Learning to Dance in the Storms

You can never be fully prepared to lose a loved a one. Whether the death was imminent, anticipated or sudden the emotional and mental aftermath is life-changing, heartbreaking and downright terrifying.   Grief can manifest itself in many forms and rear its overwhelming self at the most inconvenient, unpredictable of times.  Sadly, I know this from personal experience. Four years ago, I lost my sister in a tragic accident while 6 months pregnant with my first child.  Three years ago, my mother passed away. Four months ago, my dad died unexpectedly, exactly one week before Christmas.

The last four years have been a blur with twists and turns I never saw coming. The emotion was so overwhelming it became debilitating.  I felt like I had lost complete control of my world and everything in it.  I would often get trapped in my own sad thoughts. It got to the point that I believed I was not living the life I had envisioned nor sharing it with the people that I wanted to.  As I continued to spiral, my grief manifested into anxiety and panic attacks. I felt stuck, helpless, and lonely. I am not exactly sure the when I realized that I had become an observer in my own life, but I knew I had a choice to make –  continue to stay in this space or begin working through the mess that was my life. I had two young kids, a loving husband, loyal friends and so many blessings to be thankful for – so the choice became clear. With the support of my family doctor, I began talk therapy and educated myself about the grieving process and each stage (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Having this awareness and understanding has allowed me to begin working through my losses – in my own time and in my own way.

My mom’s favourite saying was “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” and for me, this has so much more meaning today. I have learned that life is hard and unpredictable and it can change in a heartbeat.   The more I accept this the easier life is becoming to manage. It is hard to remember my life and the person I was four years ago. Sometimes things happen in life that change us or sometimes it is an accumulation of life experiences that change us. As we have more experiences, even when they are difficult, they can make us look at life differently and value love and resiliency in a whole new way. We appreciate living in the moment – and also appreciate complexity and growth.

(Graciously submitted by a graduate student)

If you or a loved one are struggling with the loss of a loved one and would like assistance, please  Contact us today!

Photo above by Jan McGrath

Grieving the Loss of a Romantic Relationship ?

How did you find out? Did she change her status on Facebook? Did he say he’s headed off to work and never return? Did she email or tweet her goodbye? Maybe he said; “It’s not you… I just need to figure me out” or she said something like; “I‘m just not in love anymore”.

Either way it hurts and hurts a lot! When someone we love and cherish bails, gives up, and then chooses to do so in a cowardly way, such betrayal causes severe grief.

“Grief combines overwhelming sadness with a feeling of despair,” (Fisher & Alberti, 2000).

When recovering after a relationship loss, grieving is an important element. Everyone copes with and responds to loss differently. Thoughts and actions associated with grief often vary greatly from one individual to another. This can make it quite difficult for loved ones to understand and help one another. We may think we are not handling things well, we are powerless to overcome this loss or we may think our lives are hopeless. We may place blame on ourselves, and others, for the pain resulting from the broken relationship.

It can be very difficult to cope well when we are consumed by these thoughts and feelings, seemingly every moment of every day. They are especially strong when the break in a relationship is recent. Many people find comfort in the guidance and support received from family and friends yet, for some this is not the case. Some can also find support through their church fellowship, prayer and other spiritual resources. This may also be a good time to seek a consultation with a registered, professional counsellor who is experienced in assisting with the healthy recovery processes.

Crisis intervention, stress management combined with cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) help people not only cope but also adjust following a significant loss. CBT helps the grieving person(s) develop an increased understanding about thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to loss and grief.  Along with feelings of despair and helplessness, those grieving may also experience intense sadness/depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, grief, disappointment, anger and a severe sense of aloneness or isolation. Strangely enough some may experience relief as well.

With these rising and falling waves of emotions and thought, day-to-day living becomes a struggle which can further disrupt functioning. Loss of sleep and poorer eating add to the already distressful situation. These feelings and related stressful events may even foster destructive behaviours such as increased arguments, substance abuse, disordered eating habits, refusal to engage in daily routines, isolation from family and friends and recklessness.

It is important to have the support of another at this difficult time. Talk to someone to vent and find solutions to better cope with the discouraging thoughts and feelings. When we have effective support, and maybe even professional counselling, the grieving process can foster improvements in ourselves we may never have believed possible. With counselling we can heal wounds, recover and rebuild. Developing healthy and appropriate ways to cope help us have more peace and comfort with the grieving process, opening up new opportunities and possibilities for growth.

Book an appointment with us today!

 

People express emotions and concerns so many different ways. Some lean toward expressing themselves verbally and others more nonverbally. Most draw upon one style or the other to a greater or lesser extent. Some vent softly and quietly while others shout out and bellow. Still others may choose to use art and music to express thoughts and feelings.

The picture above is one sixteen year old’s self portrait of her pain and sorrow, sketched out onto a plain piece of paper during a meeting. Sadness, depression, pain, sorrow and grief are a few emotions that we might think are bad or negative, however, all emotions are valuable. How we express these feelings, and indeed all emotions, can be either positive or negative; helpful or hurtful.

We may witness how other people express themselves and, at times, compare or even judge.  Are they “over dramatizing”, “coping well”, “too emotional” or “holding in too much”?  How should somebody react to abuse? What is the proper way to show emotions after the death of a loved one, the loss of a precious pet or after hearing the news your spouse or romantic partner is leaving you?

Could it be we are simply so uncomfortable with the expression of certain emotions, like sadness, depression, pain, sorrow and grief, we are also unsure how to react when others express these feelings? Emotions are valuable tools that signal us when something is wrong, alert us to the safety levels in various situations. They remind us of the quality and qualities in our relationships, point to areas for personal improvement and even refine and accentuate our communication.

There is a time and place for every emotion. Discovering how to express ourselves more fully and effectively is an art. Validating the expressions of others and providing an empathetic response is also an art requiring study (e.g. mentoring, coaching, observation and reading) and practice.  With time and effort we can develop and improve the art of expressing ourselves fully.

I’m quite tired now and becoming more uncertain about this post. Guess I’d better get some rest.