Meet Tracy. She is an attractive woman with a warm smile. Her life is busy; she works; she has two children and an elderly father. She has learned to be strong for others, to keep busy and that time will heal all wounds. At night when the kids are in bed, she has a glass of wine or two and a bag of chips while watching Netflix. The alcohol, food and TV help her to relax and to not have to feel. Lately, she finds it harder and harder to get up in the morning and to keep going. Whenever she is not busy, a deep sadness is taking hold of her. This sadness is quite familiar.
She doesn’t know when she first started to have the lack of energy and these depressive thoughts and feelings. Perhaps, it was fourteen months ago, when her mother passed after a long fight with cancer. Or perhaps when she had two miscarriages and life just went on as if nothing happened. Or perhaps it was when her first marriage ended due to her husband’s infidelity. Or perhaps it was when her own parents divorced when she was fifteen. Or perhaps it all began when her beloved dog died when she was eight. Or perhaps this grief is as old as when she moved to Canada at the age of five not speaking a word of English, and having to leave her grandparents behind.
Grief is accumulative and it is accumulative negative. Our bodies become the storage tanks for all our losses and painful emotions because we were never given the tools to appropriately process our loss experiences. Our body speaks our mind through pains or other physical issues to let us know that the storage tank is over-flowing.
Instead of listening to those physical symptoms, we have all learned to use some Short-Term Energy Relieving Behaviours (STERBS) like drinking alcohol, smoking, eating, watching TV, playing computer games, sleeping, taking meds, shopping, cleaning, exercising, working and so on to distract ourselves from the painful feelings associated with our losses. It is time to become aware of our STERBS and to address our buried emotions to gain greater happiness and health.
The grief recovery work is for losses we have experienced through death, divorce and 40+ other life changing events. Some examples are the loss of a love relationship or friendship, infidelity and the loss of trust, the death of a pet, a job loss, a move, an accident or illness, resulting perhaps in the loss of health or mobility, a miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and other life altering occurrences. Even positive life changes like graduation, marriage, or the birth of a child can be an experience of loss.
We are all faced with incomplete relationships and situations. We are all grievers in some form or other at different points in our life. In fact, grief spares nobody. The training to become a grief specialist involved deep personal healing work. After all, we can only take our clients to where we ourselves have been willing to go. As my workshop partner and I were sharing our loss history graphs, we were amazed how many similar patterns we found, despite the fact that he was 12 years younger, at a different stage in his life, of a somewhat different cultural background and of a different gender. The conclusion can only be that as humans, we all experience the same patterns of grief due to death, divorce and other losses.
Grief is our normal and natural reaction to such a life changing event or loss. Grief occurs due to the conflicting feelings caused by the end or change of something familiar. It can masquerade as a powerful emotional state like deep sadness, depression or anger. Unresolved grief is almost always about us wishing things had been different, better, or more. We might have undelivered emotional communications with others. We also carry unrealized hopes, dreams or expectations. In case of the end of a good relationship, we might have had plans that never happened. In negative relationships, the end of the relationship robs us of the possibility to repair and make amends.
The grief recovery work helps to complete our relationship to the pain caused by a significant emotional loss. It helps us to take responsibility for our actions, forgive others for theirs, and to deliver significant emotional statements. It is the opportunity to say goodbye to any pain or unmet hopes and dreams. We can then feel complete, live fully in the present and focus on any existing fond memories. The grief recovery work gives us freedom and newfound joy. It opens the door to health and happiness.
Certified Grief Specialist, Belief Change Coach and Workshop Facilitator
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