The Grief of Chronic Illness

There have always been people with Chronic Illness. Mostly they remain hidden and few people acknowledge their existence. Occasionally there may be some uplifting story about someone with a chronic illness achieving some great thing. But mostly people are unaware of chronic illnesses in our society.

With COVID there has been slightly more awareness of chronic illness as people have been impacted with long COVID and other side effects of the disease such as the loss of smell and taste.

Chronic Illness Is A Loss That Needs To Be Grieved

There is little attention paid to the necessity of people whose lives have changed dramatically to grieve for what they have lost.

Even people impacted by chronic illnesses that they eventually recover from need to grieve what they lost.

I Have Been There Too

I understand this because as a teenager I had an illness that led to me over a year losing 6 months in three month blocks from school during the last three years of school. When I recovered I still lacked the stamina to do much more than go to school and go home.

I lost those experiences of getting a part time job, socialising with friends, achieving what I wanted to at school, and confidence in myself. Long term illness can do that to you.

I also lost faith in my health, Even now, all those years later, I am aware that I could suddenly lose my good health and be incapacitated. Most people don’t even think about it.

The Great Silence Around Your Losses

When I was sick nobody talked about what I was missing out on. Maybe they didn’t want to worry me. Maybe it didn’t occur to them. But those losses were hard, and it took me a long time to recognise they were losses and that I needed to grieve for them.

Talking about my losses would have given me permission to grieve for them.

I have learned over the years to grieve for what I lost, but I see many people who don’t realise they need to allow themselves to grieve.

The Uncertainty Is Frightening

I didn’t know at the time whether I would get better. Other people didn’t. I didn’t know if my life would never get to start the way I planned. Other people don’t get that chance.

It was a frightening time.

No matter what age you are, discovering you have a life changing illness, one that will not be over in a matter of a few days, is devastating.

What is not generally acknowledged is that chronic illness is a major loss. It needs to be grieved. The feelings around that loss need to be allowed and acknowledged. If they remain hidden they will never be resolved. As with any grief, embracing those feelings is essential to allow grief to progress and for you to move forward with life.

Many who experience chronic illness tell me they have to come to a place of being able to accept this is their life now. Then they can learn how to live with what is.

The Experience of Long COVID

One long COVID sufferer I saw recently spoke about losing their job and the ability to pay for private health, the loan on their house, and the loan on their car. They could no longer manage to take part in all the sporting activities they loved to do. They became a shadow of the person they saw themself being.

They tried to stuff their feelings down. To ignore the enormity of their emotional pain. To adopt a happy persona who saw the positive in everything. But they couldn’t keep it up.

The biggest issue for them was the loss of control over their life. Suddenly their body was taking control and they were powerless to stop it.

This is when behaviours aimed at gaining some sense of control can creep in. Addictions and eating disorders are the most encountered control behaviours. Pushing yourself to “do” things is also a control mechanism. If you can “do” you can control your life and it has the advantage that you can avoid dealing with the grief around the changes in your life.

These behaviours don’t help. They just compound the problem.

Finding Help

Many sufferers report that finding a counsellor who understands this is difficult. Even understanding from family and friends is difficult to find.

An awful lot of time is spent trying to find help or running away from the reality of what is happening.

You may find yourself oversharing on Social Media or directly to friends. Sharing all the symptoms, all the losses, all the emotions. You may find loads of sympathy or you may find people stop responding and start avoiding you instead. Ultimately you will realise sympathy doesn’t help.

What Helps?

What helps are those who help you to process your grief. Those who help you to find a way to manage the new reality. Those who stick by you no matter what.

It also helps to allow yourself to experience all the pain of the emotions of grief and loss. If it is hard to do you may need the help of an understanding counsellor.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Chronic illness is a hard journey and one best done with support.

Can I Help?

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

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

Grief Is About Living, Not Just Losing

Everyone lives life with expectations about what life will be.

Eventually there is disappointment when life doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. The way you believe it should be.

In life there are two ways to deal with disappointment.

The first is to protest: I didn’t sign up for this!!!

Life has not turned out as you wanted it to. The trouble is you can get stuck in that protest place and feel miserable and never free yourself to grieve.

Or you can choose to grieve and transform the disappointment.

Some people have learned to transform. They take life as it comes and roll with the punches. They can manage with uncertainty. But for most of us, we have yet to learn this lesson and disappointment, coupled with surprise or shock, leads to grief at the loss of our expected life.

Learning to accept the uncertainty of life allows you to:

• See things as they really are. This allows you to understand life better.

• See opportunities you didn’t realise were there.

• Feel more at peace and comfortable as you switch your attention to what you have instead of what you want and don’t have.

Grief Is About Every Loss In Life

Grief is not just about losing someone you love. Anything in life that is lost, be it a limb, friendship, home, job, life expectation and so on is a loss that you grieve.

The fact that these losses are not recognised as things that are grieved for, makes it harder to grieve.

Examples of big losses in life that need to be grieved for are:

• Having a child born with severe disabilities that changes the expectations you had for the life of that child. You may love that child and determine to always support them, but you still grieve for the lost expectation.

• Future plans to retire and enjoy life changes when your partner becomes very ill and you have to be their full time carer.

• Losing a much loved and valued job.

Grieving Is A Skill

Grieving is a skill that you can learn. People who experience a lot of grief often learn the skills to allow them to process their grief faster.

Whatever the cause of your grief, remember that it is normal. The normal trajectory of grief is that over time the grief diminishes and becomes less. You also start to discover meaning in your life again.

How Long Does Grief Last And Is It Always This Intense?

To answer this question, I am going to ask some questions of you first.

What Was Your Relationship To What Or Who You Have Lost?

If your emotional needs were primarily met by the one you have lost then you are going to need to find someone to meet those needs.

Initially a counsellor can help with that. You can also join a grief support group. In the long term you need to find ways to get those emotional needs met.

How Supportive Is Your Social Network?

The strong supportive social network helps you meet your emotional needs and is there to support you when you need help.

Do You Have Meaningful Activities In Your Life That Are Not Affected By Your Loss?

Having activities in place that are meaningful for you will help you continue with your life.

Part of grieving involves finding new meaning in your life. Having some meaning already can help shorten that process. For some people, their loss changes their life priorities. If that is you, then you may find you need to seek new ways of finding meaning in life.

How Counsellors Help

The biggest way I help people is to allow them to talk to me without any judgement or “fixing” from me. Being able to express your feelings in a safe place allows you to process them better. You can contextualise your grief better with counselling. You can also organise your grief better so that it is more manageable.

So What Does This Have To Do With The Grief Of Lost Expectations?

One thing to consider when you grieve lost expectations is to identify where they came from.

Society is great at teaching you what you should expect from life.

From birth you are introduced to concepts of the ideal life. From the story books you have read to you, to the children’s television programs. These all teach you expectations of what life will be.

As you grow up you observe what people around you are doing. You learn to expect your life to be like that of others. Older people in your life teach you this too. Maybe they talk about what you will grow up to be. There are expectations that you will have a job when you grow up. Expectations that you will find a life partner. Expectations that you will have children. Expectations that you will live in some sort of home.

Advertisements, movies, television series, the conversations of those around us. All these give you a picture of the life you should expect to live.

So where in this perfect picture does a disabled child fit? Or a partner requiring your care? Or you becoming disabled and needing to be cared for? Or losing that wonderful job that means so much to you?

All these things are contrary to what you learned to expect in life. All lead to grief. All need to be grieved.

Life Wasn’t Meant To Be Easy

That may be some put down by a politician, or a platitude thrown at you by someone uncomfortable with your struggles. But the reality is that all life contains suffering. Some people may get a lot more than others, but all will experience some.

If you allow it to, suffering can teach you things.

You may find good people who help you when you didn’t expect that to happen.

You may discover strengths you didn’t realise you had.

You may learn to appreciate life more.

You may find a different way of living that suits you better.

Expectations Around Your Latter Years

For many people I see whose long-term relationships break down once they are over the age of 50 there is often a lot of grief around the future. When you have been in a relationship with someone long term there is that expectation of a future together.

As the Beatles suggested in “When I’m 64” there is the expectation of being in the relationship forever and growing old together. What happens to that? Will you grow old alone? What does that mean for your quality of life? Will you have no one to care for you? No one to notice if you fall? No one to be there should you die at home? What about money? How will you survive? Will you actually have a home to live in? Or will you end up homeless?
These are very real concerns. So Grief is complicated by fears for safety and companionship in the future.

The Value Of Problem Solving

A lot of these lost expectations revolve around what you imagine will give you happiness.

But what if happiness, true happiness, is found elsewhere?

Researchers have found that people who solve problems in their lives report greater happiness and sense of agency than those who don’t solve problems.

That may sound strange but it makes sense.

If you encounter a problem in life it can feel very disempowering. But if you work out how to resolve that problem then you feel good.

Working through your grief and learning how to solve the problems that grief has caused is empowering and builds happiness.

How To Engage Problem Solving

So you had a picture of what your future would be like.

What was that picture?

How has it changed?

What is missing from that picture now?

You have identified what is missing. Now you know what you have lost.

Was what you thought the future would be like realistic? After all, we all imagine amazing things, but they rarely happen. And we are usually fine with that because on some level we know they were unrealistic. Also that realisation usually unfolds slowly, not abruptly when something major happens.

Identifying the unrealistic expectations can help with being able to let go of them.

What you are left with are the expectations that were more realistic. Maybe they were long cherished dreams that are now shattered. These are the ones you need to grieve. Because you put in the work to identify these deep losses, it is actually more manageable to work through them. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it is now a more manageable size.

You may be able to work through these losses on your own or you may need help.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grieving your losses in life, 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

Why Imagination—Not Resilience—Might Help You Heal From Heartbreak

One of the buzz words you will likely hear spoken around disasters and traumas is resilience. It is particularly popular in schools where teachers speak enthusiastically about developing resilience in children. Sadly, teachers have so much they had to teach children that adding resilience to the mix is really difficult.

Resilience Is Not Always Enough

What researchers have found is that maintaining resilience is virtually impossible. Resilience is defined as a consistent ability to adapt to difficult situations and return to normal.

This is fine if you have gaps between your difficult situations that allow you to adapt. As for returning to normal. Once something, anything, happens it changes you and you can’t go back, only forward.

Resilience requires great mental toughness. Something that goes out the window with massive difficulties. Facing a life changing crisis is more likely to leave you feeling weak and disempowered.

Mental Toughness Leaves When Facing Heartbreak

If you have been through a disaster or major trauma, or you have faced a devastating grief, mental toughness is one thing that will be in short supply.

You are scared, tired, overwhelmed, not knowing what to do next.

Resilience goes out the window here and suggesting to a person in that situation that they are resilient and will cope, or that they need to learn resilience is soul destroying.

You Can Only Ever Go Forward, Never Back

In grief, as in disasters and major traumas, life altering events occur. There is no going back to what you were. You are in uncharted territory.

You won’t bounce back. You won’t get over it. You won’t go back to what was there before. To how you were before.

Learning To Be A New Person

What you do need to do is learn how to be a new person. The new person who has suffered a loss and has been changed by what has happened to them.

You won’t bounce back, you will likely limp slowly over the finish line, long after the race organisers have packed up and gone home.

Imagination, The Hero Of Healing

What is more likely to help you in grief is your imagination. That right brain side. The creativity that allows you to find solutions to life’s problems. The side that allows you to imagine things. The side that is curious, open and allows you to adapt.

The right side of your brain allows you to imagine the future. It allows you to look at the future from different angles. It allows you to perceive your blackness and despair as something temporary and malleable. As something you can change. As a future with potential.

Imagination Brings Your Conscious Brain Back On Line

There is a method of using imagination to reimagine past events in an effort to heal the past trauma. This uses the concept that imagining things stimulates the cognitive part of our brains that is usually taken off line in unsafe situations, such as grief and trauma.

Researchers have discovered that if you are able understand what matters to you most right now then you can use your imagination to discover what is possible for you to do in the present moment.

Imagining What You Are Able To Do

Your imagination actually helps you to imagine what you are able to do in this moment. Not what you “should” be doing, but what you are able to do.

The interesting thing about imagination is that it can find slight suggestions of hope that you can use to help you through this time of heartbreak.

People who have used their imagination to get through grief have found that imagining something as simple as getting out of bed, having a shower, eating breakfast, getting dressed, going out of the house. Have helped them actually do those things that had seemed so impossible.

Imagination Helps You Get Back Into The World

As the people moved out of the deepest parts of the crisis they were able to imagination things that led them out more into the world.

Over time, these people were able to use their imaginations to discover the new them and the new life without the one they loved so much.

Your Imagination Will Never Remove Your Pain, But…

You can never imagine away your pain. That would be impossible. But you can imagine small gaps in your suffering that can allow other things to happen. Moments of laughter, connection with others and compassion for yourself and others.

You can imagine so much more. Maybe a conversation with a stranger that becomes amazingly soothing and even healing. Peace when you suddenly see a beautiful flower. The feeling of support when someone gives you a hug.

Imagination allows you to discover that your life is not all pain, that there are still things in your life that are not pain.

Find Your Way Out Of The Pain

When you are in such pain that you can’t see a way out, imagination can allow you to make a choice that will help you see there are gaps in that pain. This is wonderfully helpful for you in being able to cope.

You can imagine choices in what you will do, in where you will go, in whether life is all darkness, or there is light there.

Using your imagination allows you to imagine meaning in the loss of your loved one.

Making a Choice Between Hardness or Imagination and Possibilities

Yes, you can survive the depths of grief by becoming hard, or you can use your imagination to find those gaps in your grief where you can use your curiosity and be able to live with the uncertainty of your life as it will become. You can even use your imagination to stop being afraid of your suffering.

The Role of Mindfulness

To use your imagination it can be helpful to use mindfulness to access that area of your brain.

Mindfulness is a practice that is best used regularly, preferably daily. It can be just 5 minutes. You can do it quietly without anyone else noticing. Although it is best done somewhere away from others, many people practice on public transport on the way to or from work because that is when they have the best opportunity to snatch 5 minutes.

A Helpful Mindfulness Practice

• Sit quietly, preferably somewhere where you will not be disturbed. This is really helpful when you first learn to do mindfulness.

• If you can, close your eyes so that you can focus better. Alternatively you can soften your focus or look down into your lap.

• Take a deep slow breath in to your tummy.

• Release that breath slowly.

• Continue to breath deeply, in and out.

• As you breathe in, notice the feeling of the air entering your nose, you tummy and chest expanding.

• As you breathe out, notice the feeling of the air leaving your nose and your tummy and chest contracting.

• As you breathe in, breathe in peace.

• As you breathe out, breathe out tension.

• Breathing in peace

• Breathing out Tension.

• Once you are settled into this rhythm, and you feel the tension has been released from your body, breathe in say to yourself:

• “Who I was before this time of suffering cannot be resurrected.”

• Continue to say this for a few breaths.

• Now when breathing in say a word of something you are determined to experience while experiencing this hardship. The word may be peace, growth, connection, surprise, reconciliation or any other word that expresses what you are determined to experience in your recovery.

• Now use this word as you continue to breathe in.

• Imagine what it would feel like to be that word, not in the future but now. Find somewhere in your current life where you can feel that word now.

This may seem hard at first, and it will be. But with commitment to practice regularly you can find a way to move forward with your life and your healing from heartbreak.

Can I Help?

Sometimes, when going through experiences that are hard to live through, it can be helpful to get help from a counsellor. If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your heartbreak, 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

“I don’t love you anymore”. Getting over the trauma.

Many years ago I had a woman come to see me.

She had been married nearly 50 years, having married in her teens. It was a very long and seemingly happy marriage.

One day her husband told her he had never loved her.

He left.

She was devastated.

The Impact of a Relationship Ending

It is unlikely what he said was true, but so often I hear one of a couple tell their partner the same thing. It is as if in the moment they don’t love the person any more so it becomes “I never loved you”.

This woman had worked hard all her adult life. She was approaching retirement. They had been planning all the things they would do. Now all that was over.

She was facing retirement and old age on her own without the man who had been part of her life for almost 50 years.

Relationship Ending Cause Grief Too

And there was the pain.

He didn’t part amicably. It was nasty and messy. He left and ignored her. The only contact was through lawyers.

The Pain of Rejection

How do you recover when someone you have spent all your adult life with is gone?

It is hard enough when they die. But when their departure is due to them not wanting to be with you anymore that is excruciatingly painful.

It is an incredible rejection.

She had moulded herself to be the other half of a couple. They had a lifetime of memories together. The children they shared, the places they had lived, the pets they had over the years. Everything was a tattered wreck.

How Counselling Helped Her

The woman who walked into my room was shattered. She was stripped of self confidence, self esteem, self worth and sense of self. She was deeply grieving the loss of her future, her plans, her dreams.

But she was resilient. After a few sessions where she was able to express all her anger, devastation, fear and the desire to get him back, she began to realise how resilient she was.

She determined to reclaim her life. And to reclaim it as it related to her. Not as half a couple but as an individual.

Retelling Your Life Story

To do this she decided to tell her life story. Prior to this point she had been telling it as half of a couple. Now she told it as a single person.

She told and retold and retold the story.

She kept telling it until she was able to develop a fresh sense of self.

Finding Who You Are in the Retelling

With that newfound sense of self she was able to hold a fresh perspective on her life. With this perspective and her renewed sense of self she was able to find purpose and meaning in her life to date and in her life moving forward.

This may sound extreme, but we all tell and retell our life stories. Every time you relate to someone else the hurtful things in your past, or the great things in your past, you are telling your story.

What this woman did was look at her life story from a different perspective. She looked at is from the perspective of being an individual.

You can do this too, not just with your stories of loss, but with anything in your life.

Can I Help?

When you are in the depths of grief and rejection, it can be hard to find your story to tell and retell from a new perspective. At those times it can be helpful to see a specialist grief counsellor.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your loss and rejection, 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

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 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

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 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