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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 

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/

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

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