Archives >

The Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy is a unique and supportive therapeutic environment that can foster a safe place for healing from a loss. The first time I completed the Grief Recovery Method Program was in a group setting. I was full of anxiety and fear, especially the thought of having to share my deepest sadness with other people. I was overwhelmed with happiness when I found group therapy to be transformational and played a key role in my healing. The support, compassion, and healing I felt through this model of therapy helped me find courage to move forward and heal from my losses. When we grieve we may feel alone, or have a difficult time identifying how we feel, and also feel isolated at the same time. During group, you can recognize that you are not alone and the support and compassion that is received allows you to be yourself and take action in your healing.

You Are Not Alone 

When our hearts are breaking and we are emotionally suffering, we may feel alone and isolated in this process. It may seem like our pain and sadness is so heavy and overwhelming that others must not know how it feels for us or what it is feels like at all. Irvin Yalom & Molyn Leszcz (2005) authors of The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy explains that many people begin therapy with the idea that they are unique in their wretchedness or have unacceptable problems, thoughts and feelings. Our sadness, our grief, and our relationships we lost is unique to us, therefore grieving, healing, and mourning is unique to us as well.

No one will truly know how we feel, because we all grieve different relationships and losses; however other people are experiencing their own pain and suffering and may be feeling lonely and isolated too. We are not alone in our suffering. Having the opportunity to work in a group helps us understand that grief does not have to be a lonely and isolating process, rather noticing that others are going through their unique pain as well. Understanding that we are not alone can allow us to feel safe, heard, and validated. When we can recognize others are also suffering, we begin to feel the human connection and can lessen our feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Vocalizing and Identifying Emotions

For some, social support may be minimal or others may feel they can’t talk to people in their lives about their loss. For me, I felt like I was burdening others with my grief, and therefore I slowly stopped talking about how I felt. When we feel like we are not supported we can begin to hide our feelings and not voice them anymore. Group therapy allows us to hear others speak about their loss, which can encourage us to find our voice again. Witnessing others begin to feel vulnerable and have courage to share their story can give us the strength to begin to share ours again.

Additionally, our pain is sometimes so intense we do not know how to identify or explain our loss with words. Listening to others share and describe their losses can help us make connections and identify emotion words that can describe our story. In my experience, I felt stuck in my grief, but I could not uncover the word that correctly explained how I was feeling. I remember hearing someone speak up and say “Sometimes I feel unwanted or unloved.” Immediately after I heard this sentence, I burst out into tears because feeling unlovable was the exact term I needed to describe how I was feeling. It was in the moment that I was able to identify and acknowledge what was keeping me stuck in my pain and then take action in my recovery and healing to move forward.

The Need for Human Connection

Ivrin Yalom & Molyn Leszcz share that “people need people, for initial and continued survival, for socialization and the pursuit of satisfaction. No one, not the dying nor the outcast or the mighty transcends the need for human contact. What people need is to make contact, to touch others, voice their concerns and to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.”

Human beings need connection and want to feel a sense of belonging. When something exciting happens in your life who do you turn to? When something sad happens in your life who do you confide in? When you experience a success in your life who do you share it with? We all look for connection in our good times and our challenging times in our lives. When we find that connection we strive for acceptance, compassion and belonging.

Brene Brown explains that when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are. Together as a group, group norms are established including having no judgement, analysis or criticism. When we look from this lens, we allow people to be vulnerable and be who they are which in turn creates the feeling of belonging. Support and connection is one of the most powerful and therapeutic foundations for healing. When we have the opportunity to voice our feelings to another human, we can feel safe, heard, and validated. We feel a sense of belonging, which creates a strong foundation for us to be courageous and share our pain with others who are willing to support us.

Taking the steps to join a group may be anxiety provoking or intimidating. I encourage you to see the benefits of group therapy and think about if it could be a good fit for you. At The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre, we offer a 6-Week Pet Loss Group, 8-Week Grief Recovery Group,  4-Week When Children Grieve Group, and 2-Day Grief Recovery Group Workshop. Please click here for upcoming group and workshop dates.

If you are seeking professional support to address your grief or trauma, our team is equipped with the tools to help. Please reach out to us at The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

References:

Brown, B. (2016). The Gifts of Imperfection. [United States]: Joosr Ltd.

Yalom, I., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.

The Impact of Grief and Trauma On the Brain

Grief is an emotional experience that causes us to feel deep pain and sadness, and can influence several areas of our lives. Our pain and sadness can become so intense that is consumes every ounce of energy we have. We recognize that grieving is emotional as we can feel it in our heart, but what is happening in our brain?

Memory and Focus

Grief not only impacts us emotionally, it affects our cognitive functioning as well. When we are grieving, we tend to become preoccupied with thoughts and emotions related to the loss, which tends to limit our ability to access our working memory and remember things like we used too. When we are overwhelmed by our loss experience, we also find it more difficult to concentrate and focus on any task at hand.

Have you ever been driving and wondered how you got from point A to point B? Or have you been daydreaming at work and discovered an hour has gone by and you don’t know what you have done within that hour? After working with several grievers, John James and Russell Friedman, founders of The Grief Recovery Institute, identified that grief consumes a significant amount of mental energy. When the emotional centre of our brain is overwhelmed, it makes it very difficult for us to engage in tasks that we would typically find easy and natural to focus on.

Organizing Thoughts

Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brooklyn, Massachusetts and the author of “The Body Keeps the Score.” He has done extensive research on how grief and trauma affects the brain. Dr. Van Der Kolk explains that  the right hemisphere of our brain processes emotions, senses, intuition, and imagination. Whereas the left hemisphere of the brain processes logic, facts, thoughts, and communication. After experiencing grief and trauma our left hemisphere may be impacted and unable to function adequately, ultimately impacting how our right hemisphere organizes thoughts and converts emotions into words. It often feels like we’re “losing our mind” because we actually have a reduced ability to think.

Fight or Flight Response

What is a fight or flight response? I first learned about our fight or flight response in a biology class in high school. I was unaware of how important and significant this response is. For those who are not familiar, our fight or flight response is a physiological response that happens we are in a dangerous, stressful or harmful situation. It is our body’s automatic survival tool. After experiencing trauma our fight or flight response kicks in.

Dr. Bruce Perry wrote a book called “The Boy who was Raised as a Dog”. He shares his research and experiences working with children who are exposed to trauma. He indicated that the average heartbeat for a child ranges from 70-90 beats per minute. In one of his stories, he shared that he checked the pulse of a young girl who had been exposed to trauma and found that her resting heart rate was 160 beats per minute. Perry explained that her heart rate was high because her stress-response system was constantly activated.

Further, hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are activated in the brain during a stressful event and control our heartbeat. Dr. Perry suggests that months or years after experiencing trauma, our brains and bodies will still create an overactive response. After we experience such devastating events, our brains will automatically respond if there is anticipation or in a situation that is familiar. Our body and brain are trying to protect and prepare us with the information it knows. This explains why we may experience anxiety, fear, or our fight and flight response when visiting a place where the traumatic even occurred.

Your Healing Journey

Experiencing grief and trauma can be devastating as it not only impacts us emotionally and physically but also physiologically. Once we become aware of how impactful grief and trauma is on our capacities to function in day-to-day life, we can learn how to be more compassionate and kind with ourselves. We can recognize that it is a normal and natural response to painful life situations.

It is also important to take action toward healing.

One powerful and important way to begin your healing journey, is to give yourself permission to feel all of the emotions that come up. Imagine your body like a processing plant for feelings, acknowledging and expressing every emotion that arises. This allows your body to naturally process the painful emotions associated to your loss experience so you can continue to move forward in a healthy way. When we stop the natural processing of emotions, the energy of those emotions becomes stored in our bodies, creating a negatively cumulative impact on our bodies and in our capacities for happiness, joy, and healing.

If you are seeking professional support to address your grief or trauma, our team is equipped with the tools to help. Please reach out to us at The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: https://bit.ly/32hH44Z

References:

Perry, B., & Szalavitz, M. The boy who was raised as a dog. United States: Hachette
Book Group.Reivich, K., & Shatté, A. (2003). The resilience factor. New York: Three River Press.

Van der Kolk, B., & Pratt, S. (2015). The body keeps the score. [United States]:
IDreamBooks Inc.

Helpful and Unhelpful Messages About Grief Within Music

Music is a part of our everyday lives. We hear music on our drive to work, when we exercise, while sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, and even in our favorite stores while shopping. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult time in our lives, we can rely on music for healing and inspiration. Catherine Ulbricht is a pharmacist and shares that music is linked to our moods and also has therapeutic effects. Additionally she explains that music can have an impact on a person’s mood and well-being. Music can play an instrumental role as we can relate to the lyrics, form a connection, and feel like we are not alone through our difficult times. When it comes to songs, there are some lyrics that have misinformation and myths pertaining to grief and then there are some others that send a good healing message. This blog dissects current songs that provide misinformation and alternative songs that deliver helpful information. 

Songs with Myths and Misinformation

Be Alright by Dean Lewis

“It’ll be okay
It’s gonna hurt for a bit of time
So bottoms up, let’s forget tonight
You’ll find another and you’ll be just fine
Let her go”

Currently, this is a popular song on the radio and has many myths and misinformation about how to heal after a break-up. One of the myths of grief is time heals all wounds, which implies if we just wait for time to heal, then our pain and grief may diminish. Further, when we grieve we use short term energy relieving behaviors (STERBs) which portray the idea that we are attending to our feelings but we are actually suppressing them. The second and third line suggests to give it time and use alcohol, which is a STERB, to forget about the pain. Another myth of grief is to replace the loss which the final two lines imply that there are plenty of people to choose from who can replace the partner. 

Numb by Jaira Burns

“Oh, I’ve been drinking for reasons other than fun
And I’m feeling numb-numb-numb-numb, numb-numb-numb-numb
I’ve been smoking this sadness into my lungs
And I’m feeling numb-numb-numb-numb, numb-numb-numb-numb”

Numb by Jaira Burns addresses the use of STERBs and the actual effects it has when we use them. When we participate in these behaviors we only experience a temporary sense of relief. The problem with STERBS is when we use these behaviors it gives us an illusion that we are healing but we are actually burying and numbing the pain. In this song she uses drinking and smoking as a way to numb her pain and sadness. It is important that when we are grieving we are attuned to our feelings and move through the pain rather than avoid it or replace it with substances. 

The Show must go on by Queen

“The show must go on
The show must go on (yeah yeah)
Ooh, inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on”

This song was one of the last songs written by Queen and was to show Freddie Mercury’s drive to want to continue singing through his battle with AIDS. Although there is inspirational meaning behind this song it is a good example about how we may put our emotions on hold instead of feeling and acknowledging them. John James and Russell Friedman of The Grief Recovery Institute created a term called “Academy Award Recovery” which is when we put on an act or façade that we are doing okay, but instead we are experiencing heartache and sadness. Within these lyrics we can see that Freddie Mercury is suffering and full of heartache but he still tries to keep a smile on his face. The misinformation in this song is we do not have to put on a fake smile when we are grieving. If we are open, honest, and intentional with our feelings we can work through our grief and start our journey toward moving beyond the pain. 

Songs with Helpful Information and Inspiration

Must have never met you by Luke Combs

“I guess whoever said the grass is greener 
Must have never seen the other side
What don’t kill you makes you stronger 
Sure sounds like a lie
And whoever said that time heals everything 
And everything will be alright?
Whoever said it ain’t the end of the world
You can find somebody new
Must’ve never met you”

Luke Combs challenges and addresses three myths in his song including, Be Strong, Time Heals Everything and Replace the Loss. He questions the societal norm and what he has heard from others and realizes these beliefs do not match his grieving process.  Additionally, he acknowledges an intellectual comment that is commonly heard after a break up which is “the grass is greener on the other side.” We know that intellectual comments are not helpful because they do not focus on the emotion or what the person is going through. When we suggest that the grass is greener on the other side, we are implying that what you had is replaceable and to move on because there is something better or more out there. He responds in his second line by saying the other side is not what he wants as he is grieving his current relationship and not ready to move forward.  

Cry Pretty by Carrie Underwood

“And falling apart is as human as it gets
You can’t hide it, you can’t fight what the truth is

You can pretty lie and say it’s okay
You can pretty smile and just walk away
Pretty much fake your way through anything
But you can’t cry pretty”

Carrie Underwood’s song Cry Pretty implies that you cannot hide from your emotions and eventually will have to embrace and feel your emotional pain. The line “falling apart is as human as it gets” is a powerful and inspiring message that holds truth. In our lives we are given the gift to feel love and give love. When we can feel love this also means we will experience loss and sadness when we lose people who are close to us. It is in our human nature to “fall apart” and feel sadness and despair just like we feel happiness and love. True strength comes out when we allow ourselves to grieve and feel instead of trying to hide behind a smile or a lie. 

This Ain’t my Momma’s Broken Heart by Miranda Lambert

“Go and fix your make up girl it’s, just a break up run an’
Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart”

In this song by Miranda Lambert shares messages that are learned through our lives that do not help with the grieving process. In these short lyrics, the myth of being strong is used by suggesting that you have to be strong and pull yourself together to act like a lady. She further sings about how we have been taught to keep it together even when we feel like falling apart. The concluding lyric in this verse sends a message that everyone will grieve differently and grieve in their own unique way. What may have “worked” for the mom is not helping the broken heart in this story. This song teaches us that even though we may have been told myths and misinformation we still have the opportunity to grieve in our own way. It also teaches us that we will all grieve individually and will have unique experiences with our losses. 

If you are seeking support to move through the pain of loss in your life, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. We can be reached at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: www.udiscovermusic.com/news/carrie-underwood-cry-pretty-tracklisting

Reference: Ulbricht, C. (2013). Music Therapy for Health and Wellness. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/natural-standard/201306/music-therapy-health-and-wellness

Next Page »