Categories > Grief Recovery

What I learned From My Dad’s Death

On September 1, 2012, I woke up feeling empowered and excited, as it was the last weekend before my first year of University. I had been looking forward to University for a few years now, and I couldn’t believe the time had come. It was a beautiful morning, crisp fresh air, birds chirping, while I enjoyed a morning coffee on the deck with my dad. We enjoyed a conversation about my goals for the upcoming year before I left that morning for a weekend getaway.

Who knew, in a few hours, what started as a beautiful day was going to be one of the cloudiest and worst days of my life. When I arrived in Calgary, my mom called me and told me my dad had a massive heart attack after his soccer game earlier that afternoon. I could hear the fear and udder sadness in my mom’s voice and I desperately wished I was home to be there with her and my sister.

My dad was in the hospital for a few days before he suddenly died on September 5th. I will never forget hugging my dad and saying goodbye for the last time. I was confused, devastated, and terrified to imagine what my life was going to be like without him. I just wanted time to stop because I was not ready to face the next day.

During this devastating time in my life, I had learned some valuable life lessons about grief and loss. Some information I discovered on my own, and some I acquired from people who specialized in loss.

Death and loss is inevitable: I always thought that you could avoid loss, or that it would never happen to me, especially at a young age. Sounds silly right? I quickly learned that loss is an inevitable life transition we will all experience at some point. After understanding that loss was inevitable I also became aware of several other losses that had impacted my life. After reflecting upon how I healed from those losses, I realized how important it was to move through the pain of the death of my dad, rather than avoid it.

You don’t have to be strong: One of the first comments I heard after my dad died was, “It is time for you to be strong for your family.” At 18 years old, I had never experienced a loss of this magnitude. I mean, it was my dad! I didn’t know how to absorb that comment. But because I trusted the advice given to me, I began to act strong. Days, weeks, and months went by and I was being as strong as I could, but I was not feeling any better, and neither was anybody else. I realized that being strong was a distraction from how I was really feeling. It was a way for me to avoid my feelings and bury them deep down inside. When I stopped acting strong and listened to my heart and emotions, I understood why I was so devastated and what was hurting me the most about my dad’s death.

Time does not heal: I had heard several times, “It will get better soon” and “Just give it time”. These comments sound promising and hopeful, especially during a time of great sadness, but the simple fact of time passing was not enough to heal my heart. I could have spent the last six years waiting for the day that it was going to “get better”, but instead I took action, within time, to heal and move beyond the pain of my dad’s death. I acknowledged what was keeping me stuck in my pain and I bravely took the actions of the Grief Recovery Method®. It was an emotional investment that changed my life forever.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad. That is completely healthy and natural. I can’t help but see him in myself every single day. I can still hear his voice in the back of my head cheering me on and offering me advise in the big decisions I am making in my life. If I would not have acknowledged my feelings and took the brave steps to move forward from my pain, I would be struggling to keep him in my everyday life without feeling complete pain and isolation. The biggest lesson I have learned from his death, is that it is okay to move forward. It is okay to move beyond the pain and the suffering and live a full and wonderful life. Today, I remember my dad for who he was in life, not just in death, and I cherish all of the fond memories I shared with him.

If you are curious about the actions I took that changed my life, please contact me at gina@healmyheart.ca and visit our website for more information at www.healmyheart.ca.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Psychology Intern and 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: http://www.christianparenting.org/articles/eight-great-daddy-daughter-dates-for-the-purposeful-parent/

The Power of Responsibility in Healing From Loss

When we experience loss in our lives, we often feel immense emotional pain. Sometimes the pain is so profound that it leaves us feeling paralyzed and hopeless about the future. It’s as if we are stuck in an emotional prison, unable to escape and incapable of imagining a life without suffering. Over time and without new action, our prison can become so familiar that we begin to believe that we are powerless over our emotions, our lives, and our circumstances in life.

The good news is, we do have control. As challenging and painful as it can be to take ownership of our lives (especially our pain), we do have the capacity to own our emotions, own our stories, and decide what we are going to do with the emotional pain we are carrying. This ownership is the first step on our path to healing and recovery.

The Grief Recovery Method® emphasizes the need for us to take at least 1% responsibility for our reaction in the present moment. That 1% represents the small part of us that feels hopeful about feeling better and our willingness to take new action to heal from our pain. If we don’t accept at least 1% responsibility for our emotions, we get to stay in prison.

Action is the antidote to fear. In order to experience true emotional healing and fulfillment in our lives, we must be willing to push through our fears and the familiarity of our pain and take new action to move forward.

Even if recovery is what we deeply desire in our hearts, our fear can have a powerful grip on us in the present moment. It is often our fear that stops us in our tracks and limits us from taking emotional risks in life. Richard O’Connor, the author of Rewire, states that “fear of success is a euphemistic stand-in for deeper fears that are the real motivation for handicapping ourselves – fear of freedom, happiness, intimacy and responsibility.”

Aren’t we all willing to do whatever it takes to feel happy in life? Then why is this so challenging for us?

Well, it is in our human nature to seek what is familiar, even if it is not comfortable. Over time and without new action, our pain becomes familiar to us. Yes. We develop a fierce relationship to our pain and sometimes even defend it. We don’t like to give up what belongs to us, right? This familiarity, stacked on top of fear, is a powerful barrier to feeling better and recovering from loss.

Having experienced the painful deaths of our dads, as well as other losses, we deeply appreciate how scary and uncertain life feels after loss. It’s like you see your life path diverging in front of you, and you know you have to make a massive decision about which path you choose to walk. The decision we make at this crossroad of our lives is critical in our healing.

Making the choice to walk onto a new path can feel very scary, intimidating, and uncomfortable. It compels us to take new ownership for our lives and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Walking the path we know may seem easier in the moment, simply because it is familiar. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will offer us what we truly need to move beyond the pain.

Are you at a crossroads in your life? What path will you choose? We encourage you to choose the path that will offer you the tools and resources to live a life of happiness, fulfillment, and emotional completion.

“After my dad died, I was shown that life can be taken from us in the snap of a finger. After grieving his death I learned a valuable lesson; that I have a choice. I said to myself, “I can either throw a pity party for the rest of my life, or continue living the life that I want.” I quickly learned that no matter what life challenges I face, I have control over my life and how I choose to live it.” – Gina Baretta

The Grief Recovery Method Program® is a beautiful, heart-centred program that we specialize in at The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. It provides you with the tangible tools to complete the pain caused by your loss and live a life of meaning and purpose. Click here to book an appointment with us today.

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

Reference: O’Connor, R. (2014). Rewire Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior (1st ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Photo credit: http://populationgrowth.org/standing-at-the-crossroads/

How The Grief Recovery Method® Changed My Life

I first learned about Grief and Loss during a senior level psychology class at Concordia University taught by Registered Psychologist and Owner of The Grief & Trauma Healing Center, Ashley Mielke. I was astonished by the powerful information she taught us about grief and recovering from loss. I quickly learned that everything I thought grief was, was not. I intuitively knew that I would pursue Grief Recovery® for my future career.

After completing the psychology course, I truly believed that because I had learned all of the intellectual information about grief and recovering from loss, that I could apply that new knowledge to my life and my losses would be healed. Well, I was wrong. After completing my Certification Training in The Grief Recovery Method® Program this month, I realized I was still emotionally incomplete with the loss I thought I had healed from. It wasn’t until I had taken the actions of the program myself, that I became complete with my loss. Through the training, I personally witnessed and experienced the transformational power of The Grief Recovery Method Program®.

Grief is not intellectual.

Everything that I have been taught while completing my psychology degree has had a focus on intellectual knowledge and application. I have learned several theories, read numerous textbooks, and written countless exams. What has not been emphasized in my education, is the power and significance of human emotion, vulnerability, matters of the heart, and emotional application.

Through my personal experience of being a griever, I quickly became aware of how emotionally useless the intellectual information I learned was. It did not help me when others would respond to my grief with advice or intellectual comments.  I did not like being told what to do or what worked for them. When I was grieving, and was the most vulnerable and emotional I had ever felt, all I wanted was to feel heard and to have a safe place to express my emotions.

Grief is emotional, not intellectual. I appreciate that sharing your losses and grief with others can be very scary. Having had the privilege of exploring and sharing my losses with perfect strangers in a safe environment during my training, gave me insight into the emotional challenges (and courage) that my clients may face while completing The Grief Recovery Method® Program with myself. Without having gone through the program myself, I know I would have a difficult time helping my clients connect their minds to their hearts, to truly heal from their losses. I appreciate how important it is for me to be a “heart with ears” for my clients as they courageously take the actions of The Grief Recovery Method® Program. Ashley Mielke, Canadian Certification Trainer for The Grief Recovery Method® taught me, I can only take my clients as far in their healing and recovery, as I have gone with my own.

Discovery is not recovery.

You can have all of the intellectual information available, read every book, and have a deep understanding of your losses, but that is not enough. Action must be taken to heal your heart. I learned this through personal experience. I have known the intellectual information about Grief Recovery® for a few years, and even taught others about what I have learned. I thought that knowing the information was enough to complete my losses. Discovery masqueraded my recovery. After completing The Grief Recovery Method® Program, I learned the significance of taking new action, in order to attain completion with my losses. You can read The Grief Recovery Handbook, but recovery is achieved by taking the actions of the program. It is like reading a recipe; you have the information and steps to bake a cake, but the cake will not bake itself until you choose to take action.

A group environment allowed me to feel safe and heard.

I had the amazing privilege of working with 16 incredible people in my Certification Training. With the exception of knowing our facilitator, Ashley Mielke, I walked into the training on Friday morning knowing none of the other participants, and walked out on the following Monday afternoon with lifelong friendships. Participating in a group environment and sharing my story with others was a profound emotional experience. Although we were all very unique and different, every one of us shared two common goals; to learn how to help ourselves heal and recover from loss, and to learn how to help others heal and recover from loss.

When I was sharing my losses with the group, I felt heard, without judgment and intellectual analysis. At times in our daily lives, there are distractions like cell phones, cooking dinner, watching TV, or other activities that are going on when we are attempting to communicate our feelings with important others in our lives. These distractions can leave us feeling unheard, emotionally unsafe, and that we are not important enough to be listened to. In a room full of people I had just met, I felt safe to share my losses and that my feelings were worth being heard. Everyone was listening to me like a “heart with ears” and were empathetic and compassionate to my experiences.

I look forward to taking what I have learned both personally and professionally, and applying it in my facilitation of the 8-Week Grief Recovery Method® Grief Support Group to provide that same opportunity for others to feel heard, without judgement, criticism, and analysis, in a safe and structured group environment.

The Grief Recovery Method® Program has changed my perspective on life, relationships, and effective recovery from loss. My experience working within a group environment was life changing. I was passionate about pursuing Grief Recovery® before my training and even more so now after having completed the program myself. I am astounded with how powerful the program actually is. I feel more passionate and inspired than ever before to work with grieving people and to participate in their life-altering journey to recovery.

Click here for information about our free information sessions and upcoming groups.

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