.

• Be creative. Try different ways of doing things. You may find a better way of organising your life. The creative ways I have devised throughout my life mean I can achieve a lot more than I could in earlier years. There were many creative ideas and some of them worked really well and I still use them. I still apply creativity to completing tasks. This is an important aspect of control and competence.

• Recognise and manage those things in life that will bring up unhappy memories that upset you. There will always be things like that. Maybe recognising why you were upset about something is possible and will help you be alert for that again. Recognising where the upset comes from is a great aid to being able to learn strategies to manage it. You can also see a counsellor to learn strategies when you are unable to.

• Talk to someone you trust when you need help.

• Can’t find anyone to talk to or who is helpful? Talk to a counsellor.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning to reduce stress, set boundaries, accept yourself, feel more in control, competent, connected make connections, identify your values, learn method of coping, and develop the skills to identify ways to contribute in your community please contact me on 0409396608 or

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: