After having worked as a Registered Nurse for 8 years, I decided to become a counselling therapist so that I could help people heal more than the physical alone. Having gone through my own healing journey, I discovered that while talk therapy alone is very helpful, it had limitations. This led me to learn Heart Centered Hypnotherapy, Holy Fire Reiki, Somatic Experiencing, Breathwork and Intuitive Readings, so that I could combine the mind, body and spirit to healing.
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Grief, not always related to death.
While grief is often associated with death, it may come in many different forms. In fact, grief is associated with a sense of loss and can be simply related to changes in life. It might be realizing that you lost your innocence as a child, losing a job, losing a routine, losing a friend, or moving away, to name a few. I remember experiencing grief when I decided to stop playing hockey. I was forced out of the sport when I got too many concussions, and leaving something that had been part of my life for so long, felt like someone had died. Losing something or someone doesn’t only mean that we have lost that person or thing; it also means that we lost what we had hoped for the future. Furthermore, grief can present itself in many different forms, which includes sadness and yearning, anger, disbelief, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and many others. There are no right or wrong way to experience grief. Symptoms can vary from one person to the next and can be very difficult to experience. Not only that, but you may be faced with constant reminders of your loss, which makes it all the more difficult as there is no knowing when a wave of grief will come. Knowing what your triggers are might help prepare for them, such as planning to take a day off from work, advising your support so they can be there for you, etc. However, processing grief takes time, and cannot be forced or rushed. Remember that grief has no specific time table. Nonetheless, there are many ways to process grief. It is important, if possible, to allow yourself to feel the waves of grief when they come. While staying busy and avoiding it might be a helpful tool in the short run, avoiding it doesn’t make it go away. In fact, avoiding it can intensify it in the long run, and grief can stick around until it is processed. While the feeling of grief can be very painful, allowing yourself to feel it helps to process it. While the pain experienced may encourage us to hide and disconnect from people, connecting with a beloved friend, family member or partner can help reduce isolation and release the grief while being supported. If this doesn’t feel possible, some people might prefer turning to a particular faith, support group or therapist. Remember to not let anyone tell you how you feel. Grief is very personal and it is important to allow yourself to feel what is present and be gentle with yourself. Since it is so personal, it is important not to compare yourself with others. In fact, many factors influence it, such as the closeness with the deceased person, personal history, the meaning of the loss, personal relationship to grief and loss, etc.
The Complexities of Grief
While I will talk about ways to process grief, it may not always be so straight forward. In fact, some forms of it may be traumatic, such as violent deaths, unexpected death, passing by suicide, miscarriage, etc. This form of grief might need to process the trauma as well. In addition, grief might get stuck if we are not able to mourn our loss. Different cultures have varying traditions when it comes to mourning rituals. This process is important, as it allows people to be present with their loss, and be supported by the community. However, during COVID, many of those rituals were interrupted. This might leave people feeling like they were isolated, and not able to face the reality of their loss, or reframe and understand it. This can also be the case when a miscarriage occurs. Often (not always), there is no ritual or funeral for the loss of a baby prematurely. In these cases, it might be helpful to organize rituals that honour the passing of the child with support, so that the loss can be processed. One of the major impact from a loss is that people can lose hope and dreams for the future. Therefore, a major part of healing consist of to restoring a sense of purpose, meaning and of possibility for the future. Another part of healing is to find a new sense of belonging in the world. The hope is that people eventually return to their daily functioning that was disrupted, and internalize the ongoing and meaningful connections to the deceased. I particularly like hypnotherapy to establish a new relationship with the deceased, as it can facilitate a space to connect with the passed over loved one and resolve unfinished business. However, hypnosis is not required to build this new way of connecting.
Some Ways to Process Grief Another way to process the grief is to journal. There are different methods that can be utilized, including simply writing what is on your mind. You could also write about your experience as if you were talking to a friend. One specific technique related to grief is to write a letter about the loss. This can look differently depending on what the loss is. For example, if you lost a specific person, you could write a letter to them, pouring out what you would have liked to tell them when they were alive. This could include how much they meant to you, what you loved about them, how you felt toward them, what hopes you had for the future, and what you wished would have been different. As for a loss of a job for example, you could write a letter that explains how you feel about losing your job, what you lost, how you wish things would have been different, what that job meant to you, and anything else that comes to mind. Writing a letter can help connect to the loss and release emotions.
You may want to set specific times of the day where you face your grief. You could choose to journal between a specific time, or look at a picture of the beloved person and talk about your memories to a friend, put on some soft music that helps you connect with your emotions, meditate, draw what you are feeling or sing it out loud. Some people like to use drumming, rituals, or create memory books to process grief. Setting a specific time to feel the grief helps your body know that there will be a specific time that allows expression of the grief. You can also explore where your body holds the grief, by noticing which part of your body you feel it in and what sensations are there. It is also important to take care of your body as you grieve, by exercising and eating foods that nurture your body. Remember to be patient and kind with yourself as you work through the grief. For the most part, healing happens by facing the emotions, processing them, connecting with support, and finding a “new” normal.