3 steps to help your traumatised brain practise mindfulness daily

Your traumatised brain is stuck in a difficult place.

To heal you need to be able to identify and feel your feelings. But in doing that you can find yourself in a very scary, dysregulated state.

Mindfulness is really helpful for learning to feel, but it can risk throwing you into dysregulation.

I have read that our dysregulated brains are like a possum that has been bitten by a spider and is now in a lot of pain. The possum will not sit still an experience the pain. It is like when we hit our thumb with a hammer and jump up and down and shake our thumb to cope with the pain. The possum will leap from branch to branch. I cannot be still as it seeks relief from the pain it is in. It is in effect trying to run from its pain.

The possum, like us, has a brain that is primed to react to threats in automated ways. If the possum was able to sit and think it over, it would realise its pain comes from a spider. If it did, it would move away and maybe shake or lick the sore part. As the possum’s danger system has engaged, it is not capable of sitting quietly and analysing the situation. Its survival depends on it automatically acting based on past experiences.

This is pattern matching in action. Our brains match roughly to an existing pattern. The roughness of the match allows for variations in situations that are dangerous so we can identify danger quickly and escape from it.

Our brains are working very fast. They make guesses about the danger.

The only way to disable these existing patterns is to be able to identify and process the feelings and emotions during calm times. Some entrenched patterns take a long time to identify and process. They may even need more specialised treatments such as EMDR to disable them. But it is possible to chip away at many patterns in therapy.

This is where mindfulness is helpful.

Mindfulness allows you to explore feelings in your body while also maintaining an awareness of your body’s reaction to this exploration. It allows you to know when to stop and pull back from exploration.

With mindfulness you can in time learn to identify the thought patterns and feelings that accompany dysregulated states. You can learn when to pull back from a situation that is triggering before you are out of control. You can also use mindfulness to identify and process the thought patterns and feelings that feed this out of control reaction.

Mindfulness is not something you can pull out when in a highly stressed state. You need to practise regularly and at times when you feel safe. Then you can learn how to use mindfulness in more highly stressed times.

With mindfulness you train your attention by paying attention to a simple object, such as the breath. In the practise you learn to pay attention to your breath and return to that attention on the breath when your mind wanders.

3 steps in practising mindfulness.

This is a quick practise you can do daily to help train your attention. I usually suggest the breath because it is easy to do. If you find focusing on your breath is a trigger then choose an object to focus on.

  1. Posture. Sit comfortably on a seat that is firm enough to support you in an upright position and close enough to the floor that you can place your feet flat on the floor. Try to support your own spine as you sit. In other words, try not to lean back on the chair. Place your hands on your thighs palms down. You may either close your eyes or leave them open. If you leave them open then look down into your lap or in front of you just a short distance away.
  2. Breath. Notice your breathing. Feel it moving in and out of your body. Just notice its rhythm and flow. Feel the breath in your belly. Feel the movements of your belly as you breathe in and out. You don’t have to deep breathe, although it is helpful if you can practise breathing into your belly. This trains you to breathe into the base of your lungs, which is calming. Just allow your breath to happen. Don’t count your breaths, how long your breath in or out and how long a gap you leave between the in and out breaths. Just breathe.
  3. Wandering. You will find your attention will wander away from the breath. Or you may start thinking too much about your breath. Or you may start judging your breathing. Just acknowledge your mind has wandered and just bring your attention back to the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body and your body moving as air enters and leaves it. Don’t judge yourself for your mind wandering. You will do it a lot at first. Even when you have become good at focusing there will be days when you are more distracted than others and your mind wanders. Remember. When you notice your mind has wandered you are already being mindful. Great mindfulness to notice your wandering mind. Choose to come back to focus on your breath.

How long should you do this for? Practise Daily. Start simply. Set a kitchen timer, or your phone/watch to time you. Do it during ad breaks on the television. Or when waiting at a red light. Start off with small and over time you can work up to longer. Maybe 5 minutes.

Make the practise easy to do so you will be more inclined to practise.

In time, you will become so accustomed to this mindful attention that you will be able to start noticing what your body is feeling and be able to learn how to identify when something is triggering you and you need to take measures to prevent yourself being thrown into a fight/flight response.

Always do this with the support of a trauma trained counsellor who can help you learn how to be safe with your feelings.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning how to be safe and notice what your body is telling you, 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 to be with the expected death of your loved one

During my nursing career I was present at the death of many people.

I learned the rhythms of dying and death.

And I observed the sacredness of that space.

As a counsellor, I have heard from many people about their experiences with their loved one dying. Some found the experience deeply comforting, others felt cheated.

This is what I observed was the experience of those who felt comforted.

The passage from life to death is a sacred one. For the one dying it is a time of great dignity. It may not seem dignified if the outward appearances are of pain, but that person is crossing from a life of pain to a death of peace.

It is important to remember that not everyone wants family around them when they die. I have seen people who wait until their family leave the room before they die.

I have also seen others who wait until their family arrive before they die.

It is a highly individual thing.

If you are at your loved one’s side when they die, it is best to just remain there.

Don’t rush to call for help. Just be there. Be present in the moment. Allow yourself to feel the enormity of what has happened.

In my experience, those who rush to call a doctor (if at home) or a nurse (if in hospital) or a relative are the ones who feel cheated. Rushing to tell others brings the busyness crashing into the dying space before it is ready.

Just be and don’t panic. Don’t think it is essential for people to know immediately. Just be and allow the sacredness of your loved one’s passing to be present.

Allow yourself the chance to adjust to the reality of your loved one’s death. That reality is always a shock. You need time to absorb that. To allow yourself time to feel the reality of it.

People who tell me they took that time, report feeling comforted and being able to managed the loss better.

Be aware of what is happening for you. What you are feeling. What your body is telling you. Feel the room and what is happening there. Allow yourself to feel the sacredness of this space.

If your loved one dies when you are not there you can still sit with that sacredness. It doesn’t go quickly. But don’t get caught up in conversations once you are sitting with them. Leave everything outside the door. Just be in that space with no agenda and no plans.

I have been blessed to wash the bodies of many who have departed this life. That is how I know the sacredness that is present at death. Relatives have often arrived later and sat with their loved one. I have done it myself when my mother died.

Allow yourself to sit in that space and don’t rush to leave. Leave when you are ready. You cannot come back to that time later. Once the moment has passed it is gone.

Things will get busy quickly, and you will get caught up in funeral preparations and other busyness for many days or weeks.

So take those initial few hours slowly. Don’t take on too much initially. Just allow yourself to be with the reality, even after the sacred time with your loved one has passed.

3 things to do if you are feeling stressed

One thing we can guarantee while we are alive is that we are breathing. If we don’t breathe, we die.

Breathing can be very helpful in calming us down, but it can also contribute to our anxiety and fear when feeling distressed.

Mindfulness uses breathing as a basic anchor.

I always caution people with unresolved trauma to be careful of mindfulness and other meditation because of the dangers of focusing internally if you are overwhelmed.

Breathing is not a problem. And a focus on breathing is not a problem.

If you are feeling stressed and feel you are in danger of becoming overwhelmed you can try these 3 steps to help you calm down.

When you are stressed, your breathing starts to become shallow. That leads to more stress. Deepening and lengthening your breathing is important to allow you to turn off the stress response and calm down

Breathing is a wonderful tool to use when you need to calm down because we always have our breath with us.

The next time you realize your breath is shallow and you are feeling stressed and anxious, here is what you can try:

  1. Bring attention to your breath. Notice as you breathe in, and notice as your breathe out. As your attention turn to your breathe, try to make each in breath longer and each out breath longer. Once you feel your breathing is becoming more regular and settled, move on to the next step.
  2. If you can, sit down. You are more likely to feel relaxed if you are sitting. If you can’t that is okay. Just notice what your body is doing. Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your body sitting on the chair. Feel the air temperature around you. Is there a breeze? Can you smell anything? What can you see?
  3. Now return your focus to your breathing. Breathe in for the count of 4. Hold your breath for the count of 7. Then blow the air out through pursed lips for the count of 8. This not only gives you something to focus on but it also sends signals to your brain to calm down.

Try this technique for a few minutes.

This technique will be more effective if you regularly set aside 5 or so minutes each day to practise mindfulness. The practice listed above is ideal for that purpose as well as for you to use when you are feeling stressed.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness or would like help with healing 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

Talking to my loved one after death

It is not uncommon to want to talk to your loved one after death.

It is common for people to report feeling their loved one with them, dreaming about them, having conversations with them.

There are people who find they can’t get answers so they seek out people who say they can talk to their loved one for them.

In your search for meaning and the opportunity to say the goodbyes you didn’t have an opportunity to give, especially after a sudden death, seeking contact with your loved one is one option many people seek out.

I have been asked if it is harmful to seek to talk to a deceased loved one.

My answer? No and yes.

Many people find it comforting to visit a person who can connect them with their loved one, either directly or through them. For many this brings comfort.

It helps them to move forward with their grief. They learn to live without their loved one and find a new relationship with them and their memory.

For others the risk is that they become dependent on talking to their loved one. They never let go and stall in healing after their loss.

If you are in that position then my question to you is: when are you going to allow your loved one to rest peacefully? How is staying stuck helping you? How is staying stuck helping your family.

Life is there to be lived, not wasted.

The other risk is that sometimes the people they seek to help them talk to their loved one are not genuine. They are making up the messages they claim they are getting. These people see the bereaved as a way to make money and will relay fake messages from your loved one to you.

Talking to your loved one after death is something you may seek. And that is okay to do that. But be careful not to become dependent on these conversations. If you find you are unable to stop then it is time to seek counselling from a qualified Grief Counsellor.

*

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

3 steps to help your traumatised brain practise mindfulness daily

Your traumatised brain is stuck in a difficult place.

To heal you need to be able to identify and feel your feelings. But in doing that you can find yourself in a very scary, dysregulated state.

Mindfulness is really helpful for learning to feel, but it can risk throwing you into dysregulation.

I have read that our dysregulated brains are like a possum that has been bitten by a spider and is now in a lot of pain. The possum will not sit still an experience the pain. It is like when we hit our thumb with a hammer and jump up and down and shake our thumb to cope with the pain. The possum will leap from branch to branch. I cannot be still as it seeks relief from the pain it is in. It is in effect trying to run from its pain.

The possum, like us, has a brain that is primed to react to threats in automated ways. If the possum was able to sit and think it over, it would realise its pain comes from a spider. If it did, it would move away and maybe shake or lick the sore part. As the possum’s danger system has engaged, it is not capable of sitting quietly and analysing the situation. Its survival depends on it automatically acting based on past experiences.

This is pattern matching in action. Our brains match roughly to an existing pattern. The roughness of the match allows for variations in situations that are dangerous so we can identify danger quickly and escape from it.

Our brains are working very fast. They make guesses about the danger.

The only way to disable these existing patterns is to be able to identify and process the feelings and emotions during calm times. Some entrenched patterns take a long time to identify and process. They may even need more specialised treatments such as EMDR to disable them. But it is possible to chip away at many patterns in therapy.

This is where mindfulness is helpful.

Mindfulness allows you to explore feelings in your body while also maintaining an awareness of your body’s reaction to this exploration. It allows you to know when to stop and pull back from exploration.

With mindfulness you can in time learn to identify the thought patterns and feelings that accompany dysregulated states. You can learn when to pull back from a situation that is triggering before you are out of control. You can also use mindfulness to identify and process the thought patterns and feelings that feed this out of control reaction.

Mindfulness is not something you can pull out when in a highly stressed state. You need to practise regularly and at times when you feel safe. Then you can learn how to use mindfulness in more highly stressed times.

With mindfulness you train your attention by paying attention to a simple object, such as the breath. In the practise you learn to pay attention to your breath and return to that attention on the breath when your mind wanders.

3 STEPS IN PRACTISING MINDFULNESS

This is a quick practise you can do daily to help train your attention. I usually suggest the breath because it is easy to do. If you find focusing on your breath is a trigger then choose an object to focus on.

  1. Posture. Sit comfortably on a seat that is firm enough to support you in an upright position and close enough to the floor that you can place your feet flat on the floor. Try to support your own spine as you sit. In other words, try not to lean back on the chair. Place your hands on your thighs palms down. You may either close your eyes or leave them open. If you leave them open then look down into your lap or in front of you just a short distance away.
  2. Breath. Notice your breathing. Feel it moving in and out of your body. Just notice its rhythm and flow. Feel the breath in your belly. Feel the movements of your belly as you breathe in and out. You don’t have to deep breathe, although it is helpful if you can practise breathing into your belly. This trains you to breathe into the base of your lungs, which is calming. Just allow your breath to happen. Don’t count your breaths, how long your breath in or out and how long a gap you leave between the in and out breaths. Just breathe.
  3. Wandering. You will find your attention will wander away from the breath. Or you may start thinking too much about your breath. Or you may start judging your breathing. Just acknowledge your mind has wandered and just bring your attention back to the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body and your body moving as air enters and leaves it. Don’t judge yourself for your mind wandering. You will do it a lot at first. Even when you have become good at focusing there will be days when you are more distracted than others and your mind wanders. Remember. When you notice your mind has wandered you are already being mindful. Great mindfulness to notice your wandering mind. Choose to come back to focus on your breath.

How long should you do this for? Practise Daily. Start simply. Set a kitchen timer, or your phone/watch to time you. Do it during ad breaks on the television. Or when waiting at a red light. Start off with small and over time you can work up to longer. Maybe 5 minutes.

Make the practise easy to do so you will be more inclined to practise.

In time, you will become so accustomed to this mindful attention that you will be able to start noticing what your body is feeling and be able to learn how to identify when something is triggering you and you need to take measures to prevent yourself being thrown into a fight/flight response.

Always do this with the support of a trauma trained counsellor who can help you learn how to be safe with your feelings.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning how to be safe and notice what your body is telling you, 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 Strategies that help you to grow after losing a loved one to suicide.

Losing someone to suicide is different to any other type of loss.

Why?

It is sudden, usually unexpected and often violent. And it is not at the hand of another person, as with murder, but at the hand of the one who has died.

Such a death is shocking and traumatic.

It makes no sense.

It can take years to accept that it makes no sense.

After such a terrible loss your beliefs about life are shattered.

You can understand someone getting sick and dying. You can understand an accident. But understanding how someone can take action to end their life is so hard to comprehend and understand.

If you witnessed the person taking that action, or were the one who found them that is so much harder. That is traumatising. Many people with this experience who come to see me report dreaming about finding their loved one and having flashbacks to finding them.

Anyone who lost a loved one in this way can dream about how their loved one died, or looked, as their imagination fills in areas of no or little information.

If you have lost a loved one this way you may have noticed people are less supportive than if you have lost a loved one differently. Many people don’t know what to do or say. There are also many taboos and fear around suicide.

The source of a lot of this fear is the uncertainty of trying to keep someone from killing themselves. Sometimes families are aware that their family member is suicidal and try desperately to keep them alive. Counsellors of suicidal people also worry about keeping them alive. It is a stressful time.

For those who had no warning their loved one was suicidal there is the sense that they failed to notice their loved one’s state of mind.

The reality is that all the best suicide experts in the world cannot keep someone from suiciding. This is something out of our control.

That is hard to accept.

I frequently debrief families and colleagues of a person who has suicided and all say the same things to me:

• Why didn’t I see it?

• I thought they were sad, why didn’t I talk to them/get help/stop them.

• I thought they were getting better.

• They express shock, disbelief and horror at what has happened.

I always tell them that it is impossible to predict when someone is planning to kill themselves.

You can get people help, and usually if they were appearing to be down someone has arranged help, but it is up to the person to utilise that help.

It is impossible to know just what is going on in another person’s mind. The idea of someone being so down that death seems a viable option is horrifying. You can ask a person if they are feeling suicidal and they may honestly answer you. They may not.

You are not to blame for the choices your loved one has made.

You want to know why they did it. You will probably never know. You will spend the rest of your life wondering, but you will never know.

Somewhere in all this confusion and turmoil you will find strengths to survive this. Do seek help, one of the biggest risk factors for suicide is being bereaved by suicide. See seeking counselling help as one of the strengths you possess.

The 4 strategies I use when working with you, and ones you can learn to use on your own later, are:

  1. Safety.

This involves finding a imaginary space where you can feel safe. This is where you can go when things seem overwhelming.

People imagine all manner of spaces where they feel safe. Often they are spaces where the person has felt safe in the past. Do you have a space where you have felt safe and could utilise now?

  1. Grounding

Grounding is connecting to the earth. Feeling yourself supported and energised by the energy of the earth. Feeling the safety of your connection to the earth.

I may teach you exercises to ground yourself.

  1. Mindfulness

Being aware of your thoughts and feelings is important. Part of mindfulness is noticing these feelings and thoughts, naming them, and learning to only engage with them when you are able to.

This allows you to work through the difficult and painful process of grieving. It allows you to choose the times when you feel ready to deal with this pain. It will take time, and you will not always be able to control this, but over time learning mindfulness will help you take control of your life and learn to live with your loss.

With mindfulness, you will be able to learn to be with your difficult thoughts and emotions in a controlled way that allows you to process them.

  1. Window of Tolerance

The Window of Tolerance is where you can feel in control of your emotions and actions and are able to cope with things that happen to you.

Being bereaved, especially by suicide, is going to throw you outside your Window of Tolerance a lot. Any time you find yourself crying uncontrollably. Any time you feel you can’t cope with going to work, leaving the house, going home, and so on, you are moving outside your Window of Tolerance.

In time you do move back into that Window space. Feeling so out of control is not permanent. It is just an aspect of bereavement. Understanding this is only temporary is helpful.

It is also possible for you to learn how to get back into that Window space as you grieve.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning to live with the suicide loss of your loved one, 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 wise way of dealing with pain

      "Grandma how do you deal with pain?"

      "With your hands, dear. When you do it with your mind, the pain hardens even more."

      “With your hands, grandma?"

      "Yes, yes. Our hands are the antennas of our soul. When you move them by sewing, cooking, painting, touching the earth or sinking it into the earth, they send signals of caring to the deepest part of you and your soul calms down.

      This way she doesn't have to send pain anymore to show it.

      "Are hands really that important?"

      "Yes my girl. Thinking of babies: they get to know the world thanks to their touches. When you look at the hands of older people, they tell more about their lives than any other part of the body. Everything that is made by hand, so is said, is made with the heart because it really is like this: hands and heart are connected. Masseuses know this: When they touch another person's body with their hands, they create a deep connection. Thinking of lovers: When their hands touch, they love each other in the most sublime way."

      “My hands grandma... how long haven't I used them like that!"

      "Move them my girl, start creating with them and everything in you will move. The pain will not pass away. But it will be the best masterpiece. And it won't hurt anymore. Because you managed to embroider your essence."

      - Elena Barnabé

I read this beautiful narrative some years ago.

It has guided me in my work with those who are grieving a loss.

I have noticed that many people who are grieving keep their hands still.

When I encourage even gentle, creative movements of the hands, their pain starts to feel more controllable and less overwhelming.

I often use art as a creative hand movement with people who come to see me.

On occasion I guide people through gentle movements of the hands to music.

If you can play a musical instrument you can play that. Many people find that soothing.

One memorable client became part of a drumming group.

The wisdom of the grandmother in Elena Barnabé’s story was great.

Creative movements with the hands will help heal the heart.

Why don’t you try it?

Grab a piece of paper and something to draw or colour with and drawer swirls of colour, shapes, anything you want.

Or move your hands to a piece of music you love to hear or make that music.

Or you could even join a drumming group.

What if the signposts for healing are those negative emotions we love to avoid?

Despite all efforts to dismiss emotions as unnecessary and best ignored, they hold great power over our behaviour and our state of well being.

We have emotions that make us feel happy and safe. Emotional states we never want to leave.

We have emotions that overwhelm us and leave us feeling totally out of control. These are the ones we wish never to experience again.

But these overwhelming emotions are important if we are to break their hold on us.

Overwhelming emotions are usually accompanied by stories, or parts of them anyway. These stories are the traumatic times in our lives. Times when we felt alone, friendless, unsupported and undefended.

There is the story of the girl facing a scary monster that has terrorised her for years. When she comes face to face with it, she discovers it is tiny. It wasn’t as hard to deal with as she thought.

It is like this with those overwhelming emotions. Much as you want to ignore them there is a benefit in standing and acknowledging they exist. There is a benefit in exploring those dark places of overwhelming emotions.

Feeling these emotions is uncomfortable and painful. This pain is felt in the same brain area as physical pain. So those emotions are no lightweight exploration.

It is difficult to explore overwhelming emotions. We are taught in this society that we don’t have problems. Have you ever noticed that in learning a foreign language the first words you are often taught are: “Hello, How are you?” “I am well thank you and you?”. A not so subtle message that we are never to answer in a negative way.

And when you go to discuss a problem with someone you will often find them brushing your problems aside or finding an excuse to leave.

Another problem with overwhelming emotions is that many people are taught to fear these emotions. These are bad emotions you must never experience. Emotions such as sadness and anger are stigmatised as bad. No surprise then that many people are frightened of those emotions in themselves and others.

Another problem with overwhelming emotions is that we are taught to put them aside in case we upset someone else. Instead we are expected to put another person’s emotions ahead of our own. That if we “upset” another person we are bad.

As a result, you may have learned to suppress the overwhelming emotions. Of course, this doesn’t work. It only makes them stronger and harder to control. They may go away for a time but in the darkness of suppression they fester and grow. In the meantime, those undercurrents of emotion add to your stress levels. They alter your perception of other people and what is happening around you. They make you depressed or anxious. Suppressing negative feelings only worsens them.

Emotions are important for us. They are flags that nudge us to continue a pleasurable activity, or leave a dangerous situation, or right a wrong.

Emotions help us process grief, a traumatic event, the sadness of an ended relationship. When acknowledged and attended to, they help us maintain good mental health.

A word of caution. Overwhelming emotions are difficult to explore if you don’t have helpful skills to calm yourself. If you don’t have those skills, then it is essential you see a trauma trained therapist who can teach them to you.

Even if you do have calming skills, it is important to have a trauma trained companion to support you in facing these emotions. This is where the trauma trained therapist can be helpful. They can then support you through the exploration of those overwhelming emotions.

We are made for connection. That is how our brains are wired. Despite our society teaching us that overwhelming emotions are bad and should not be discussed, we actually need to talk about them. This is where a trauma trained therapist can provide that connection. In that space you can face those overwhelming emotions and know you will be supported and accepted.

I am a trauma trained counsellor. I know how to teach you the skills you need to calm yourself. I am also able to support you in facing these emotions. I can be a safe connection for you as you face those emotions. If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your overwhelming emotions, 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 to run towards the hurt of grief

In my work with grieving people, I find two responses to the pain of grief.

One group of people accept the pain and work with it.

The other group of people run away from the pain.

Many years ago, I read a story about teams installing electricity poles. The most dangerous time in the entire installation is when the pole has been placed in the ground. It is in these moments before the pole is secured that it is most likely to fall over. The instinct should this happen is to run away from the falling pole. But the installers are taught the safest response is to run towards the pole and put their hands on it.

This is a great metaphor for pain. We instinctively run away from pain. We dare not look at a wound for fear of what we might see. We don’t want to be frightened by the reality of what has happened. We don’t want to feel the pain because we are frightened it will be too much for us to handle.

But to heal, we need to know what the wound is. We need to accept the wound. We need to examine the many elements of the wound.

To explain this, I am going to use the metaphor of a physical wound.

I once cut the side of my finger on a mandolin slicer. I immediately wrapped my hand in a tea towel and pressed on it. I didn’t know what I had done, or how bad it was. All I knew is that there was blood everywhere and it hurt but was also numb.

Eventually I decided I needed to look at my finger.

I unwrapped the tea towel, expecting the profuse bleeding to recommence.

Fortunately there was not too much blood coming out of the wound. I was able to see that I had not cut the edge of my finger off, but there was a very deep cut that ran into the edge of my fingernail.

I realised the wound was not as serious as I had imagined.

Because I was able to look at the wound I was able to reassure myself and treat the wound. As a nurse, I knew I needed to examine and treat the wound to allow good healing.

Some years later I sprained my ankle badly and was told not to put weight on it until it was healed. When the time came to put weight on my ankle, I was frightened to do it. I remembered that my foot was excruciatingly painful to put weight on when I had first sprained it. I was afraid of experiencing pain. But I did put weight on it and discovered that it no longer hurt to do that.

In the end, it was my fear of experiencing pain that held me back from walking on my ankle again.

If we take these metaphors and apply them to the terrible wound of grief we can see that there is initially an overwhelming outpouring of pain. The pain is raw and there is some numbness there too.

It is not possible to look at or examine the wound. We are in shock.

But over time the shock eases and we can start to explore the wound.

We can overcome our fear of feeling pain and see exactly what the wound is. We can change our attitude to the wound. Once we do that we can heal it.

Buddhist philosophy says that most suffering is caused by our attitude to a wound, not the wound itself. In fact the more we resist our pain, the more we suffer.

It is human nature to make meaning of everything. But we don’t like the meaning to be too complicated, or too random. We want there to be a cause, someone or something to blame. We want there to be someone who will be punished for the event. If there is no one to blame, then life is random and that is really hard to accept. We prefer certainty not uncertainty.

In order to heal, you need to accept the painful wounds of grief.

You need to accept your responsibility in the wound and in healing it.

You need to accept how life is now.

Yes, when you explore your wounds it is unpleasant and painful.

But for healing to occur it is what you must do.

You need to explore your pain, your attitude to the pain and you need to find how to live with the pain.

When you do this, the pain reduces and you find the strength to continue living and heal.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being able to run towards the hurt 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 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 path of grief recovery

It may seem like a no brainer. But for many people facing grief there is a belief that they will “get over it” quickly and in a lovely straight progression.

If only!

Unfortunately grief is not like that.

It is more like a twisting tangle that progresses and regresses, that goes up towards your goal of “getting over it” and down towards the original pain.

This is what my two “Demeter’s Journey” groups have been discussing.

All of them agreed their experience of grief was not the straightforward “recovery” they expected it to be.

That idea is so pervasive in our culture, that most of the group felt they were failing or were mentally ill because they were not experiencing a straightforward “recovery”

It was such a relief to them to know they were experiencing the ups and downs, the forward steps and backward steps, the going around in circles, of the rest of the group.

As many have said to me, “I thought I was going mad. Now I know I am just like everyone else.”

All the group participants found it useful to see a counsellor, someone knowledgeable about grief and objective, who could listen without judgement.

The reality of grief is that it is never a straight line.

And that is perfectly okay.

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

Next year I will be running Demeter’s Journey again on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. If you are interested in being part of that, please email me.

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