Avoiding the Present Experience

November 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments
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Missing Mimi

It is fairly common to avoid that we experience, specifically if we don’t like what the experience brings with it. Often, dare I say ever, it is the emotional component that is disliked, unaccepted or denied.

I don’t like anger

I am aware of this right now. Today marks what would have been my mother’s 70 birthday, if not she chose to end her life prematurely in January this year. Today is a heavy day for me and I struggle with the mixture of anger at her decision to leave, her not being physically present and celebrating with her and her one year old grandchild, the feeling of missing her and on the other side the desire for me to be compassionate, accepting and seeing the positive in everything. Right now, the anger is much more prevalent and in my head I hear the screaming voice saying: ‘What the hell is there positive in this???’

I just want to feel better

I’m reminded of one of my client’s session this week where my clients said: ‘I want to feel better, I don’t like feeling the way I’m feeling and it doesn’t make sense anyway.’

As a starting point, the desire to change isn’t wrong. It might just be premature to want to change from anger to joy in one step. There is a good reason for the emotion in the moment, whether we like it or not. There must be, otherwise we were we as human emotional being constructed this way? Beside the obvious, the release of the various emotional responses help us deal with what is and release tension. Tears help you heal. So do the emotion that are present, with or without tears.

Charge versus memory Continue Reading Avoiding the Present Experience…

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Clearing Things

September 19, 2012 at 3:34 am | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments
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Timetable of Grief

Today I stood in the garage with my Dad going through the remnants of my parents life. They have been married and together for 54 years from when they were 17 years old. My Dad tears up as he watches my Mum’s picture in what we call ‘Mum’s room’. In every little thing stored in their garage there is history, stories about all those moments they shared.

I’m dealing with clearing the things he no longer needs or wants. He says: ‘It might be easier for you to throw these things away than for me. Or maybe not?’ He is relieved that he doesn’t have to deal with all the details.

He tells me some of the anectodes that I might have heard before but I let him tell me again. It’s his processing time. Today on the phone he mentioned that he is good at avoiding, so I figure that I give him as much of this way of processing that he choses to take on his own choice.

I recall another instant… 6 weeks ago we came to Switzerland and he was with us the last 3,5 weeks at our old home. On one of the last days we went to visit Hope’s place, the beach where we scattered our little girl’s ashes. I was surprised at the emotional reaction he had as we stood there quietly at the ocean, after our ritual rose petal scattering. Again, processing time.

I’m aware again and again that grief has its own timetable as I’m standing here in ‘Mum’s room’ with my Dad. For him, the most manageable way to deal with my Mum’s suicide was and still is avoiding it. He’s been in a state of shock for the first few months, fully functioning on the outside, seemingly looking and feeling ‘well’ but inside he was probably not fully connected with what had happened. It might have been the best this way. He’s not in denial, just doing what he can.

Knowing When to Get Help

December 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Posted in health, self development/motivation | Leave a comment
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Can you help me?

As a counsellor, coach or other therapist we are not exempt from needing help. We all do face life issues that we cannot easily deal with ourselves and need an outside expert to support us. Even though we work in the field of supporting people it does not mean we can easily fix all our own problems.

Like any doctor who at times needs to see a colleague, so do counsellors. But when is it the right time? This is the exact same question that you will be asking yourself, before calling and making an appointment with a counsellor. Let me share you my experience in making the decision to make the call.

With the recent challenges I experienced with the passing of one of my twins two days after she was born I was facing the hardest times I ever had to go through in my life. The grief on one side and the joy of new motherhood on the other side, including the sleep deprivation and learning how to be a parent put me under big strain, emotionally, mentally and physically. Even though I was coping most of the times, there were times when I was not. In the good times I would think ‘it is fine, I’m able to do this on my own’ but in the tough times I really wasn’t all that fine – understandable under the circumstances.

There came the time that the tough times were too frequent and unsustainable over time. My life normally was built on the base of good times with sprinkles of challenges and annoyances. The life that I was living now however was the opposite; it was as if tough times were the undercurrent of my life.

If you were to compare your ‘normal life’ with how you are now, how different is it? Can you really live with how it is now? Is it just an exception or is it a trend? Answering these questions made me seek help.

I do not expect the person I am seeing to solve my problems or fix my issues. Some of the things that I am dealing with cannot be solved ever. That is not the point of seeing someone. She helps me deal with the challenges I am facing, she supports me in gaining a different perspective and think about upcoming potential pitfalls before I fall in again. And the most important benefit I get from the sessions is that she normalizes my situation, my emotions, and my reactions. She makes me feel normal, where I am an expert in being hard on myself. She does not make my life easy but she definitely helps to ease and softens my tough side or challenges my judgmental side.

All in all I would say that if you are asking yourself the question whether it is time to ask for help, do it. If you were in victim mentality, you probably would not ask the question anyway…

Grief – A Very Personal Experience

November 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 2 Comments
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Today marks 2 months since Amya Mirica passed away.

Yesterday Chris and I went out for the first time in the evening and left Ananda Mae with my sister. We went to the classical concert of the Brandenburg Orchestra of which we have season’s tickets. The previous concert was exactly 2 months ago, the evening of Amya Mirica’s passing and the music gently reminded me of the presence of angels in the room as the beautiful angelic voice of the soloist soprano filled the concert hall serendipitously called ‘Angel’s place’. I was once again reminded that grief is a very personal experience and will be experienced in any unexpected moment and location.

This week we also went back to the hospital, where I gave birth, where we said good-bye to Amya Mirica and from where we took Ananda Mae home with us. The hospital will always hold an interesting energy and importance for me – both joy and bliss as overriding emotions associated with the birth and sadness and despair of losing my child. This time we went back to join a Bereavement Group.

It was a deep and intense morning as we shared with couples who also lost their babies. Each and every one of us is grieving. When I listened to their stories I felt connected in sharing a similar experience. In my career as a counsellor working with clients experiencing grief I was, according to their feedback, really able to support them in their process. Now however, I doubt that I was ever able to REALLY be there for them without fully understanding the depth of their experience. I think now that this is only really possible now that I gained access to this experience on a very personal level.

A few weeks ago I met my banker, who I have been talking to frequently before the birth of the twins. When I told her my story she said: I’m so sorry, I know what you’re going through. My first reaction inside was ‘I doubt you know what I’m going through’. She then however shared with me that she lost her second child through cot death at 3 months. This statement total y changed the meaning of her empathy. I have to say that I couldn’t imagine what she must have gone through in her personal experience and even though we share the part of losing one’s own child at a very young age, it’s still a very personal story and experience. She then said: ‘It will get easier’ and, in comparison to other people who could have said the same, coming from her it was founded in her personal experience and therefore I took it on board.

I also learnt this week that there are two fundamentally different ways people feel and deal with grief: the instrumental griever and the intuitive griever. The instrumental griever, historically the man, feels better by doing things as they feel unable to fix this. The intuitive griever, usually the woman, grieve through experiencing all the emotions and crying frequently. This can cause discordance in a relationship between an intuitive and an instrumental griever as they are rarely in the same place. Grieving has given our relationship a totally different level of understanding of each other, as well as ability to be with the other’s way of dealing with it.

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My Child Died – A Conversation Stopper

October 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 25 Comments
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Hope 🙂

Many people are lost for words when they hear me say that my child has passed away. Losing one’s own child is one of those experiences that we don’t know how to deal with – an untimely death.

I want to encourage people to dare to speak to me about my child, to mention her name and to ask me how I feel about it now. It does not have to be the only topic we talk about but it definitely shouldn’t be the one topic to avoid.

It might bring up emotions in me and it will definitely bring up emotions in you. What you are doing with them – allow and welcome or hide and suppress them – is the question.  You are meeting your own grief. You might be afraid of what you think it must feel like for me.  The chance is that I’ve already gone through and experienced the sadness, despair,  hopelessness, anger… This however is no absolution from feeling it again and again whether you mention it or not. Sooner or later I will go through the emotions and so are you. There is no way of hiding from this experience in life.

So the question really becomes: Can you bear standing in the face of any emotions, mine or your own? Are you ready to be authentic and share your tears with me? Or are you more comfortable hiding them?

There is no right or wrong way and no judgement of mine. It’s whatever you are comfortable with in yourself.

 

And remember – there is no set time frame for grief.

It will NEVER be over, so don’t expect me to ‘be over it’.

I don’t want time to heal this wound.

Yes, it will (and already has) get easier.

Grieving the Loss of My Child

September 28, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Posted in grief/loss | 8 Comments
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Having given birth to my twin girls just 4 weeks ago and having had to say good-bye to one of them just two days afterwards, I am experiencing all the facets of grief. This gives me a totally new perspective and a truly personal relationship with what is probably one of the deepest emotions to experience: grieiving one’s child.

I’ve put the following together to help friends and family understand on how to deal with us and our grief:

Wishes of An Angel’s Mum and Dad

  • I wish you would not be afraid to mention my baby Amya Mirica Hope. Just because you never saw her doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve your recognition.
  • I wish that if we did talk about my baby and I cried you didn’t think it was because you have hurt me by mentioning her. I need to cry and talk about my baby with you, it helps me heal.
  • I wish you could tell me you are sorry my baby has died and that you are thinking of me, it tells me you care.
  • I wish you wouldn’t think what has happened is one big bad memory for me. The memory of my baby, the love I feel for my baby and the dreams I had for her are all loving memories. Yes there are bad memories too, but please understand that it’s not all like that.
  • I wish you wouldn’t judge me because I’m not acting the way you think I should be. Grief is a very personal thing and we’re all different people who deal with things differently.
  • I wish you wouldn’t think if I have a good day I’m ok or if I have a bad day I’m being unreasonable. There is no “normal” way for me to act.
  • I wish you wouldn’t expect me to “feel better” in a few weeks, months, or years for that matter. It may get easier with time but I will never be “over” this.
  • I wish you could tell me you are thinking of me on my baby’s birthday, Mothers Day, celebration times and the day my baby died. These are all important and sad days for me.
  • I wish you understood that losing my baby has changed me. I’m not the same person I was before and I’ll never be that person again. If you keep waiting for me to get back to “normal” you’ll stay frustrated. I am a new person with new thoughts, dreams, beliefs, and values. Please try to get to know the ‘new’ me, you might even still like me.

Avoid Clichés & Unhelpful Comments

Remember that we loved and wanted THIS baby, Amya Mirica Hope even though we have Ananda Mae Passion with us

  • “Everything happens for a reason”
  • “You will have another baby”
  • “I know what you’re going through (unless you have experienced a similar loss)
  • “I guess it’s God’s way of taking care of those with problems”
  • “You would rather have lost your baby then look after a child with a disability”
  • “Sometimes these things happen for the best”
  • “It wasn’t meant to be”
  • “You’re young, you’ll get over it”
  • “At least you weren’t farther along.”
  • “This was probably a blessing in disguise.”
  • “Now you have an angel in heaven.”
  • “It was God’s will”
  • “At least you have other children”
  • “At least you can get pregnant”
  • “The baby would have been deformed anyway”
  • “Everything will be fine next time”
  • “You can try again”

Also, don’t fill in conversations with unnecessary outside news, including the announcement of a pregnancy or the birth of another baby.

Book Review – On Grief And Grieving By Elisabeth Kübler-Ross And David Kessler

January 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Posted in grief/loss | Leave a comment
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This book about grief is one of my favourites and it is one of the most thorough coverage on this topic. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has helped many people find the meaning of grief through her introduction of the five stages of loss.

Summary

Understanding the Grieving Process

Basically, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross demystifies the process of grieving and helps people cope with themselves going through grief or with people they know, who have lost someone. According to her there are five stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, which she explains in detail.

More in detail

Shortly before her death in 2004, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, her collaborator, completed the manuscript for this book. On Grief and Grieving is her final book and a fitting completion to her work.

The first chapter of the book is a detailed description and explanation of the five stages of grief, each part containing stories to exemplify what it would look like in people’s lives. Even just reading this part brings relief to people struggling to understand what they are going through.

The next two chapters cover the inner an outer world of grief, covering various topics of interest like: your loss, tears, dreams, regrets, roles, the story, resentment, isolation, punishment, afterlife, anniversaries, sex, your body and your health, just to name a few.

The chapter following is dedicated to special circumstances like children, multiple losses, disasters, suicide, Alzheimer disease and sudden death. If you have suffered a loss in these areas please read the specific part to give you more insight into your story.

The chapters towards the end of the book include the changing face of grief and the authors’ personal stories of their own grief.

On Grief and Grieving has profoundly influenced the way we experience the process of grief.

About the author

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-born psychiatrist, who lived between 1926 and 2004. She pioneered near-death studies and wrote seventeen books over a thirty-six years period. Her groundbreaking On Death and Dying changed the way we talked about the end of life.

After studying medicine, to the dismay of her father, she later moved to the States and continues her studies in New York. She worked as a psychiatric resident where she became interested in patients who were dying, encouraging the hospice care movement, and believing that euthanasia prevents people from competing their ‘unfinished business’.

In her later life she suffered a series of strokes in 1995, which left her partially paralyzed on her left side. In one of their final writing sessions, Kübler-Ross told Kessler, “The last nine years have taught me patience, and the weaker and more bed-bound I become, the more I’m learning about receiving love.”

Recommendation

This is must to read for anyone working or dealing with people suffering the loss of a loved one, experiencing grief themselves or dealing with terminal illness, where anticipatory grief comes into play. Personally in my work I refer to this book often when dealing with clients.

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