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Physical Injuries and Emotional Suffering

Physical injuries are painful, crippling and affect many areas in our lives. When we suffer from physical injuries our close friends and families can be compassionate and help with everyday routines such as getting groceries and helping around the house. Our loved ones can be attuned to our needs and dedicate time to support us in the areas we need help. With injuries, people may be dealing with multiple doctors appointments, insurance claims, physiotherapy appointments and hospital visits. These additional tasks can be time consuming and put a hindrance in our lives. It is common knowledge that physical injuries are painful but how do physical injuries impact us emotionally? Can we grieve our physical injuries? There is a lot of information on the physical impact of injuries on the body but there is little information about how it impacts us emotionally.

Injury in the Workplace: Injuries in the workplace are very common especially with trades and jobs that involve physical labor. Depending on the injury, some people may have to take short-term disability, long-term disability or a leave of absence. There is a significant amount of loss that can be experienced when these unexpected events occur. Not only do people experience physical limitations but the emotional impact can be hindering. If time off work is necessary for healing this would also likely result in financial loss. These changes impact our freedom and feeling financially stressed can become emotionally paralyzing. Further, some work cultures foster healthy relationships and a supportive environment. For some the workplace could be a place of support, friendship and connection. To be separated from work cultures can also leave us feeling alone and isolated. Additionally, some people’s jobs may be part of their identity, therefore being separated from something they love can be distressing. If any of you have struggled with injuries in the workplace and grieved the loss of your freedom or mobility, you are not alone in your suffering.

Sports Injury: Playing sports benefits people for many reasons other than physical activity. Sports foster a sense of community, friendship, passion and love for the game. Sport injuries are extremely common in hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball. Injuries such as knee tears, broken bones or torn ligaments can prevent individuals from playing for months and up to years. These types of injuries are not often considered a grieving experience, however the overwhelming emotions can be piercing. For some, these activities help with stress relief, improved sleep and ultimately is a form of self care. Not being able to return to the sport or indulge in your regular patterns of self care can be emotionally distressing. If you have grown up playing a sport it can also be recognized as a piece of your identity. For some who have dedicated years to the game and being forced into retirement can be a huge loss. It may feel as though a piece of you was stripped away and routines you were familiar with are no longer apart of your life.

Body Changes with Age: As we age it is an inevitable transition that our bodies will change and impact our strength and mobility. Changes with our body as a result of aging can be an emotionally distressing process. People may experience a loss of independence and self-reliance because the activities they used to engage in are no longer possible. Loss of friendship and relationships can also occur if the activities you participated in included socialization. In addition some people may feel the burden of needing to reach out to others for assistance and support. Loss of mobility can also leave people experiencing isolation and may feel like they are trapped in their own body. Grieving the loss of freedom, loss of youth and loss of mobility can be heart wrenching and distressing. 

Permanent Body Changes: Unexpected and grueling accidents can result in paralysis and other permanent body changes. These unexpected and drastic life changes can be a difficult realization and an emotionally challenging journey.  Not only are people trying to learn basic functions again but may also be grieving the life they once had. Finding a new normal can be an optimistic yet disheartening transition. People may experience conflicting emotions such as being grateful to be alive but also feeling sad to say goodbye to their previous life. It is important to be empathetic and compassionate towards people who have experienced such substantial injuries. We tend to ask how people are doing in their physical healing but sometimes miss asking how they are doing in their emotional healing journey. 

Physical illness is hard on the body but also impacts our emotions and overall mental health. It can be challenging to work through physical healing and also being attuned to your emotional suffering. If you have someone in your life who is experiencing physical limitations, be gentle, compassionate and patient. Sometimes just being a listening ear is the best form of emotional support. If you are experiencing physical limitations, we see you and recognize your grief and sadness. Dedicate time to listen to your emotional and physical body and focus on what you need for nurturance and care. 

At The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre we have a compassionate and dedicated team of therapists and grief specialists that offer a variety of interventions and programs to support you through your grief. Our expertise in grief and loss encourages us to support you through whatever emotional pain or circumstances you are enduring. We offer a safe and supportive environment for you to explore your emotions and share openly and honestly. If you are currently struggling with a loss due to physical injury or otherwise, please reach out to us at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca. We are here to help.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Founder 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: shorturl.at/rCRZ5

The Iran Plane Crash: Unexpected Loss and Devastating Tragedy

Unexpected and traumatizing loss can leave us feeling shocked, numb and in disbelief. After hearing about the Iran plane crash carrying several Edmontonians, we were shocked, devastated and heartbroken. Not only do our hearts ache for the friends and family who lost their loved ones, but we grieve as a city and a nation. Our minds may wander back and forth as we begin to question, “Has this really happened? “How could this happen?” Nothing could prepare us for this moment of sudden heart break and grief.

After we experience such heart wrenching news, it is almost as though we wish time would stop. The world continues to move forward and we are stuck in this pain wishing there was time to process what has happened. Experiencing intense emotional pain triggers our minds to take over and we begin questioning how life is going to look now. After the plane crash, we knew that several people would be struggling with this devastating loss. Below are some helpful information and resources to support you through this process.

Give yourself time for processing. Giving yourself time to feel your emotions may appear to be a simple action, however after a loss it is easy to keep busy and try to ignore our emotions. Brene Brown explains that powerful emotions feel very sharp, prick us like a thorn and cause us discomfort. She continues to add, “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions we also numb the positive ones.” At the end of the day, no matter how much we try to push away how we feel, the pain still stays within us and can limit us from feeling all of our emotions. When we grieve, we have to move through the pain, not over, under or around it. In today’s society, we have a strong focus and intent to “fix things”, including our mental health. What makes grieving so exhausting is that it is not something that can be fixed. Rather, we have to embark on a journey of attending to our emotions and giving ourselves time and space to grieve. If there was a magic wand we could wave that would heal everyone from their grief, we would do that, but unfortunately it is an inevitable process that we must persevere through.

What it means to be strong. When we search synonyms for being “strong” words such as tough, muscular, tenacious, and indestructible come up. Feeling as though we have to be strong can give the illusion that we appear to “be okay” or as if we are handling the situation well. When we think of “being strong” or finding “strength” when grieving we need to recognize this term is misleading and redefine the term. When we grieve, strength comes from emotional vulnerability and finding the courage to be honest about our emotions. Strength comes from making correct and healthy choices that will help you on your journey such as reaching out for support, journalling, sharing your story with a trusted friend or family member, and self care. When we think about being strong after a loss, it’s about being your authentic self and recognizing what your body, heart, spirit, and mind need to feel safe and supported on the healing journey.

What we know about intellectual comments. Intellectual comments rob us from feeling our emotional pain. Grief is extremely exhausting and painful, so telling ourselves intellectual things may seem like a healthy way to process our emotions. We might assume if we can just intellectualize and make sense of this tragedy in our brain, we may begin to feel better. Grief, tragedy, trauma and loss will never make sense intellectually, and dedicating time and energy to “understanding” leaves us circling our emotions. Examples of intellectual comments include, “Well at least they didn’t suffer”, “It was God’s will”, or “They are in a better place.” Although we may believe these comments to be true, they are not emotionally useful and don’t help heal our broken hearts. It is important to honour and hold space for what is in our hearts. Our hearts hold authentic emotional turmoil and being attuned to what is in our hearts is an important initial step in our healing journey.

Unexpected loss can leave us with a multitude of unanswered questions. These unanswered questions can make us wish the outcome for our loved one’s had a different result. Navigating grief and adapting to life without our loved one can be isolating and scary as it involves uncertainty about the future.

At The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre we have a compassionate and dedicated team of therapists and grief specialists that offer a variety of interventions and programs to support you through your grief. Our expertise in grief and loss encourages us to support you through whatever emotional pain or circumstances you are enduring. We offer a safe and supportive environment for you to explore your emotions and share openly and honestly. If you are currently struggling with unexpected loss or someone in your life died in the Iran plane crash, please reach out to us at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca. We are here to help.

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

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

Photo credit: https://bit.ly/31dnjLQ 

Grief and the Holidays

The holidays can be a very difficult time whether you are experiencing a recent loss or a loss from a long time ago. Holiday activities such as drinking hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies, and spending time with close family and friends can make us miss our loved ones even more. We may experience feelings of sadness, frustration, and loneliness or feel as though we are alone in our pain. The holidays are inevitable, thus, we have to make a conscious effort to be attuned to our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Further, it is essential that we are attentive to our emotions and intentional with our actions. Although these times can be challenging there are a few strategies that can be helpful as we transition through the holiday season.

Reach out to others

After experiencing a loss we sometimes feel alone in our pain and emotions. When we feel alone this can lead us to isolation and minimal socialization. The fact is, you are not alone and others around you may be experiencing pain and suffering of their own. During the holidays, do not be afraid to reach out to your friends and family or others who have offered support. Sometimes we may just want to share a memory about someone we lost, talk about our feelings, or share what we are missing. Additionally, other family members may be eager to share as well, but resist because they do not want to burden others with their pain. When we grieve, we want to feel heard, validated, and supported. Lean on someone who will listen to you without judgment, analysis, or criticism and understand that grief is not a quick fix. When we have the opportunity to share with a safe person, we can experience an emotional release after sharing what was weighted so heavily on our chest.

It is also important not compare your losses when you are sharing with others. When we compare our losses it minimizes our feelings and takes away from our individual relationships. We will never truly understand what someone is going through because we each have our own unique relationships to the individual we are grieving. Be open to a variety of losses, individual experiences and different feelings associated with the loss.

Don’t ignore your feelings

Grief and loss is painful, heart wrenching, and emotionally draining. Through my own loss I felt as though my heart was bleeding and there was no medicine or band-aid that could stop it. Although we experience deep pain, it is important not to ignore or internalize how we are feeling. It seems easy to turn away from the pain because it hurts so much; however ignoring how we feel just buries the pain and becomes cumulatively negative. When we bury the pain it doesn’t go away, rather stays within us and builds up until we reach an emotional boiling point. Be gentle and acknowledge how you are feeling. Unfortunately with grief, we have to go through the pain, not over, below, or around it.

Maintain your traditions 

 Over the holidays it can be helpful to maintain traditions. Although our physical relationship with our loved one may have come to an end, our emotional and spiritual relationship will continue forever. Even though our loved ones aren’t here in present day, we can honor our relationships by maintaining traditions. Honoring traditions creates a safe space, opportunity for communication, and for stories to be shared. Whether these stories make you cry or make you laugh, it is normal experience to feel several emotions. Be intentional with the traditions that are important to you. You may discover some traditions that you want to keep, some you are ready to move forward from and also create new traditions in the process.

My dad’s birthday is December 28th, and every year since he died, we always have dinner with close family friends. We reminisce about our memories with him and talk about our current lives and hope and dreams for the future. This tradition helps me keep my emotional and spiritual relationship with him alive and continue to incorporate him in my life.

Let go of expectations

Sometimes we plan or have expectations about how we are going to feel around the holidays. Allow yourself to feel and invite all emotions during this holiday season. At times you may feel sadness but you also may find yourself experiencing happiness and laughter. When this happens we sometimes feel guilty or feel as though we shouldn’t feel happiness at this time. When we grieve, all emotions are normal and natural including happiness and laughter. If you wake up Christmas morning and feel happy, welcome this emotion. When we have expectations about how we are supposed to feel is can cause confusion or we may think we shouldn’t feel our current emotions. We can’t predict how we will feel, we will only know until we are in that present moment. Letting go of these expectations and inviting all emotions will allow you to be authentic and honest with your grief and healing.

Take care of yourself

Be gentle with yourself and listen to your heart and your body. Over the holidays be conscious and intentional about your self care routines. Self-care can include a massage, yoga class, watching a movie, socializing with friends, and exercising. It is natural for us to want to fill our time with work, school, or other activities to avoid the pain. Self-care is different as we take the time to acknowledge what we need physically and emotionally to help us cope. Be intentional and listen to what your body and heart needs, as it will support you on your emotional journey.

Additionally, be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion. You have experienced a heart wrenching loss and do not need to be tough and strong. True strength includes caring for yourself, being attuned to your emotions, vulnerability, and being honest about how you feel. Be compassionate towards yourself and let go of expectations of where you think you should be with your grief, pain, and healing. Kristen Neff said,  “With self-compassion we give ourselves the same kindness and care we would give to a good friend.”

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.ottawacancer.ca/holiday-grief

References:

Neff, K. (2013). Self compassion. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

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