What is grief?
Grief is the normal emotional reaction to a loss, it is not an illness to be cured and is not something we simply overcome. We can’t always recognise what’s happening to us, both physically and mentally, we don’t consciously acknowledge these changes, we just feel consumed by the weight of grief – in the early stages, it often leaves us feeling totally disconnected from who we were before the loss – the world can become a strange and distant place and people often say how lonely and isolated they feel with their grief, as if no one else can fully imagine their pain and in many ways, they are right because it is so unique –
there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for living with grief.
In recent years, much has been written about the limitations of the “five stages of dying” pioneered by Elizabeth Kubler Ross during the 1960’s. The stages were considered too limited by many as it suggests that peoples’ grief fits into a nice, neat, tidy box. Despite this, the model still holds significant dominance both in grief theory and other types of loss and is currently widely used by organisations coping with change.
However, more contemporary, up-to-date theories have been introduced by clinicians and therapists which are broadly recognised today. One theory explains how people instead continue to grow around their grief rather than reaching a final state of acceptance. Another popular theory suggests that we oscillate between loss and restoration and fluctuating between the two is a healthy way to process loss. A further model suggests there are four distinct tasks to mourning. As with all these approaches, they are merely structures that might help but we do not need to try and pigeon-hole ourselves and others into them. They can just be useful to recognise that the way we process grief can vary and that is all normal ….
Healing through grief coaching
Counselling vs coaching
Some people might feel that coaching isn’t appropriate for bereavement but rather that it is counselling that’s needed – to talk freely without having to think about actions and goals.
But I would suggest that both are helpful in their different ways. There are a wide variety of counselling and support groups available – of course, Cruse is the main known one but there are many specialised support groups for different types of grief (see link on Bereavement Organisations). Each one has their own benefit, whether it’s through one-to-one sessions or in a group, or online. Many people gain a huge amount of comfort from sharing their stories and experiences often with complete strangers but feeling understood as they become united in
In the early weeks and months of grief, we can feel as if we are just surviving as we cope with the loss as it’s a huge adjustment for our brains to process. That’s why grieving is often very mentally draining. During this stage, it can be extremely hard to focus on much else when the loss is very deep. Support groups & counselling can help us to feel held at a time when we need it most.
But once we start to move out of the shock/survival stage or when we feel we are a little further along in our grief, bereavement coaching can offer us hope through finding a way forward to help and heal ourselves. We can start to create our own, personalised, self-care routine and rituals that make our journey through grief a little easier. For this reason, I would recommend that it is best to wait at least until six months after the loss.
How coaching can help
There are many ways in which we can help to soothe our pain through safe, holistic methods and I aim to support you with a natural approach to healing.
A typical session may start with a grief meditation, incorporating some breathing, gentle movement and emotional releasing techniques, adapted from acupressure and seated grief yoga so that most people can do it. (For this reason, it can be more helpful to connect over video.)
Movement can help us to relieve ‘stuckness’ in our body which we often carry in grief, frequently without knowing. When we release tension in our muscles and start to move our energy, we can find it easier to open up and talk.
We will also discuss sleep patterns and diet. Commonly, we lose our appetite or we overeat when we’re grieving but eating nutritious food has a significant impact on our brain and how we think and feel. Equally, many people fail to realise how dehydration alone can worsen depression. Research states that our stomach is our second brain, so depending on what we feed it, can greatly impact how we think and feel.
Using creativity to help with healing
We can explore creative and expressive outlets – in particular, I focus on the profound benefits of journaling as a form of healing. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a prolific writer! I will give you the tools to get started and prompts to stimulate ideas. You may wish to share your writings with me, another person, or keep them private.
There may be other ways you wish to express yourself and we can explore those together and discuss how you can introduce them into your life or pick them up again if you’ve not yet returned to an activity you once enjoyed before your loss. We also look at long-forgotten rituals which are so powerful in many world cultures as a way of creating order and gaining comfort from the chaos of grief through emotional release. Performing rituals allows us to use symbolism to connect to something greater than ourselves, tapping into the sacred which can offer peace and comfort.
Together, we’ll discover how you can create your own rituals to perform regularly or on significant dates and whether you would like to do them alone or invite others to join you. Many simple everyday acts can be spiritually uplifting if they are given ritual significance. They might include:
Lighting a candle at a specific time of day/date
Creating a memory scrapbook or memory jar and filling it with trinkets, photographs, notes, or other significant memorabilia from your life together
Spending time listening to your loved one’s favourite music or creating a special mix of music that reminds you of them
Reading poems that they enjoyed or that remind you of them
Going to their favourite nature spot
Watching his or her favourite movie
Planting a tree or flowers in your loved one’s memory
Supporting a cause close to their heart
Carrying something special that reminds you of your loved one or wearing a piece of their jewellery
Creating a work of art in your loved one’s memory
Preparing and eating a special meal in honour of your loved one
Holding a memorial ritual for your loved one If you wish, we can create a ritual together – it can be as simple or elaborate as you like.
Whilst talking and being heard is ultimately one of the most important ways we can bear witness to another’s pain, we can work deeper together to heal your heart & soul and do so in a way which gives meaning to your loss …
The coaching sessions
The sessions are geared towards developing your own self-care routine that you can continue even after we finish. For that reason, you may find that you only need a few sessions or you can have up to a maximum of 8. It isn’t an ongoing process like counselling, the purpose of the sessions is to give you tools and techniques which you can learn and implement for yourself.
It is recommended that sessions last 1.5hrs to give enough time for meditations/ movement/ discussion including home practise but shorter sessions of 1hr can be arranged if preferred.
The home practise will clarify which actions you can take away from the session and experiment with on your own. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed at first. The purpose is to allow you to have a go at trying out something different/opening up to a broader perspective of healing. That’s all we are doing – exploring together with what feels good and nurturing for you. Some activities might work better than others, and that’s fine … each person’s routine will be different.
For anyone based in the St Neots area I also offer Walk ‘n’ Talk coaching sessions where the sessions can take place out in the open to help us ground with nature which, in itself, provides a wonderful source of healing. Generally, we would not do the movement/meditation element as we are out in public so this would be for 1 hour.
1 hr - £50
1.5 hr - £75
This is your grief … your journey …. you decide how to go through it but we can walk together