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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.

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.

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