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

I didn’t think I had an abusive childhood, but now I realise I did

Do you need other people to validate the things you do?

Do you need the approval of others?

Do you find it hard making decisions for yourself?

Do you find it hard feeling self-reliant?

Do you find it hard to regulate your emotions?

Are you really hard on yourself?

Do you feel you have little or no worth?

Do you do things to numb your emotional pain?

Are you frightened of rejection and abandonment?

Do you feel you are stuck in angry mode?

Do you find it hard to feel joy or peace?

Do you find it hard to get close to other people?

Do you feel lonely and seek out others to compensate for your loneliness?

Do you feel lost, misunderstood or that you don’t fit in and others are judging you for that?

Do you frequently feel anxious or depressed?

Are you frightened of social situations and fear being rejected.

Do you feel others judge you as not being good enough?

Do you feel empowered in your life?

How childhood experiences can impact you as an adult

Did you know that trauma in childhood has a significant impact on your self-worth?

If your sense of safety and belonging in childhood was damaged you are likely to have developed skills to keep you safe in that situation. As you grew up you may never have unlearned those skills, so they trap you in patterns that don’t serve you in adulthood.

Also, poor attachment between your parents and you puts you at risk of suffering from loneliness in adulthood.

Traumatic experiences in your childhood disrupt how you see your self as a person and affect your ability to regulate your emotions. All this impacts on the quality of the interpersonal relationships you have later in life.

My parents didn’t physically or sexually abuse me. I can’t have suffered trauma.

It can be hard to understand you have been traumatised in childhood. The usual picture of trauma is that of being hit or sexually abused. But trauma covers much more than just that. In fact, the worst traumas are emotional and psychological.

Neglect

Neglect is a trauma that is often overlooked. With neglect the child’s physical and emotional needs are frequently overlooked. It may involve not receiving regular meals, not having clean clothes to wear, not having your emotional needs for comfort and support met. A parent who rarely interacts or shows an interest in you is also neglectful.

Neglectful parents are also unlikely to be there to teach you skills of emotional regulation. They may not teach you how to wash yourself, how often to change your clothes.

It is unlikely a neglectful parent will see you and spend time connecting to you. This is known as attunement. A child who is not seen is a child who is not safe. Not being safe is extremely traumatic.

The clear message in this situation is that you have no worth or value. After all, you are not worth having any time or attention given to you.

Narcissistic Parent

Narcissistic parents are also very destructive of a child’s sense of self-worth.

Such a parent depends on the child to make them feel good. The child gets positive attention when they do things that serve the parent. The trouble is, there are no clear guidelines as to what the child needs to do to serve the parent. Consequently, the child lives life second guessing the parent in order to feel that the parent will care for them and they will be safe.

Narcissistic parents will also often shame their children in front of others. They will expect their child to meet their needs, to do things to make them proud. They will never teach their child any skills that will equip them for adulthood and self-reliance.

Narcissistic parents will often hold the child close to serve their needs. They want the child to stay dependent on them because the child is there to serve their needs and that is why they had them.

One classic example is of a woman who would take her child to school. The child would happily run into the classroom and greet her friends. The mother would call her back and make a fuss of her, stating it was okay for mummy to leave now and she would be okay. The child would go back to her friends and be happily talking with them. Again, the mother would call her back. This would continue until the child’s resolve was broken and she would wail and beg her mother not to leave her.

A narcissistic parent is one of the most destructive types of parent and sentence their children to mental poor health and a dependence on validation from others in adulthood.

Complex PTSD and Borderline personality disorder

These conditions develop because of chronic trauma experienced in childhood. The type of trauma most associated with these conditions is emotional abuse and invalidation. It can happen if you are neglected or have a narcissistic parent. It can also happen from other types of abuse and invalidation.

Sometimes parents are not aware that their behaviour towards their children is invalidating and can be surprised when their child develops this disorder in adulthood.

When a parent is emotionally abusive or invalidating during a child’s early years it impacts on the child’s sense of self and the child can struggle to have a strong sense of self.

You may develop self-defeating attitudes and beliefs around yourself and the trustworthiness of the world.

When raised in such an environment it is also difficult to learn to regulate your emotions. This is often due to your parents being unable to regulate their emotions. How can you teach another person how to regulate their emotions if you can’t do it yourself.

For this reason, I encourage people who had difficult childhoods to seek counselling from a trauma trained professional before having children. Many parents who were emotionally abused as children are determined their own children will never have to go through that. But sometimes things your children do can trigger reactions in you that you can’t control and don’t like doing. If you find raising your children triggers behaviours you struggle to control then seek counselling. Seeking help makes you a good parent.

Unstable and intense relationships

If you find that any type of relationship you have with others tends to be intense and over time unstable then you may be experiencing the impacts of chronic trauma in childhood. Sometimes these relationships happen because you are uncomfortable being alone and seek out anyone who looks willing to be in a relationship with you. This can result in you unconsciously choosing the wrong type of person to have a relationship with.

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you can sabotage it by clinging to the person and unwittingly pushing them away.

I think you are the best, I hate you patterns

Another impact of childhood trauma can be seen in meeting someone new and idealising them. This continues for some time then you start devaluing them and finding things wrong with them.

You are too hard on yourself

One of the saddest impacts of childhood trauma is the lack of self-worth and lack of self-compassion.

It is not surprising that children develop these beliefs. When a parent is abusive, or expects you to jump over hoops to gain their approval, the natural response is to believe this is because you are a bad person. If your parent constantly tells you that you are bad then this belief is reinforced.

The reality is that a child is just a child learning how to live life. There is no inherent badness in a child. Sadly a child doesn’t know that. Shame becomes a big part of the life of an abused child.

Ways to dull the pain

If you never learned how to regulate your emotions, and you believe you are a bad person, then you feel great pain that you don’t know how to soothe.

Many people turn to behaviours that numb the pain. These behaviours may be dangerous. A good example of this is children who steal cars then drive them dangerously at high speed. The risk and dangers inherent in this activity help to suppress their pain.

Other things people do include addictions such as substance abuse, smoking or vaping, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, exercise addiction and eating disorders.

I am lonely

If you don’t feel you are worth anything then you may not feel you are likeable. The result is that you may avoid getting close to others so that they can’t reject you.

Getting close to another person means exposing yourself to the rejection of your parents. If they rejected you, then other people will too.

When you do form relationships with others you may be frightened of expressing your needs or asking for help because your parents failed to meet those needs when you were a child. So you may feel even lonelier because you can’t turn to someone for help.

Many people who suffered trauma in childhood report feeling lonely.

Depression and Anxiety

It is very common for someone traumatised as a child to be anxious. Your childhood was an anxious time of never being sure when you would receive support, or whether you may be abused. Abusers are rarely predictable so hypervigilance was an essential part of childhood.

Hypervigilance leads to anxiety. There is the need to be constantly on your guard because you never know what is going to happen in the next minute. You never know when things will suddenly become dangerous and frightening.

When you grow up and things become safer the fear doesn’t go away because your brain has developed neural pathways that constantly scan for danger. This is why anxiety is a constant companion of the traumatised child.

Depression is another consequence of this type of childhood. Many people report feeling depressed from childhood. The sense of not being good enough, the lack of self-worth, being emotionally worn down with anxiety and fear, the rejection and abandonment of parents and the sense of never being safe all contribute to feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and lead into depression.

I constantly feel on edge

The environment of neglect and emotional abuse is a highly stressful environment. Children in this situation are being impacted regularly by the release of stress hormones in the body. This has an impact on the developing brain and will often result in an adult who is highly sensitive to stress hormones.

The result is that your brain is in a constant state of defending yourself. In other words the fight/flight/freeze response.

It is very difficult to cope with life if your brain is constantly seeing danger and you spend a lot of time with your brain taking over your life and deciding whether you are to fight, run away, or freeze.

When this defence mechanism takes over, your thinking brain switches off. You can’t control your reactions. Sadly, very few people understand this and you may find yourself judged when you get stuck in this defence response.

It is for this reason that it is important to seek counselling from a qualified trauma counsellor.

Can I Help?

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

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

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

That is incredibly hard, but it is final.

Gone but not dead

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

There is therefore no finality in that relationship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I defective or unloveable?

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

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

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

My idea of being a parent just disintegrated

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

I have to leave my dream home

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

I struggle financially now

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

Grieving the end of a relationship – a summary

When a relationship ends you have many things to grieve:

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

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

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

• They may start another relationship.

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

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

• Your financial status is reduced.

• You may lose your home.

• And so many more losses not listed here.

What can I do about this?

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

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

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

Be kind to yourself

You are grieving.

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

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

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

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

Grief takes time, so be patient.

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself some slack to have bad days.

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

The way of the Triskelion

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

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

For the Celts the Triskelion had many meanings.

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

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

The path of rebirth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I Help?

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

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

The Myth of Passive Aggressive Behaviour

There is a lot of misinformation about behaviour and its causes in the general community.

This leads to many terrible things being done to people who should be given understanding.

One popular thing to accuse people of is being Passive Aggressive. The label is freely applied to people but there is extremely limited understanding of what passive aggressive behaviour actually is.

The source of the myth

This myth is not helped by the fact that there used to be a “personality disorder” listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This “disorder” labelled Passive Aggressive was dropped 20 years ago.

Despite this no longer being accepted as a disorder, the community persists in applying this label to people. People who exhibit this behaviour have had trauma in their pasts and need understanding, not misguided judgement.

What behaviour you may see in someone labelled as Passive Aggressive

• Often a perfectionist with very high standards of their own behaviour.

• Difficulty identifying what they want.

• Difficulty asking for help.

• Difficulty setting boundaries and saying no.

• Low Self Esteem.

• Sensitive to criticism.

• People pleaser who seeks to accommodate other people’s wants.

• Hates to disappoint people and can become very distressed when think they will.

• Frightened of taking initiative in relationships.

• Finds it hard to say no so will instead say yes but try to communicate no by hints or cancelling at last minute, often in great distress.

• Withdraws when someone is angry with them.

• Doesn’t make feelings, needs and wants known to others.

• Saying no leads to feelings of guilt and great anxiety that have upset other person and that they will be rejected for that.

• Expresses feelings through behaviour rather than words.

• Seek to avoid conflict at all costs.

• Taken advantage of by others.

• Feels like a victim.

• Often unaware of feelings. Can be angry and not aware of it.

• May resort to more subtle behaviours to communicate message such as being sarcastic or even fantasising about getting revenge.

• Often feels resentful.

• Can’t understand why others can’t see their needs. Desperately wants other to see them because it is not safe to express them.

• May sub consciously adopt “unhappy” behaviour as non verbal communication.

• Procrastination, inefficiency, stubborness and sullenness are some behaviours that may be used.

Dispelling the myth: what passive aggressive behaviour is actually about

When a child is unable to express their needs safely they will adopt other ways to communicate their needs. This is not a deliberate thing. It comes about because their brain seeks ways to communicate that are safe.

One way to do this is through non verbal communication.

So you may see “unhappy” behaviour, sullenness, procrastination as behaviours that communicate unhappiness. These are not adopted deliberately.

When it is not safe to express needs openly, then passive aggressive behaviours become a safer way to express those needs. That is why you will notice people dropping hints, or being reluctant to do what you ask, or looking sullen.

Have you been accused of passive aggressive behaviour?

When you have learned it is not safe to express your needs you will frequently feel you do not have the right to have needs. This is why you will struggle to set boundaries and say no.

You will also notice you seek to avoid conflict. But underneath you may feel great distress at the way things are happening.

Internally, you may find it hard to even acknowledge what you are feeling. You may feel you are judged by others for the way you feel. In fact, you are judged because of ignorance about your behaviour.

The pressure cooker of denied needs

You may have learned as a child to push down your feelings. In adulthood you continue to do this. Over time this pushing down creates a pressure cooker situation where your feelings will explode and you may express them in a number of ways. For example by being angry, or bursting into tears, or running away.

How to be less passive aggressive

Ultimately you need to be honest with youself about your feelings and learn to express them more assertively. It is important to be aware that not everyone will accept you being more assertive. When that happens the other person is acting out their own insecurities. This doesn’t make you wrong. But it will feel uncomfortable.

Be honest about your feelings.

Learn to express yourself. This will help prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and resentment.

Do you need help?

It is not easy to learn to feel safe expressing your needs. Healing the past and learning to let go of the protective behaviours that kept you safe, but no longer serve you, is hard.

It is particularly hard to do on your own.

This is where counselling can help.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you to learn how to effectively meet your needs 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

4 ways to feel so you can heal

When people come to see me about the difficulties in their lives I teach them to be more aware of their own thoughts, emotions, reactions and body sensations that occur when they encounter difficulties.

There is a reason for this.

Many years ago, John Bradshaw wrote that you cannot heal what you cannot feel.

Many have sought to debunk this statement, but the reality is that pushing the difficult feelings down so you think you aren’t aware of feeling them, does not allow healing.

The difficult feelings are still there, even when you can’t consciously feel them. And those difficult feelings have a massive impact on your behaviour and reaction to things.

DO YOU WANT TO BE FREE OF THESE REACTIONS TO THINGS THAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL?

Here is what I teach you to do. It is based on the RAIN meditation as taught by Tara Brach.

  1. Recognise or become aware of your emotions. This includes being aware of what is happening in your body. a. What sensations can you feel? b. Where do you feel them? c. What do they feel like? d. What are the thoughts in your mind?
  2. Acknowledge and name what you are feeling. This is important as you cannot address the emotions if you aren’t able to identify them. Also, naming your emotions helps you to separate them from you personally.
  3. Investigate or explore those feelings. This is important to understand where they come from. It is helpful to consider how old the one expressing the thoughts is. Reactions to things come from past events when a difficult incident has become embedded unresolved in your memory. When incidents occur that are similar to the original incident you react according to that unresolved memory.
  4. Nurture yourself. Offer yourself compassion and kind words of comfort.

Let me share this in a more expanded form.

PROTEST OR TRANSFORM?

Becoming aware of your emotions is important. So often you may feel upset, uncomfortable, angry and not know why. Your rational brain may be telling yourself you are being silly. You may feel alarm because in the past these feelings have led you to behave in ways that have damaged relationships.

I have been taught that when I face difficulties in life there are two choices:

• Protest and push through

• Transform and stop to explore what I am feeling.

Protesting means you just push forward and push the emotions down. You may react in ways you wish you hadn’t. You just push forward and keep going. And this situation repeats and repeats until you do something to get help.

RAIN

Transforming means you stop. You allow yourself time to explore what is happening for you.

You follow the path of RAIN.

RECOGNISE WHAT YOU ARE FEELING

You seek to become aware of what you are feeling. You become aware of the sensations in your body, their location, the type of sensation they are, the words or phrases running through your mind. All these are valuable for you to understand what is happening.

If you take the time, you will realise what you are actually feeling.

Don’t be afraid of those feelings. All feelings are okay. They are vital clues to what is happening for you. They are clues to unresolved issues from the past. Issues that continue to influence the way you react to things.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS

Now you have taken the time to identify your feelings you can name them.

This naming is not a shameful or condemning thing to do. It is about recognising without judgement that perfectly understandable feelings you are experiencing.

You may be feeling angry, hurt, confused, shame, fear and so on.

INVESTIGATE YOUR FEELINGS

You have named your feelings, now you are going to investigate them further.

• Where did those feelings come from?

• Are there any memories that come to mind when you investigate those feelings?

• What do those phrases in your head say?

You have found a memory – now it is time to go deeper and explore more of that memory.

• How old were you?

• What was happening for you?

• What were you feeling then?

• Is it reasonable to judge yourself at that age, circumstance?

AN EXPLORATION INTO THE PAST

Often when you explore the source of feelings you find their source is an incident from your childhood.

Looking back now you can realise the child’s feelings and experience were normal for a child of that age and developmental stage. You can see the child you were as a small child who needed support and understanding. You can see that you can’t judge them from an adult perspective, because they were a child. You can recognise that the thoughts the child had are based on the child’s limited understanding of the world. As an adult you can give a different interpretation to the situation and not judge the child for what happened.

NOW YOU UNDERSTAND YOU CAN COMFORT

The natural thing to do now is the offer comfort to that small child. You are the adult looking back at an incident in your childhood. You can recognise that truth of the situation and that the child needed an adult to offer support and love.

You are the adult. It is time for you to comfort the child.

So offer them words of love and support.

“My darling that was so scary.”

“you were so confused.”

“it’s okay now. I am here. I’ve got this.”

THERE ARE MANY WAYS YOU CAN CALM YOURSELF

Comforting yourself as I described above is a really great way to calm yourself.

Mediation can really help to. Guided ones are great ways to start.

Learning Mindfulness is important to help you be able to recognise what is going on in your body. You can also meditate using Mindfulness. At the end of this post I have a link to sign up for my newsletter. Signing up gives you access to a quick mindfulness meditation you may like to try.

You can also try painting. I don’t mean painting some masterpiece. I just mean putting your feelings on to paper. You can swirl paint around. You can paint lines, dots, circles, squiggles, cover the page with paint, mix it all together into a muddy clump. You can use your fingers. Just allow yourself to put on the page what you need to let go of. Remember, if you feel like painting figures, stick figures are fantastic.

Journalling can be another outlet as well.

EXERCISE AND FUN ARE IMPORTANT TOO

You may find taking a walk calming, especially if you walk amongst the trees or on a beach.

Swimming, any form of exercise, yoga, stretches. There are myriad ways you can move.

Remember the importance of just having fun. Laughing with friends or family, throwing a ball around, trying to ride a unicycle!, anything that is fun. Just being able to forget your worries and responsibilities and have fun with others.

WATCHING YOUR DIET

Making sure you eat foods low in sugar is important. As is avoiding too many take aways. Add lots of vegetables into your diet. The healthier your diet, the better you feel.

Restricting sugary drinks and not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are also helpful.

When your body is trying to cope with excess amount of sugar, too much alcohol for your liver to comfortably process and foods that your body struggles to process and dispose of the waste from, you will not feel well.

Increasingly research is demonstrating a link between your bowel and your brain. The quality of your diet has a massive impact on how you are feeling emotionally.

HOW COUNSELLING CAN HELP

When things in your life have been overwhelming and leave you struggling, it can be hard to recover without specialised help.

Seeing a counsellor specialised in treating these difficulties, which are all referred to as trauma, is important. Do check that the person you want to see is trained in treating trauma. You can’t just repeat sentences every day and hope the trauma can go away.

You don’t have faulty schemas in your head that need correcting. You have painful memories that need to be allowed to be expressed and healed. This does not mean you have to revisit painful memories, just that you need to be able to access the memories stored in your body and release them.

A properly trained counsellor can help you to learn how to calm yourself and feel safe.

When you are able to feel safe you can then learn how to safely heal those difficult memories.

BLUE KNOT FOUNDATION

The Blue Knot Foundation in Australia is the peak body on childhood trauma and runs training for mental health practitioners. Their training and the practice guidelines they have written are internationally renowned.

I have completed many years of Blue Knot Training and follow their practice guidelines in my work.

CAN I HELP?

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

9 Steps to Managing Conversations at the Dreaded Family Christmas

Families are never completely harmonious. They are comprised of people, bound together by genetic and marital ties, who often are not free to discuss conflicts as openly as is healthy. There are often undercurrents of tension and unresolved hurts in any family interactions.

Add a family Christmas, with all the stresses that “perfect” day brings. Add to the mix some freeing alcohol. Add to the mix the proximity with people who have caused those tensions and unresolved hurts.

Mix these ingredients and you have an explosive mix.

You can try to avoid difficult topics, but inevitably something will come up, particularly if you have the mix listed above.

Below are 8 steps you can use to survive the family Christmas. 8 steps to help you keep away from the difficult topics you may not be ready to discuss in a large family gathering.

  1. PREPARE FOR THE DAY.

Are you expecting challenging topics of conversation? Plan in advance how to manage and deescalate these potential ignition points.
a) PLAN TO SET BOUNDARIES

You can set boundaries by letting family members know what areas are contentious and that you want avoided. You can practice how you will set this boundary in a positive, affirming way.

Maybe you might say something like: “I love seeing you and our time together is really great. There are just some things that we disagree on and maybe we can avoid discussing them today so that we can enjoy our time together.”

b) PREPARE AHEAD

Before you meet up, think about happy things you and this family member/s have in common. Are there happy childhood memories you can share, do you have the same interests? Brainstorm ideas of topics of conversation so you are ready to have a conversation. When you have no topic to discuss, conversations tend to follow well worn paths. If those well worn paths are the contentious ones, then that is what you are going to end up having a conversation about.

  1. REDIRECT THE CONVERSATION.

Preparing ahead safe topics to discuss will allow you to quickly redirect the conversation to a safer topic that is related to the contentious topic. It is easier to pivot if the topic is related somehow, so if someone brings up a humiliating episode when you were a child and were swimming, you may bring in a conversation about wonderful beaches to visit and direct people to that topic. In that situation, the chances are that others in the conversation are not happy to bring up the humiliating episode either and will welcome the change to change the topic.

  1. REHEARSE WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY.

When you are under stress, you will tend to do what is habitual. So well used responses to others will tend to be used. This will quickly derail your intention to steer away from the uncomfortable conversations. So practise what you will say. Have imaginary conversations where the other person says something they usually say, or makes a comment about a situation they usually comment on. Imagine redirecting the conversation away from that contentious comment and what you will say. While you are doing this, imagine being relaxed and able to deflect any triggers in their words. Imagine calmly setting a boundary, or redirecting the conversation, or making a statement.

While you are imagining this conversation, practice taking calming breaths and imagine you are releasing all the tension and it is flying away as you breathe out. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace and calm.

If you have a family member who makes highly politicised comments, or makes racist comments, or expresses strong extremist viewpoints, practice a statement that acknowledges their opinion but indicates it is not up for discussion. The well tried response to this is to “agree to disagree” and have no more conversation around that.

Sometimes these statements are deliberate attempts to bait you into responding. Don’t. Set the boundary and try to change the topic of conversation. If the person still persists, walk away. Take a walk around the block if you need to calm down. Just remain calm until you are somewhere where it is safe for you to be upset. More on that later.

  1. BRING OUT THE OLD HAPPY MEMORIES.

This is another redirecting technique. Bringing out a positive family story involving a happy memory. The more family members involved in this memory the better. If you start off saying “Remember when xxx” you are inviting others to add their recollections of the memory. Not only is that fun to share in happy reminiscences, it also shuts down anyone negative due to the weight of people participating in a new conversation.

Remember, a family member who is difficult for you to get along with, may also be difficult for others to get along with. Other family members may welcome your efforts to redirect the conversation and be more than happy to jump in with enthusiasm. After all, everyone wants to have a lovely day.

  1. FOCUS ON FUN FAMILY TRADITIONS.

There will no doubt be things your family enjoy doing together on family occasions. There are families that love to gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. Others love to play games. Others have a post Christmas lunch walk.

If your family has traditions then make sure they are carried out. If they don’t have any, then introduce some new things you think family members will be interested in. Prepare the ground for this. Talk about this “fun” idea with family members you think will be useful allies in this so that when you introduce the idea it will be supported by other people. These traditions are a great way to distract from unpleasant conversations.

  1. PRACTICE GRATITUDE.

In the lead up to Christmas, think of at least 10 things to be grateful for each day. Write them down and say them out loud, followed by three thank yous. Slowly introduce gratitudes for family members.

Don’t force the jolliness. Find things you are genuinely grateful for. They may range from extraordinary things to the seemingly mundane such as your health, your home, your job and so on.

Each day add gratitudes for family members. Start with the ones you love seeing. As you get close to Christmas think about the ones that cause you grief. Is there anything about them you like? Anything about them you admire? Try to find something to be grateful for about them. One might be that they are diligent about attending the family Christmas every year. Another might be they help with the washing up. Another might be they love their car. Find something to be grateful for.

Finding positives help you to feel more empowered and more in control of those difficult situations. It also helps to see the main protagonists as people with less power than you thought they had.

  1. FIND ALLIES.

Think about who will be at the Christmas event and identify those you find supportive. They may be the type who will speak up and support you at the time of the difficulty, or they may be someone you can speak to later to help you calm down.

It is easier to manage in stressful situations when you know you have support.

  1. PRACTICE CALMING TECHNIQUES.

One of the easiest ways to calm down is breathing. It is best to practice this technique in advance so that it is second nature when you need it. If you try this for the first time when you need it, it is unlikely to work effectively.

a) MINDFUL BREATHING

The best way to practice is to start small.

• Set a reminder on your phone for every hour if possible.

• Now prepare to breathe for 1 minute.

• Set a timer for 1 minute.

• Sit quietly with your hands resting in your lap.

• You may choose to let your focus slip or you may choose to close your eyes.

• Now breathe in while noticing the feeling of the air entering your nose and your chest and tummy rising with the in breath.

• Now breathe out while notice the feeling of your chest and tummy falling and the feeling of the air passing through your nose.

• With the next in breath, imagine you are inhaling calming air. Imagine it is a beautiful calming colour such as blue or green, whatever your find calming. See that coloured air entering your nose and lungs.

• Now breathe out all the tension and difficult emotions. Imagine the air you breathe out is the colour of tension and difficult emotions such as red, whatever you find expresses what you are feeling.

• Continue breathing in calm and breathing out tension. You can say to yourself I am breathing in calm on the in breath. And you can say I am breathing out tension/anger (name emotion) on the out breath.

• If you notice your mind wander away from noticing your breath just return your attention to your breath without judging yourself.

• Continue until 1 minute is up. Notice how you are feeling calmer and more in control of your emotions.

If you practice your 1 minute mediation as often as you can you may consider the next day practising for 5 minutes sometimes and 1 minute at others.

Practice as often as you can. When you need this calming at the Christmas event you will find it easier to slip into the practice if you have taken the time to practice in advance.

You can use mindful breathing sitting or moving around. Many people practice as they are walking. This is something you might try if you need to get some space away from the difficult people.

b) RELEASING WALK

The walk works like this:

• Don’t rush to push the emotions you feel away. Allow yourself to feel them, name them and walk them out. Stamp if you need to, walk fast if you need to. Swing your arms around. Whatever allows you to release what you are feeling.

• Once you have allowed yourself that time and you have acknowledged and released the emotions you can then walk at a calmer pace at your speed.

• Notice what is around you. What can you see, hear, smell, touch or taste?

• Take a deep in breath. Notice the sensation of that breath entering your body as you walk.

• Release that breath and notice the sensation of it leaving your body as you walk.

• Continue breathing and paying attention to your breath.

• Remember to breathe in calm and breathe out stress, anger and/or other distressing emotions you are experiencing.

• As you notice yourself feeling calmer, you can start paying attention to the beauty around you.

• Remember to just return your attention to your breath if your mind starts to wander.

• As you settle into this calming routine, allow yourself to feel your feet on the ground. Feel the ground supporting you are you walk.

• Allow yourself to feel the air around you. Feel the air wrapping you in its loving embrace.

• Continue walking, feeling the calm and feeling the support that surrounds you.

• When you are ready you can return to the gathering.

• You may decide to stay there, you may decide to communicate boundaries, you may decide to leave. Do whatever feels right for you.

  1. MAKE OTHER ARRANGEMENTS

If you feel that it is too distressing to attend the family Christmas, make other arrangements.

Maybe you would like to attend a community lunch.

Maybe you know other people who are on their own at Christmas. Perhaps you can get together to celebrate.

Maybe you would like the day alone with some lovely food and a stack of movies/games/books you would love to watch.

You may even find other family members don’t like the event and would be happy to do something with you instead.

A FINAL WORD

You have prepared yourself for the family Christmas and it is still difficult. Be okay with that. Don’t forget your strategies. Set realistic expectations of how people will be and prepare for this.

Do take the time to take some calming breaths before responding to other people. It can help to name what you are feeling. This allows you to cope better. It also allows you space to decide to not react to this person. It is in this moment you may choose to walk away, or calmly say their comment is inappropriate, or not funny, or unacceptable or anything else.

People can get to you with their behaviour and comments because you have unresolved hurts. After Christmas, review the family Christmas. What came up for you? Is there something you need to resolve. Counselling can be really helpful to explore and resolve old hurts. You can also learn helpful strategies to cope.

WHERE TO GET HELP

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your unresolved hurts, 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

PLEASE NOTE PLENTIFUL LIFE COUNSELLING WILL BE CLOSED FROM 5PM 21 DECEMBER 2022 AND WILL RE OPEN AT 9AM ON 9 JANUARY 2023.

How to experience sorrow alongside happiness in grief

Do you feel guilty because you are not thinking of your loved one enough?

Do you worry that you mustn’t have loved them enough because there are moments when you don’t think of them and actually feel momentarily happy?

Do you think you should have done more to keep them alive?

MY QUESTIONS TO YOU

If you think it is ridiculous to feel that way that is fantastic.

But if you find yourself feeling that way I acknowledge how hard that is.

And I am asking you some questions.

I am not asking as throw away lines to suggest you should have a different belief. I am asking them because I am genuinely curious to know your thoughts.

Is it okay to never be happy again?

Is it okay to only ever think of your loved one?

Is it okay to live while they have died?

SO MANY PEOPLE FEEL THIS WAY

It is not uncommon to feel this way when your loved one dies.

It feels profane to be enjoying life when someone you loved so much is not able to be alive at all.

At first, your thoughts may frequently turn to the pain of your loved one’s absence in your life.

Any thoughts of happiness are unlikely to invade that pain. But what if they do?

Are you okay laughing at something you probably laughed at before your loved one died? Something you may have laughed at together?

IS PAIN AND HAPPINESS AT THE SAME TIME POSSIBLE?

Can you feel the pain at the same time as you feel happiness?

Researchers have found that people can and do find a way to feel happy again. That they can actually think about other things and just think of their loved one occasionally. That they can be okay living.

But researchers have also found that the happiness exists alongside the sorrow of the person’s loss. The bitter sweet and sometimes downright devastating feelings can exist alongside happiness and joy.

ARE YOU SICK OF BEING SAD AND CRYING?

Many people come to see me because they are sick of feeling sad and crying. They loved their loved one and still miss them terribly, even years later. But they are just sick of the darkness of their grief and they long for the sun.

Maybe you feel that way too?

Maybe you just want to be happy again.

REALITY

I will tell you what I tell others. Yes, it is possible to be happy again and yes you will not always cry this much. But you will always feel sad over the loss of your loved one and you will still cry on occasion.

Sorrow will always be with you. Sorrow at the absence of someone you loved so much from your life. Sorrow at the future they (and you) lost. Sorrow at all the things you will experience without them. Sorrow at the things you planned to do together that you will never do again. Sorrow at the people you no longer have contact with because your loved one was the link to them. Sorrow at so many losses associated with your loved one’s absence.

THE PAIN WILL NEVER COMPLETELY HEAL

Yes, the pain will abate over time, but it will never completely go. It is like that limp you have from a broken ankle that never completely healed. There will always be that reminder of what you had and lost.

And if you loved that person so much, do you really want the pain to completely go away? Do you really want to forget them?

IS LIFE WITH THAT PAIN POSSIBLE?

Can you live if the pain is always there?

People tell me they can live with that pain.

It is not pleasant, but they have found ways to feel it in a safer way.

They have learned to feel the bitter sweet memories of their loved one. And they have learned that sometimes it is okay to be sad, or cry.

They have also learned that it is possible to carry the pain while living and being happy.

Knowing they can do that has actually helped. It has helped to find a way to commemorate their loved one, but still live.

THE EXPANDING OF LIFE INTO A DEEPER RICHNESS

They have found that life has greater depth now. That life is richer and fuller for the added dimension of sorrow that, rather than make everything sad and depressing, actually enhances the happy moments, makes them more special and have deeper meaning. That they take the happy moments more attentively and with more gratitude because they have suffered the pain of loss and appreciate the happy moments that come.

But all this takes time, and determination.

CAN I HELP YOU?

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

A Grief Reflection

Given the public holiday on the day I usually write these blogs, I thought I would post today a beautiful passage of prose from the book “How to carry what can’t be fixed” by Megan Devine.

This is a wonderful book that I highly recommend to someone struggling with grief. The book contains wonderful information and sharing on the difficulties of grief and some beautiful and helpful reflections/worksheet you may find helpful to do.

For today, here is a beautiful passage from the book.

We come to ourselves in softening, in tenderness, to become available to pain and to love. To make our hearts available. Yield, don’t fight. All is not well, and here we are with that. So we show up as tenderly as we can. Show up with tenderness for what is, softening into it. Yield.

Grief does not show you that you’ve lost your way. Grief is the way. Softening your heart is a radical act. Wanting for yourself something beautiful and gently and kind. Holding out your hands to see what comes. Holding out your heart as a place for meeting what has already come.

What is here now is love: it’s not here to make it better, not here to make grief go away, hot here to give you a reason. It’s just here.

And love sits beside you now, even when you don’t feel it, even when it seems to have disappeared from sight. Maybe love is still here with you in whatever form it can take: a love that goes beneath everything. It makes no sense. I don’t think it tries to. But there is love beneath and around and within everything.

And maybe this love knew, maybe love was there preparing you as best it could for what was to come, for what is now. maybe you have been companioned all along, through this whole life, by love in all its forms, and at all times.

As you breathe into this space, you feel a gentleness come into you now, rising up to meet you, surrounding your heart, holding your hands. Infinite love. Infinite tenderness.

Love is with you here. A love that is heartbroken for you, as much as it is heartbroken with you. Beside you, exactly here. And you breathe in all the love that’s available. All the gentleness. Meeting pain with love, we open into love.

And we come back again and again, making that choice to be present, to feel it, to receive even this – even this. All is not well, and here you are with that.

What began in love continues here along this road, on this path here.

                              May you know love.

                            May you know kindness.

                        May you be free from suffering.

And may you have hope in the continual, continuing experiment: to believe in a love that doesn’t save you, but is still your shelter and still your home.

May what you’ve found in this book help you carry what is yours to live.