When I was in private practice I saw a lot of individuals who were grieving the loss of a loved one, whether that was a child, a spouse, a parent or a close friend. On a few occasions I saw couples where one of them had been diagnosed with a terminal condition and had less than 6 months to live. These situations were particularly traumatic for the persons involved, especially for the spouse who was not ill.
With these couples, we would discuss what was happening and how each of them was dealing with their feelings. The diagnosed partner seemed to have the easier time, having accepted their illness and the eventual fatal consequence. I saw this in my own family with my now departed brother-in-law and my sister. It was always the surviving partner who had the most difficulty.
With counselling of any sort, the goal is to LISTEN! Not just the hear the words an individual was speaking, but to identify the Feelings behind them. When I would reflecte back to the individual I always began with “sounds like you’re feeling – sad, angry, scared, anxious, depressed – whatever it was they were conveying. I would then ask them to check “in” to see if what I said was accurate. It usually was.
Then I would instruct them to pay attention to that particular feeling and tell me more about it. They would then describe their feelings in detail along with whatever physical reactions might be attached to it. Tears would begin to flow as they related the physical and emotional reactions they were experiencing.
This was the essence of my counselling approach for persons in grief, no matter what the precipitating circumstances. Sometimes they would want to know about “Stages” and other catch phrases associated with grief and loss, and I would just steer them back to their feelings. Once they realized that this was more important, it became easier for them to go there themselves and accept that crying and sharing were in their best interest.
For some individuals it would take a few sessions to get them acquainted with this feeling approach, but eventually they got it. And working with their feelings through their period of grief became OK. Many of these individuals would later report that keeping in touch with their feelings had many advantages and helped them with other aspects of their life. Lesson learned! Being in touch with your feelings is essential to a healthy life.
Our society is geared toward Externals, like stages, graphs, charts, outlines and theories. Good counselling focuses on Internals – feelings, emotions and physical reactions. In other words, counselling focuses on “The Heart” where we feel our life and where emotional healing takes place. Once an individual is properly focused they can take it from there. A few tools like Journaling, Writing Letters to your lost loved one, listening to favourite music and poetry will put you in touch with Your Heart. You can now heal because you are listening to YOUR HEART!
"When Angels Call" is a counselling companion designed to put you in touch with your feelings. Since the experience of grief and bereavement is so intense, you’re almost already there. Just a little push and the right resource book and you’re on your way. For most of us, all we need is Permission to Feel. Our heart and soul will take it from there because we have engaged the body and heart’s own innate healing process.
Trying to apply Externals to an internal problem is futile. It only serves to distract us from the real issue which our feelings will gladly tell us about. Thankfully, counselling and audio ebooks like How to Cope with Grief and Loss will re-acquaint you with your feeling nature and guide you through the process of grief recovery.
You now have what you need to heal your grief. You will recover from this tragedy and great loss. You will become intimately acquainted with your Heart and Feeling Centre. You will come to a point where you can think about your loved one and smile. Because when the hurt is finally healed, what remains with you forever is the love you carry in your heart. To quote Martha Stewart “And that’s a good thing.”