Love And Accepting The Rites Of Grief

“My grief says that I dared to love, that I allowed another to enter the very core of my being and find a home in my heart. Grief is akin to praise; it is how the soul recounts the depth to which someone has touched our lives. To love is to accept the rites of grief.” ~ Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

We lose so much in our lives. There is the obvious death of loved ones, of pets, of dear friends. There is also the loss of homes, jobs, health, fitness, for some, their country.

There are also the losses of dreams, community, nature.

There are too many losses in life to mention them all.

They all have something in common. You need to grieve for them.

The Unspoken Emptiness Inside

If you don’t grieve for the losses then you always have unprocessed grief, an emptiness, inside.

So many people have an unspoken emptiness inside. There is a hole there that you struggle to fill. The emptiness if the hole of unprocessed grief. It is a constant pain, sometimes sharp, but mostly dull. You try to push it aside, but it continues to gnaw at you and hide under the surface, waiting for an opportunity to resurface.

There are many in the field of unresolved grief research who believe that the desire for more in our society has its roots in unresolved grief.

People try to fill the hole by being busy, by frenetic activity, by buying more and more things, by wanting bigger houses and plenty of storage to hold the things that are accumulated.

People also try to control the external environment. Maybe you do that too. An obsession with bodily perfection, with having the perfect house, the nicest car, the picture perfect family, the right friends, the perfect kids, the helicopter cotton wool parent, the hothoused child.

The Myth Of Being Able To Control Your Life To Fill The Emptiness

All this is an attempt to control your life. It is a cover for the emptiness and feeling of being out of control inside. But controlling your external life does not fix the emptiness inside.

All that focus on external things does is deny you the necessary processing of your losses.

Losses are a core part of being human. Running away from the things that frighten you doesn’t make them go away. It makes them grow and become more problematic.

Gratitude, Humility and Reverence for Human Life

Instead you need to allow the pain. Be courageous and sit with that pain. You will find that the pain isn’t as large and insurmountable as you thought it would be. In fact, allowing yourself to feel the pain allows you to access great skills that help you heal.

These skills are gratitude, humility and reverence for human life.

This may sound very airy, but it isn’t.

Gratitude

Gratitude allows you to see those things in your day that you can be grateful for. Even on the worst days there is something to be grateful for. You don’t need to acknowledge gratitude through gritted teeth.

Sometimes the fact that you are alive is gratitude. Even when life seems too miserable to be alive there is still gratitude for that. Gratitude can be about people who in your day did something nice to you. The person who held a door open for you, the driver who let you out into the traffic when you were struggling to get out of a side street, the person who smiled at you and acknowledged your existence. These are just some examples of things you can be grateful for. You can also be grateful that you are breathing, that your heart is beating, that you can think, that you can explore things in your life to be grateful for.

Gratitude means looking for the good and not focusing on the negative.

Turning your attention to positive things is a great help in processing your grief.

Humility

Humility removes the sense of entitlement we all suffer from occasionally. The one that says bad things shouldn’t happen to us. The one that protests at the bad thing that has happened. When you humbly acknowledge that loss is part of being human you remove a burden caused by resisting what has happened and open the way to grieve and process the loss.

Humility doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be angry at what has happened. Far from it. If you are angry then honour that and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger. But allow that anger to dissipate when it is ready to go.

Do the same with other feelings you are experiencing. If you want to cry, then cry. Acknowledge what you are feeling and allow it be there.

Humility means you accept you are human. You accept that something has happened that you are upset about. That you have lost something that mattered to you. Humility means you accept that you are hurt and this is going to require some attention to allow yourself to feel and release the pain.

Reverence

Reverence for human life is important. All life is important and deserving of honour. You are important and deserving of honour. You deserve to be shown kindness. And the person to give that kindness to you is you.

Other people are not always available to give you kindness. If they are, then their kindness is like a cherry on top of a beautiful cake. But your kindness is the beautiful cake. It is the comfort and support available to you all the time. Make sure you show reverence for your own life and give yourself the kindness you need and deserve.

Can I Help?

Sometimes you need help with the grief you are feeling and the pain. It can be difficult trying to find gratitude, humility and reverence for yourself and others. You may need to talk through all the emotions you are experiencing.

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

Surviving Grief: Push Back or Pull Towards

I have written a lot about the experience of grief. About the spinning out of control feeling, especially in the early days of grief.

I have already written a lot about the juggling of grief and living you have to do.

And I have written about finding meaning in that grief.

One thing I haven’t written about is the choices you have.

The Choices in Grief

This is not something to be doing in that acute phase when your body is still in fight, flight or freeze. This is something for later when you feel more in control of your brain.

This choice is about choosing how you are going to react to your grief.

The Choices

When bad things, such as grief, happen you protest. Not surprising. I don’t know of anyone who happily accepts awful things happening. Most people are shocked, devastated, and confused.

At the point of being able to gain control of your brain and make choices you will have two choices to make.

The Protest: Pushing Back

You can continue protesting, in other words push back against the pain.

“No.”

“It shouldn’t be happening.”

“I don’t want this.”

“I want things to be normal again.”

“I hate this.”

And so on.

Transform: Pulling Towards

Or you can consider what your needs are in this situation.
You can acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
You can surrender to them and accept the pull towards feeling the experience of your grief. Through this decision you can transform the situation and proceed with your life.

It is not easy to do, but it is possible.

A Constant Series of Choices

You will find that on any given day you will have numerous occasions when you need to make that choice. It is not a one off, but a constant series of choices.

In a way, making the choice over every step of the way is easier than trying to make the choice over the entire process.

It does require a lot of effort, hence the exhaustion many people experience in grief. Sometimes you may protest and push back instead. Other times you will pull towards and transform your experience.

There will be times when you will need the support of others who will allow you to be with your experience and make your choices without pressure.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with pushing back and pulling forward, 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

What is Prolonged Grief Disorder and Do I Have It?

If you have ever experienced the loss of someone or something that was important to you, then you will know that grieving a loss is never simple.

For starters, grief hurts. A lot.

You will think your pain is settling down then something will trigger a memory and you are caught up in that pain again.

There will always be pain.

There will never be a time that it doesn’t hurt.

But for most people you learn to live with that pain and still function.

It is when grief continues and you can’t function well that grief can be considered to have become stuck and may need help to be able to function well in life.

This is what is known as Prolonged Grief Disorder.

Who Gets Prolonged Grief Disorder?

Anyone can suffer from Prolonged Grief Disorder.

Some people are more vulnerable to being affected this way. If you were particularly close to the person you are grieving, you will be more likely to be affected.

If you suffered from depression before experiencing this grief that may make you more susceptible.

If the death was sudden, traumatic or due to suicide it can also be more likely to happen.

It is important to acknowledge that Prolonged Grief Disorder is not just something that happens when someone dies, it can also happen with a job loss, the loss of a house, the loss of a country, the loss of a body part, the loss of a relationship, and so on.

Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent This Happening?

It is really important that you give yourself space to acknowledge what has happened and allow yourself time to experience those feelings.

Don’t be pressured by other people to “get over it”. Don’t allow the expectations of others to force you to push your feelings aside and not process them.

Do recognise you will hurt for a long time. It is likely that before you are finished the worst part of grieving you will be fed up with being so sad. That is a good sign. It means you are getting ready to learn how to live with this pain.

Be willing to get help. See a counsellor, join a support group, use the support of understanding friends and family. Be prepared to experience your grief.

How Do I Know If I Have Prolonged Grief Disorder?

The first thing to remember is that no attempt is made to diagnose Prolonged Grief Disorder until at least 12 months has elapsed since your bereavement.

I have had people come to see me who are struggling to process the death of a loved one over a year ago, but then tell me another close family member only died a few months ago. If you have two major bereavements that close together, expect to be dramatically affected. You are not suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder. You most likely need support, but you are not suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder.

This is the criteria for an official diagnosis of Prolonged Grief Disorder:

• The bereavement occurred at least 12 months ago.

• You need the above plus at least three of the points below.

• You have lost your sense of who you are,

• You struggle to believe the person is dead,

• You avoid reminders that the person is dead,

• You are still experiencing intense emotional pain (sorrow, anger, bitterness for example) related to the death,

• You are having trouble getting back to work or social involvement,

• You feel emotionally numb,

• You feel your life is meaningless,

• You feel intensely lonely or feel totally detached from life.

If you feel this may be you then it is helpful to see a specialist grief counsellor.

What About My Children?

Children will grieve differently to adults. How they grieve will depend on their developmental stage and each new developmental stage will include a new period of processing more grief.

Another issue for children is the reaching of life stages where the one who has died may have been expected to be present. This is a fresh reminder of their absence and will include a new period of processing more grief.

Teenagers are included in this as their brains are still developing.

What you may see in children is:

• They may wait for their loved one to come back. This is particularly so with small children who have trouble understanding the concept of death.

• They may be frightened other people in their life may die too. With the death of someone in their life their sense of safety is disrupted and will take time and possibly assistance to regain.

• They may develop separation anxiety and not want other people to be away from them.

• They may think they just have to complete some task in order for their loved one to be alive again. This is known as magical thinking. Children can find it hard to understand that things happen in life and they cannot control them.

• Acting out behaviours that may not appear to be related to the loss. You may expect your child to cry or be sad. But what if they become angry and combative? Or they adopt destructive behaviours? Or they act like they don’t care about anything? There are many different behaviours you may see as your child tries to process these unfamiliar and overwhelming emotions.

If your child/teen is exhibiting behaviour that may suggest they are not coping with their loss it is helpful to arrange an appointment with a specialist child counsellor. Later teens are okay with a specialist grief counsellor but I would recommend a specialist for your younger children.

How To Treat Prolonged Grief Disorder.

There are many different therapies that work well with Prolonged Grief Disorder. In my work I use talk therapy, sand play, painting, movement, journalling, writing, poetry, therapeutic cards to name a few.

Please note that there is no medication treatment for this disorder. You need to process what has happened and medications do not facilitate that.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, whether prolonged or not, 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

Denial And Saying Goodbye: Two Difficult Aspects Of Grief To Navigate.

In learning to live with the loss of someone you love, two of the most difficult aspects of that loss are often the ones people get stuck in.

The first is being able to accept the reality of your loss. This is often referred to as Denial of the loss, but it is a misnomer.

The second is being able to reach a point of acceptance, often referred to as the Good Bye.

Denial

When I use the word denial, I am not referring to you refusing to accept your loved one is dead. Denial is referring to the sense of unreality around the death.

The death of anyone you love is incredibly hard to conceptualise. Your brain just can’t handle the enormity of what has happened.

Additionally, your brain is still hard wired to connection with the person who is dead. How can you comprehend that person’s death if your brain is still searching for that connection?

What Denial Feels Like

When you are trying to comprehend the death of someone you are quite likely to feel numb. You may be paralysed with shock.

You may feel the world has lost all meaning. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel life is not making sense.

Earlier I talked about the enormity of what your brain has to take on. This protects you from overwhelming emotions and allows them to be titrated as you are able to cope with them.

A Personal Experience

I remember the unreality of my grandmother dying. It was the first time I had encountered death and I couldn’t get my 12 year old mind around it.

I remember asking myself what death meant. From my perspective it would mean she would never ring us again. There would never be the jokes about how loud she was on the phone (a result of a husband with very poor hearing). It would also mean I would never be able to visit her again, or hear her talk, or see her. It would no longer be Nanna and Pa. It would just be my grandfather on his own. I felt like a massive hole had opened in my life and I didn’t know how to fill it.

When You Aren’t There To Say Goodbye

When my grandfather died I was 19 and had seen a lot of death as a student nurse. I wasn’t there when he died and could only comprehend he was dead when I went to see his body. I just needed to see him.

Everyone has their way of comprehending the death of someone they love. It is a lot to get your head around.

Accepting Means Letting Go

In all my years as a nurse, and as a counsellor, I have never met anyone who didn’t want to believe. They struggled to comprehend, most definitely, but they never denied the loss.

However, some people struggle to let go of the one who has died. They hold on to the person’s possessions, they avoid places that remind them of the person who died, they refuse to visit the grave or release their ashes.

These can all be signs of being stuck in denial. This comes under the term Prolonged Grief. It is where the grief process gets stuck in one area. This is when professional grief counselling is important.

How To Look After Yourself

If you find yourself in the awful situation of losing someone you love, be gentle with yourself. Don’t rush to acknowledge the grief and run on as though nothing has happened.

Allow yourself time to sit with the reality of what has happened and let that reality slowly sink in.

Be ready to let go of their belongings at a time that is right for you. Some rush to do it, others hold on to them for a long time. Be okay with taking your time to attend to those tasks.

Be prepared for the fresh grief as you attend to the handing over of belongings, visiting the grave site, spreading the ashes and all the other tasks that need to be attended to when someone dies.

Be ready to open your connection to your loss and face your feelings about it. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you need someone with you at those stages.

Acceptance: The Act Of Saying Goodbye.

It can be very hard accepting the death of a loved one when their death was particularly traumatic for you.

I have seen many people stuck in the horror of the pain experienced by their love one. For others the stuckness comes at the speed with which the person went from living to dead.

Their age also is a factor and your relationship to them. I have spoken to many parents trying to comprehend the death of their child because that death is out of the natural order of things. You are supposed to bury your parents and your children are supposed to bury you. But when it happens out of order with you burying your child, that is so hard to comprehend.

If the one you love died a long way away and you weren’t able to see them before they died, or you couldn’t be at the funeral, then it is hard accepting the death. Not only that, it is hard to comprehend the fact of their death when all you have is words spoken over a telephone or contained in an email.

A Personal Experience

When my husband’s Aunt died we were living on the other side of the world. I found a days old email in an unused email account stating she had died. It was a shock to both of us. We never knew when she was buried. It took years to learn what caused her death. It was hard for my husband to understand she had died.

It wasn’t just this Aunt. When he was a child another Aunt died. His parents decided he was too young to see her before she died or attend her funeral. He was about 10 at the time. He grieved for the fact he never had the chance to say goodbye.

Many years later another Aunt died and he was in a position to go to the funeral. We decided he would go and grieve for the Aunt who died when he was a child, for the Aunt who died when we were living overseas and this Aunt who had just died. It was an important opportunity for him to accept and say goodbye to all these women who had meant so much to him in life.

When Death Is Difficult

Another way the good bye can be delayed can be when the person who dies has died a difficult death. I have worked with many people who are stuck in the pain their loved one suffered. Acceptance of the death can be hard because the one left behind finds their death too traumatic to accept.

When a death is traumatic like that it can be very hard to move past those painful last hours. I often find helping the person to switch their focus to their earlier life with the person can be really helpful. Remembering the happy times, before the trauma of their death, can switch the focus to the person and their life, rather than the moments of their death.

When someone dies, you are saying goodbye to every moment you had together, not just the moment of their death. When you are caught up in their death, it can be hard to remember that.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with any aspect of 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

Grieving that isn’t allowed

In life you will meet a lot of people. Some will matter very much to you but the relationships will end, or will become more distant.

Examples of this include someone you were once in love with, a family member you lost contact with, a close friend who grew distant when the two of you moved in different directions.

When a relationship ends there is an initial grief for that relationship. But grieving for that relationship does not mean you are not going to grieve again when that person dies. In fact, you are more likely to grieve again over their death.

Denying your right to grieve

The difficulty is in other people recognising your grief, or considering you have the right to grieve.

This type of grief is known as disenfranchised grief. It is a denial of your right to grieve.

The idea of disenfranchised grief is grounded in the concept of human dignity. It is a recognition of human attachment and the needs of individuals to grieve for those they love when they die. For some people, others actively deny them the right to grieve for the one they love. An example is that of an estranged family member who is denied by the rest of the family the right to be at the funeral or say goodbye to the person they love.

For others there may be an assumption by those around them that they wouldn’t feel grief at this person’s death. An example of that is of the ex-partner who moved on from the relationship but still holds love for the person. Many assume that once a relationship is over there is no love there, but that is not true in most cases.

Other ways grief is disenfranchised.

For people in non traditional relationships, grief may be disenfranchised.

In the past people in same sex relationships were often disenfranchised in their grief. Those having extra-marital relationships are also often disenfranchised. Other people may have a close bond with someone that other people do not realise exists. This may happen with a work colleague or a friend.

The loss is not recognised as a loss

If people don’t consider you have lost anything then your grief becomes disenfranchised. This happens frequently with miscarriages, still births, abortions, deaths of companion animals, someone you love being brain damaged or suffering from dementia.

You are not capable of grieving

The belief that you are not capable of grieving happens particularly with children. The old belief that children are resilient fails to acknowledge the impact loss has on a child at any age.

This can also happen with elderly people, especially those with dementia, and those with intellectual disabilities.

The way your loved one died

In this type of loss people may judge the one who has died and consider their death was deserved or not worth grieving over. This can occur with suicide, death from a stigmatised disease, death from overdose, or death due to recklessness – as in a car accident where the person was the one at fault.

Grieving differently to other’s expectations

If your style of grieving does not match what other people expect you to show you may be judged by others and your grief discounted. You may be shut down in your way of grieving which acts to disenfranchise you from being able to grieve.

In many cultures there are different ways of grieving. Being able to observe those rituals is important. If you are denied that then your grief becomes disenfranchised.

When people expect you to “be over it now” that also disenfranchises your grief.

Respect for those who are grieving

It is important to respect those who are grieving and to respect their suffering and their right to suffer.

In grieving there is a drive to experience your suffering. There is also an ability to thrive and live meaningfully after your loss. Allowing you to grieve in your own way to allow your natural resilience to guide you through the difficulties of grief. I will explain this more further in the blog.

Resilience is driven by hope and the potential within you to live meaningfully again. When you are not allowed to grieve at your own pace in your own way it hinders your natural resilience.

The lack of understanding around grief

When other people fail to understand and appreciate what you are living through they are more likely to interfere in your grief. This interference often destroys your natural grief.

People can be well meaning in the way they respond to grief but it can be the wrong approach. When my grandfather died I was staying with my brother, 4 hours drive from home. We were particularly close to my grandfather and could have comforted each other upon learning of his death. Unfortunately my mother decided to let us know individually after I had returned home. She was concerned I wouldn’t be able to drive home safely. My grandfather had died two days earlier so I would have had two days to be with my brother so we could both process our grief together.
My brother, who lived on his own and was a single teacher in a one teacher school, found out when there was no one in the house or his workplace to talk to. I arrived home, one hour before I had to go to my work as a registered nurse, and saw a message to ring my mother at her work. I was alone in the house and had no one to talk to either. I had to drive to work on my own so that wasn’t any safer. At work I was on the relieving roster so spent the evening working with people I didn’t know and with no one to talk to.

Both of us were disenfranchised from the grief at our grandfather’s death.

Unhelpful, disenfranchising comments

The following are a list of comments people on an online poll reported being told. In all cases they felt their grief was devalued and downplayed:

• When things like this happen, all you can do is give it time, wait it out.

• Eventually, you’ll get over this.

• I don’t see how his life can be worthwhile again. He’s lost the only thing that really mattered to him.

• Somehow it feels disloyal to laugh or try to be happy. I sometimes feel that I owe it to him to live in sorrow.
What can I possibly have to look forward to?
Response: The best thing is to try to put what happened behind you and get back to normal as soon as possible. Try to go on as if nothing has changed.

• There’s no point in looking for meaning in something like this. Suffering brings us face to face with absurdity. The best thing is to try to forget.

• You shouldn’t be looking for anything positive in this. There can’t be any such thing.

• Oh, that’s just a coincidence. You’re reading too much into what happened.

• I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that in some ways I seem to have grown from the death of my child.
Response: Face reality. She is dead. You will have to fill her place with something else.
Response: Everything she meant to you is undone.

• If you’re going to grieve, you have to let go completely. It is all about the heartache of goodbye. If you don’t let go, you are stuck in the past.

• Remembering adds to your pain and prolongs suffering. Spending so much time with memories can only bring you down. Let the past stay in the past.

• Don’t keep talking about her. You should be more focused on those who are still here.

You have to let go completely

One thing about the comments listed above is the message that you have to let go of the one who has gone. So often people feel they are not allowed to grieve their loved one. Instead, they are expected to push away all memories and thoughts of their loved one and stop being sad.

Much of this pressure comes from people who feel uncomfortable at another person’s pain. But how can you push away memories of the one you loved so much? Love doesn’t end just because the other person is dead. You will always love them. You will always feel grief and pain at their passing. You will learn how to live with it and you will even learn how to be happy again, but you will never forget.

Grief is constructive

Strange and profane as it may seem. Grief is constructive. It takes resilience to work through grief and find the capacity to thrive and find meaning in life again. It takes strength to face the pain and learn how to live with it. It takes drive to learn how to live again in a changed world. Grief is about experiencing the pain but still saying Yes to life. Saying yes to learning how to forge new patterns of living, find new narratives in life and learn to live in a way that honours you and allows you to live a meaningful life again.

The drive of the Soul

There are two major areas of the self that are worked on in grief. The first is the soul.

Many grief commentators refer to the soul as a drive within. This drive finds the ability to keep going, to find a reason to be living in the present.

The drive of the soul is one to connect to life and other people. It is this drive that leads you to love others and love life. This is the core of the strength and resilience that allows you to continue with life.

This soul drive pushes you on despite the pain. It drives you to reconnect despite the hole left in your world by the one who has gone. This drive pushes you back into life. It pushes you into life with the absence of your loved one.

The drive of the Spirit

The other area of the self is the Spirit.

This is another drive. This drive allows you to get through the acute phase of your grief. This drive allows you to move forward into the future. A future with more unknowns than you thought it may have held. Despite those unknowns, this drive gives you the strength and motivation to step forward and determine to survive and find a new way of living. It guides you to find meaning in your life again.

As with the soul drive, this drive is the core of the strength and resilience that allows you to continue with life.

This is your grief

You can be disenfranchised from grief in so many ways.

There are the losses where you are not recognised as having a right to grieve.

There are the losses where your are not recognised as having lost anything.

There are the losses where people believe you are not capable of grieving.

There are the losses where people judge the worth of the one who died.

There are the losses where you don’t grieve according to the belief of other people.

There are the pat statements that are unhelpful and deny your right to grieve.

There are so many more ways that grief can be disenfranchised.

But you have two drives within you that help you grieve and move forward into life again. The drive of the soul sustains you for the long haul. Alongside this the drive of the spirit helps you through the days of acute grief.

Sometimes you can get through your grief with those you can find to support you. Other times you might need the help of 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

The complicated journey of grief

Dealing with grief is overwhelming.

As you try to come to terms with your grief it can feel so hard to do. Being able to verbalise what you are feeling and experiencing can be so difficult to accomplish that many people never process their grief to that depth.

Grief is complex, overwhelming and unsettling.

The 5 stages of death belief

Back in the 70s it was thought that grief was processed in a straight line. There was a five stage process that you went through in that order. According to this theory you were supposed to experience the stages of:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Later an extra stage was added:

  1. Meaning

This was a theory formed to describe the process of dying, not the process of grief.

So much harm was done to people who weren’t grieving according to the rigid stages structure. Even today, there are those who adhere to this long defunct theory.

The effects of grief are more complex than a simple linear theory.

The tasks of grieving

There have been many theories of death proposed since then. In many of the theories it was suggested there were “tasks” to be completed during the grieving process.

One of the most popular theories gives four tasks:

  1. Accept the reality of the loss
  2. Process the pain of grief
  3. Adjust to a world without the one you lost
  4. Find an enduring connection with the person in the midst of embarking on a new life.

The tasks in themselves aren’t wrong. But a rigid adherence to them is not helpful when you are grieving.

Oscillating between grief and life

More recently the Dual Process Model has become popular. In this theory you oscillate between loss oriented mode and restoration oriented mode. This model has great validity. You need to keep living so you do have to live in the real world and there are tasks of living you still need to do. Additionally you need to learn how to live in the world without the one you love. You also need to process the loss so you need to spend time and allow yourself to experience and accept the emotional pain of your loss.

But there is more to understanding grief than oscillating from loss and restoration.

Multidimensional Grief Theory

In 2023 a paper was released describing Multidimensional Grief Theory (MGT). This theory relates to children aged 7-18 who are grieving. According to the theory there are three dimensions of grief. They are:

• Separation Distress

• Existential/identity distress

• Circumstance-related distress

Although this is aimed at children, my reading of the theory is that it can be applied to adults as well.

Separation Distress

Separation distress is not just an emotional reaction. It also involves areas of the brain where attachments to other people form. When someone close dies, there is a time of that area of the brain removing and altering neural networks connected to that person.

The big issue with separation distress is finding a way to feel connected to the person you are grieving for, even when they are gone.

Existential and Identity exploration

Every time you lose a loved one, there is a period of redefining yourself. This happens because every person you are connected to helps you define who you are. When one person dies, especially if they were very important in your life, you have to redefine who you are.

Every loss is a challenge existentially. I have found this is greater when it is the first time you have encountered the death of someone you know.

The way they died

The last dimension of grief relates to the circumstances of that person’s death. How do you think and feel about the way they died? How do you learn to accept that?

These three dimensions of grief have a major impact on how well you process grief and incorporate it into your life.

The importance of understanding what is happening to you

You may wonder why I am giving you all this information.

It is important you understand what is happening to you. When people talk about you being in denial or anger you can understand this is an outmoded theory on dying that was misapplied to grief.

If someone talks to you about tasks you must complete you can understand what they are referring to.

You are more likely to hear about the dual process model if you visit me and I will explain how you sometimes are overwhelmed by grief and other times focused on daily tasks and learning to live after your loss.

As for MGT, I am also likely to discuss with you the impact on your brain of the separation from the one you love. I will also at some stage explore the existential and identity aspects of your loss. You may also want to talk about how your loved one died so I will most likely explore your perception of that with you.

To Summarise

Grief is a complicated journey. There is a lot to process and a lot of physical changes in your brain to be completed. You need to learn how to live in the world now they are gone. You need to learn who you are. You also need to process your feelings around the manner of their death. Sometimes you will want to talk, other times cry, and maybe other times process your feelings through expressive activities such as poetry, painting, sandplay, or journalling.

This journey takes time, so don’t rush it. Be okay for it to take as long as it needs to.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief journey, 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 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 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

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

Seasons of Grief

You sit in your grief
Frozen
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
Drowning.

And then you realise you will heal
Eventually.
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
Drowning.

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

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