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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 

Supporting Teens Through Loss

One of life’s inevitable experiences is loss. What happens when a teen experiences the death of a parent, grand-parent, sibling, or friend? Or their parents divorce? Or their dog dies? Or they fail a class or get cut from the volleyball team?

It is incredibly important for teens to know where to reach out for help and what the correct information on grief is.

Whether you are a teen yourself, a parent, a teacher, or anybody works with teens, here are some valuable questions for teens to consider when they are grieving a loss.

1. Who is your support system? When we grieve it is natural to reach out to others who are supportive and caring. We want to feel heard and to know that we are not alone. Consider one or two people in your life, whom you trust and would feel comfortable sharing your feelings with.

2. What does “being strong” really mean? In today’s society, social media, movies, and advertising communicates to us that we need to “toughen up” through difficult times and that sad feelings are not acceptable. When we act “strong”, we avoid and push the pain away. Being strong really means feeling our feelings and telling the truth about how we feel. It is normal to feel sadness and conflicting feelings after a loss and we shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about that.

3. What are some ways you can practice self-compassion? It is so important to be gentle with yourself and let go of any expectations about how you think you should be feeling. Self-compassion extends to self-care behaviours like going for a massage, attending a yoga class, exercising, going for a walk, and watching your favourite show. Find something that nourishes your spirit.

4. Are there really “stages of grief”? You can read about Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ 5 Stages of Death and Dying online and in current textbooks. These stages were intended for people who were diagnosed with a terminal illness, not for the grieving. Sadly, over the years, these stages were applied to the emotions experienced after loss. Every relationship is unique; thus, every grieving person is unique. There are no clear guidelines or set of stages that a grieving person will go through. Whatever you feel after a loss is completely normal and natural.

5. Is there a right way to grieve? How we feel at the time of a loss is normal and natural. There is no right way or wrong to grieve. Every person grieves in their unique way. If anybody tells you how you should be feeling, simply ignore them. Trust the process and feel any feelings you have at any given time.

6. Are some losses worse than others? Absolutely not! There are no typical losses or typical reactions to loss. Since every relationship is unique, every grieving person is unique. Whether you experienced the death of your dog and your friend experienced the death of their grand-parent, no loss is greater or worse than the other. You may actually have similar emotions, even though the loss was very different. Just as you could experience parallel losses but have very different emotions. We simply cannot compare losses or our reactions to loss.

7. Is avoidance healthy for healing? STERBS is an abbreviation for short-term energy relieving behaviours. These are avoidance behaviours that we use in an attempt to heal our pain. STERBS only give us a temporary sense of relief and don’t offer long-term relief from the pain caused by our loss. These include, food, alcohol, social media, shopping, isolation, and many more. If misused (or abused), we can develop some very unhealthy habits in our lives. It is so important to be aware of the behaviours you are using as an escape from your feelings. Consider more self-care behaviours and sharing your feelings with someone you trust.

There are several forms of loss that teens may experience. It is important to understand the correct information and tools surrounding grief in order to take healthy action, move forward, and find healing in life. Healing from grief is much like baking a cake. If you bake a cake with the wrong ingredients, the end result will be messy, unfinished, and may leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged. The same may result if we don’t address our grief with the correct tools. With the right “ingredients” for healing, you can recover from the pain and regain your sense of well-being and happiness.

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: shutterstock

3 Helpful Tips for Supporting Grieving People

We care so deeply about the loved ones in our lives that when we witness them grieving a heart-wrenching loss, we want to help. A research study conducted by Keltner at the University of California, Berkley explains there is growing evidence that humans have a “compassionate instinct”. To further explain, compassion is a natural and automatic response we use for survival. Human beings are compelled to help others who are hurting. It is a false assumption or belief that we cannot help others during a time of loss. Sadly, it is a lack of information and helpful tools that limits us in our aspirations to help others who are grieving.

There are many statements that are vocalized such as, “I just don’t know what to say,” or “I freeze up and do not know what to do to help.” After a death, divorce or any kind of loss, many of us struggle with how to support the grieving person. This is not because we do not want to help or that we cannot help, we just lack the information on how to help.

Here are 3 helpful tips on how to support a grieving person in your life:

Tip #1: Do not tell people what to do or how to feel. When we grieve a loss in our lives we are heart-broken, devastated, and in deep emotional pain. If someone tells us what to do, how to grieve, or what to expect or feel, it does not help us. We each have unique relationships to the loss we are grieving and we all grieve in our own unique way. Everyone has different reactions and emotions after a loss in their lives, so it is most helpful to validate the grieving person’s feelings as both normal and natural, no matter what they are. Do not create guidelines for their grief.

Tip #2: Listen without responding. Grieving people want and need to feel heard. When you listen to grieving people’s stories, feelings, and memories, listen like a “heart with ears”. If we listen with the intention to respond with advice or intellect, we are not truly present. This will limit us from showing compassion and empathizing with the grieving person. When we are concerned about saying “the right thing” and are preoccupied with our own thoughts and ideas, we may miss out on the messages from the grieving person. If you are present with the griever, your ability to support them will be more natural and in the moment. Sometimes all a grieving person needs is to feel heard and offered a hug.

Tip #3: Respond emotionally, not intellectually. We can study, read self-help books, and gain a lot of intellectual knowledge about grief. There is a lot of helpful, correct information available, as well as a lot of misinformation. When a person is in a vulnerable state and sharing their feelings surrounding a loss, support is less effective if we are continuously providing intellectual comments. When we transition from our heads to our hearts, we become a safe and trusting support system for the grieving person. Statements such as, “I can’t imagine how that must feel for you,” or “I hear that this is making you really upset,” or simply, “I don’t know what to say,” are helpful, as we are speaking from the heart and are acknowledging the griever’s experience. When we are grieving we are sad, hurt, and vulnerable. We want our feelings to be acknowledged, not minimized, analyzed, or judged with intellectual comments.

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

Article Reference:  http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/the-compassionate-mind#.WHVl-FMrKUk May/June 2013 Observer

Photo credit: http://crocehomeimprovement.com/helpful-tips/

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