In the wake of your loved one dying, are you struggling to make sense of and cope with your feelings? Grief Counselling can help.

Without fail, everyone who comes to see me after the loss of a loved one tells me they have had so many different messages about how they should be behaving and how to cope.

I have found that in my own experience.

In the wake of my mother’s death, I tried to talk to my siblings about her and how I was missing her and their response was to tell me I needed to “see someone”. A year later, one of my siblings contacted me by email and told me he missed her. By that time I didn’t miss her any more. I guess I could have suggested he “see someone”. I just didn’t reply. I didn’t feel my response would have been polite. Grief is hard to deal with and can cause friction between all those grieving the loss of a particular person.

I have lost count of the number of people referred to me by their GP in the weeks following the loss. In their referrals they describe the understandable grief as “pathological”. They also suggest the use of anti depressants!

Although grief counselling can be helpful. There is no obligation to see anyone about your grief. If you want to talk to someone who understands grief, will reassure you that you are not going mad and is objective then counselling is great. But you don’t have to.

Acute grief, those early days, weeks, months after a loss is painful. It hurts. Nothing is going to help that. Only time.

Many people who come to see me think there is something wrong with them. They are receiving so many messages from others that they wonder if they have something wrong with them.

Messages you may receive from others about your Grief

Messages such as:

• The funeral is over, you should be over it

• It is wrong to sit at home and not go out, you should be getting on with life

• You should be over the tears by now

• You shouldn’t cry in public, it upsets people

• You need anti depressants

• You should be crying all the time, you obviously are not crying enough

• You shouldn’t want to go back to work now

• You should go back to work now

• You shouldn’t be going out so much, you are not spending enough time grieving (whatever they think it looks like)

• Your unstable emotions have nothing to do with grief, you need to get help

• Your anger, difficulty forming thoughts, difficulty doing things, feeling that your loved one is there, and so on, are problems. You need to get help

• You should be glad their suffering is over/you can have another child/you can find another partner.

There are many more, but these are the most common ones I have encountered.

Everyone’s grief is different. Even if you are grieving for the same person, you will grieve differently.

The way you work through that grief is as individual as you are.

You need to find what helps you. What helped a friend may or may not help you. Try their suggestions if you want to, or decide not to. Either way, you will find your own way of grieving.

When should you see a Grief Counsellor?

• Because you want to.

• You want someone objective to talk to

• You are seeking reassurance you are not going mad

• You want to know what is right for you

• You want a witness to your feelings, one who will not judge or jump in with their own opinion

• You feel you need help

• You feel the way you are coping with grief is not healthy or helpful

• You have been grieving for a long time and you feel you may be stuck and want help to move forward

• You would like to learn some coping skills.

Can I Help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Caring For A Grieving Friend And Yourself

When someone we know is in pain, our natural reaction is to try to make them feel better. Some of this response is learned behaviour as this is how our society teaches us to respond to another person’s pain. Some of the response is personal discomfort at seeing another person in pain.

The urge to help someone feel better is frequently the response we choose to the pain we see in another person.

Your Grieving Friend Doesn’t Need To “Feel Better”

When a person is grieving, no amount of “feel better” actions will help them feel better. They are in pain and only time will bring them to a point of being able to feel better.

The Pain Of Isolation

It may not be obvious, or something you think about, but the biggest difficulty for those who are grieving is isolation. The pain of grief is very individual and very isolating. You have lost the person you deeply love and the world for you has stopped. But the world for others has not stopped.

They are feeling terrible pain, but others cannot relate to that. Even others who have loved that person as well will feel their pain differently.

This is terribly isolating.

Isolation is very difficult to cope with at the best of times, but when you are grieving it is worse.

Platitude Peril

Sometimes the very platitudes you have learned to say, because others have said them in the past, make the person who is grieving feel more isolated. Feel that people don’t understand what they are going through.

Some of the platitudes are:

• “They are an angel in heaven now.”

• “At least you had x (amount of time) together”.

• “You can always have another one”.

• “It’s time to move on”.

• “Try to keep busy”.

• “They had a good life”.

These types of statements are really unhelpful and send a strong message that there is something wrong with the person and they need to stop grieving.

Quick, Let’s Pretend They Never Existed

Other people will avoid even mentioning the person’s grief. They will act as though the person never existed. That is so incredibly hurtful. It is as if the person who has died never existed. And that hurts.

For the person grieving, they want to remember that the one who has died existed. That they mattered. That their life was worthwhile. It is very hurtful to act as though their loved one didn’t exist. I have had it done to me and it was devastating to encounter that behaviour.

It Is Hard To Face The Reality Of Death

In this life bad things happen. As we all die, it is a certainty that you will encounter death in your lifetime. Death does not always happen to old people who have lived long, fruitful lives.

It happens to young children, to a young person whose life has ended before it had a chance to begin, to a young parent whose children will lose a parent long before it is time for that to happen, to someone in the prime of life.

It can happen in unfair circumstances due to accidents, random events, even the actions of another.

Safety And Security Is Shattered By Grief

When you love someone you feel safe and secure in that relationship. The warmth and security of the relationship has a deep impact on your sense of well being. Your heart sings with the joy you feel in the relationship with that other person. You are full of love and it feels wonderful.

Then suddenly all that safety, security, joy and love is gone. And it hurts.

That pain. The sadness. The devastation. The confusion and disbelief. All that is natural.

Grief Can’t Be Pushed Away, It Must Be Felt

Grief is a pain that has to be experienced. It can’t be pushed away.

This is why you can’t fix another person’s pain.

They have to experience it and process it.

Yes it will hurt. But suppressing those feelings of pain is a major cause of depression.

The pain has to be experienced. It is the only way the pain can be processed. It is the only way to make meaning of the loss.

What Can I Do To Support My Friend?

In supporting someone you know who is grieving, the support they need from you is to feel less isolated.

This involves just being with them. Don’t try to fix anything. Let them know you are there, no matter what. Let them know it is okay for them to feel devastated, or angry, or like crying or any other reaction they may have.

Just be there. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t try to fix anything, just listen. They need a witness to their pain and you can be that.

Don’t force them to talk. If they want to talk, listen. If they want to be quiet, be quiet with them.

Don’t Forget Self Care

In supporting your grieving friend do ensure you take care of yourself. It is hard to be in the presence of such pain. You may need to take a break every so often.

You may find you need to limit your time with them. That is okay. You have to care for yourself first or you will not be able to care for anyone else.

Let your friend know you can spend some time with them and then leave. Let them know when you can next spend time with them.

If you are struggling with the uncertainty of their grief and the feelings that come up for you around death seeing a counsellor can be helpful.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your feelings around death, 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

5 things to do to help work through your grief

Frequently people come to see me because they are concerned they are not “over their grief” fast enough.

There hasn’t been a lot of research around what people believe is the time span of grief. In Britain researchers discovered that 30% of British people believed grief should last 6 months. Most people considered 2 years was as long as grief should be. And 30% of younger people believed it was possible to ‘get over’ grief. Men were three times more likely to believe grief should be brief and was something you could get over.

Research in America found that the majority of those interviewed believed grief should be over in 2 weeks!

If that is the attitude of British and American people, I imagine if Australians were to be surveyed they would come up with similar unrealistic ideas around how long grief lasts.

Unrealistic expectations make grieving harder

The difficulty with such unrealistic ideas is that if you are grieving, people can stop making allowances for your grief and instead express the attitude that you should be over your grief by now. This is very isolating.

When you are grieving, the last thing you need is to be pressured to stop grieving by others.

Grief is universal

It mightn’t seem so, but everyone is going to experience grief at some stage in their lives.

Some people are so expert at shutting down their feelings they can convince themselves, and others, that they are “over it”. But there are often signs that the grief is still there.

Poor health, high stress levels, depression, addictions, unstable emotional reactions, avoidance of memories of their loss and isolating themselves are some of the signs that grief is still there.

One thing that research shows is that allowing yourself to feel those hard feelings is the best way to move through the worst of the painful times.

Grief is …

Grief can be confusing. It can be overwhelming. It can be depressing. It can cause you to be unable to sleep, or to sleep too much. It can cause you to lose appetite or to want to eat too much. It can be cause you to lose your sense of self. It can be so many things you never expected.

One thing about grief is that you will be a different person after your experience with each grief event in your life.

How do you work through your grief?

5 things to do to help work through your grief

  1. Rituals

There are many rituals around death that are really helpful when dealing with loss. Other types of loss don’t tend to have rituals around them so you may have to devise your own. Rituals add meaning to the experience of loss. They help you to focus, acknowledge and process your grief. There are many cultures that have formal mourning periods. These are usually from one to three years.

  1. Talk.

It is really helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Some people find no shortage of family and friends willing to listen and sit with them. For other people it is much harder. This is where a counsellor can help. A grief trained counsellor will be able to offer you a safe space where you can just be with your grief. No judgement. No problem solving. Just the space to express whatever you need to express.

Talking is really helpful to allow you to express what you are feeling, no matter how inane you think it is. Grief impacts every aspect of your life as you adjust everything you do to a life without the person you have lost.

  1. Journal

Journalling is another great way to express what you are feeling. For many people, the act of writing their thoughts down is really helpful. It allows them to put the cacophony of thoughts they are feeling into some sort of order that makes sense.

Often, seeing the words on the page can reveal things you weren’t aware you were feeling.

Writing down your thoughts can be a wonderful way to express to the one you have lost things you wanted to say to them.

Journalling can be a useful adjunct to counselling sessions as a counsellor can help you process things your writing has revealed.

  1. Reflect

Grief shatters your sense of self. This is very challenging when you are trying to move forward and you are feeling a great sense of loss.

Reflecting on what you have said or written can be extremely helpful. Such reflection can reveal the answers to things that have puzzled you. It can help you to understand things that have happened and make sense of your pain.

It can also be helpful for you to identify the many strengths you have. Strengths that you may have forgotten you have due to the trauma of loss.

  1. Release

Cry, scream, shout, throw pillows, walk into the bush and scream into the trees, stand at the edge of the waves and yell your hurts, fears, frustrations, anger and terrible devastation. Howl and moan until you feel there is nothing left.

Tear up what you have written. Burn it, throw it away.

All these and more are ways you can release the emotions you are feeling.

And finally:

Researchers have found that the intense feelings of grief peak at about four to six months after the loss and then gradually decline over a number of years.
When others tell you that “you should be over it by now”, remember that many cultures have formal mourning periods that last years. After a few years the pain may ease and you will become used to it and able to function in life. But it will never end. It will just get easier to live with.

Can I help?

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How long does true grief last in the heart?

I get asked this a lot.

There is so much misunderstanding of grief.

Add to that the discomfort many people when in the presence of someone who is grieving and you have people being told a lot of things about how long to grieve. About what is “normal”.

AS LONG AS IT TAKES

The reality is grief lasts as long as it takes.

Don’t allow the discomfort of others to make you feel wrong in the way you are grieving or the length of time it is taking.

It takes as long as it takes.

Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

YOU WILL MAKE PROGRESS

Do know that you will make progress. But it will take a long time. You will have good days and you will have days when you feel no better than on the first day.

That is the experience of many other people too.

WHEN TO SEEK HELP

If over an extended period of time (months) you find you are still stuck in the same place you were in when your grief started then you may want to see a counsellor.

HOW TO SUPPORT A FRIEND

If you are supporting someone who is grieving the best approach is to ask the griever what love and support look like at this moment in time. That way you are letting them know you care and want to help. You are also letting them know the help you are prepared to give is what they want and need.

Remember our emotions are what makes us human.

Being sad is a beautiful part of being human.

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

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz