Grief has a way of showing up in our lives at the most unexpected times. Sometimes, we can plan for the grieving process. Such as a planned change of employment, a move to a new community, or a family member dying of cancer. Other times, grief is sudden, unexpected, unwarranted, unplanned, devastating, and traumatic. In this way, grief is unexpected. It can send us into a place we never knew where we could be. It can change the course of our journey and our life forever.
As a psychotherapist, I “dance” with grief in my shallow office doors in a room with a couch, a blanket, a table and a box of Kleenex. I can listen to someone or a family express their grief, and I feel their pain, their hurt, and their sorrow. I can escort them back home, and say a prayer in my heart for their healing. I can write my notes, and close the door to their experience and their impact upon me. But when I am not working. When I leave the door, I am reminded of my own same fear of grief, of pain, of loss, sorrow and more. Even as a psychotherapist, or a major NBA star, or a father of two beautiful children, or whichever role we play or whichever journey exists in our life, we will experience grief.
“We are not “immune” to grief as it is part of the human journey. But with grief, comes healing in different forms, in different people, in opportunities, and in continuing to live”
Healing from Grief
Honestly speaking, our journeys will bring us healing in different ways. Healing may come from our upbringing and how we were raised. It may come from our cultural background, and the traditions that are cultivated to help people heal. It may come from engagement with people in multiple ways. It may come from further experiences, whether difficult or positive. It depends. However, we can steer the direction of our healing with information and tools designed to help us navigate the process in the best way and to avoid re-traumatization. Re-traumatization occurs when we engage in other behaviors and activities that lead us to experience more difficult events and trauma as a result of our grief. Each grief process requires a different approach and journey, and as we tap into our own “self-identity”, we can learn to adapt to the best process that works for us.
When a difficult experience occurs in your life, ACKNOWLEDGE that the event occurred, write down or identify your initial feelings about the event, and decide what you need in the moment to “take care” of those feelings. For example, in 2008 I experienced a significant loss when I took an educational leave from my beloved employment. I loved my work and what I was doing and was not ready for the change. However, I knew that there were significant events which had threatened my job security and I needed to make improvements in my practice to remain active within the field. It was difficult. I felt angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, nervous, excited and a range of many difficult emotions. I remember experiencing changes in my thoughts, changes in how I felt about myself and my situation, and changes in my behavior. This was grief. By recognizing that you are experiencing grief, take the time to assess: how am I reacting? what emotions and feelings am I experiencing now? has there been changes in my behavior? why am I feeling this way, and finally: what do I need? In the situation I described, I did not need my hurt or pain to “go away”. I would have loved it if I did not have these feelings. However, these emotions are inevitable with job changes, moves, death of a loved one, relationship breakups, miscarriages, and more. I needed to focus on how can I RELIEVE the pain I feel now, and how can I create OPPORTUNITIES from my experiences of grief.
In healing grief, I truly believe in the adherence to an holistic approach to healing using the four quadrants: spirituality (our beliefs, our higher purpose, and our meaning to life), physical (our bodies, our behavior, and our activities), emotional (our feelings, emotions, and heart), and mental (our knowledge, our experiences, our wisdom).
Develop a practice of spirituality…
When we talk about spirituality, many people often assume we refer to God or Christian faith. While myself and many people may ascribe to a faith-based practice, it is only a part of spirituality. Even those who ascribe to no faith-based practice, i.e. atheists have an existence of spirituality. As you move through your healing, ask yourself: what are your beliefs about grief, loss and change? What does your inner being or your inner soul need to feel at peace? What meaning do you ascribe to when it comes to death, loss, change, and more? Are your beliefs challenged now that you have experienced this loss? Engaging in physical activities, becoming mindful of the impact of grief on your bodies, and reflecting upon your behavior… will help you to address your physical needs in the healing process. Sometimes this may include: walking, mindfulness practices, exercises, yoga, swimming, meditation, breathing, dancing, pow wows, cannabis and medication, naturopathy, massage therapy, physiotherapy and cranosacrial therapy, and so much more.
Become mindful of the impact of grief on our bodies, and engage in activities that allow us to use our bodies as our way of healing.
To commemorate my healing and transformation, I used the Adrinka symbol, “Sesa Wo Suban” as a tattoo and later as the symbol for Aset Group Consulting and Counselling Services. I learned that change occurs as part of our life journey, and grieving can occur as a result of this change. I accept that I grieve, and we all grieve as humans. We also can not control or stop hurtful experiences, sometimes. And, I learned to radically accept some of the most difficult experiences that occurred to me, my close people, my clients, and the world. This knowledge is how our MINDS (Mental Being) heals from the trauma associated with grief. Knowledge is critical. Find a way to learn about yourself and your experience through books, podcasts, writing, videos, speaking to others, counselling or psychotherapy, speaking to elders or religious leaders and more. Feed your healing process with knowledge, knowing that knowledge will help to support your SPIRIT, your BODY, and your FEELINGS.
I just need you to understand, “I am hurting”
Speaking your truth, talking about your pain, identifying your emotions, and sharing your experiences is a powerful way of finding your peace as you navigate through your grieving process. Many of us try to move on, bury our emotions in the sand, lock away our pain and refuse to address how we feel. Grief has a way of finding itself manifested throughout our lives in different ways. While painful and difficult, I encourage you to seek ways to express this pain in healthy ways as you move through these experiences. Knowing that grief is shared by each human being on this planet, let us navigate this process together and in support and solidarity of each other.
Written by: Nicole Perryman – I am honored to share my thoughts with you on grief on Monday, January 27 2020. If you require support, please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance from your closest people, your mentor or elder, your counsellor, or even to us. I wish you well on your journey and I am sending you wishes for continued opportunities for healing.