Live a fulfilling life: Processing grief and healing your heart

By Christine Carey

Loss of financial security, death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, going away to school, displacement due to a natural disaster, miscarriage, perception of failed leadership, abuse – all of these are situations that you may not fully realise impact your well-being.

Even if you intellectualise your loss, believing that you’ve “dealt with it”, the mind and body will retain your thoughts and feelings and create manifestations in your physical, cognitive, behavioural, social and philosophical health. There are healthy ways to cope with the pain that in time can renew you and allow you to move on.

Helping adults deal with loss

Many years ago I was introduced to Dr Wavell Thompson when I needed to do some emotional work of my own. We did an exercise together that really changed my life because it allowed me to in a controlled way release destructive thoughts that I had locked inside. You see, grief can be cumulative. The longer you go through life having experiences that you tuck away into “cabinets” which you seal and lock away without addressing, the more “dis-ease” you tend to manifest. You also have more of a challenge feeling fulfilled in life because there is constant pent up negative energy cycling in your mind and heart.

Having the courage to acknowledge memories and be open with how they made you feel can create great transformation and healing – and space for greater love. Here is the loss history exercise:

  1. Write down every experience of loss on a timeline. Record your first memory straight through to today. Avoid denial, mislabelling and minimising situations.

  2. Circle the events that standout as really difficult.

  3. Write a letter to the person or situation that was involved in one of the circled situations. Say everything! Positive things, negative things; write until you have nothing else left to say.

  4. Read the letter to a confidant, but make sure it’s not the person who was involved. This exercise has nothing to do with the person your letter may be addressed to; only your feelings and thoughts.

  5. Destroy the letter and repeat the process for each of the circled events.

Helping children deal with loss

The sooner we teach our children to properly process grief and heal their hearts, the healthier our families and community will be. Loss can be overwhelming especially without the tools to understand and communicate feelings. Based on the Grief Recovery Pyramid by Arlene Taylor, here are some tools to help children deal with loss effectively:

• Include them in your grief recovery process and be authentic. Allow them to see frailty as well as strength.

• Help them talk about how they feel and express their feelings. Listen without judgment and be patient. Have them draw, take pictures, journal, or work on crafts.

• Regardless of gender, let them know that tears are OK and can be helpful in the grieving process. Reaffirm that tears are a natural brain phenomenon that are a gesture of deep emotion.

Boys do and should cry!

• Give them hope for the future. Write on the calendar activities for next week, month and year. The upcoming activity can help them see past the loss in the immediate present and visualise the future.

• Create routines to help promote a sense of security and stability. Knowing what is going to happen (for example dinner is at 6pm, grocery shopping happens Wednesday evening).

• Help them to experience a sense of being in control over something (for example clothing selections, foods, games). If it is inappropriate for them to be in complete control, give them some choice about a portion of the event, activity or situation.

• All health content in this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.

Christine Carey is a certified holistic life coach (www.christine-carey.com), partner at Liquid Nutrition (www.liquidnutrition.com) and director of Corporate Wellness at 242 Consulting (www.242consulting.com). With over ten years of coaching experience, Ms Carey works with individuals and groups to assess and define their health and lifestyle goals with a strong focus on increasing knowledge and implementing tools for success.


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