My own story about deep grief and profound healing.

It feels like I’ve got two lives, the one before getting married in September 2005 and one after. My first life included working and studying abroad and starting a career in the hotel business based in Stockholm, Sweden.

IMG_5696My first major loss took place in September 2001, when my father passed away after a long battle with cancer. I felt so lost and disoriented without him, and it took me more than two years to get back to a reasonable state of health again. That is when I was introduced to the Greif Recovery Method for the first time, and I ended up buying the book. I’m sure I read it, but I didn’t have the energy to work though the method on my own. Nor did I have the courage to find myself a partner to work with, so the book ended up in my bookshelf.

In 2005 I got married and left Stockholm to join my Swedish husband in Zurich. As I had lived abroad before I didn’t think it was that dramatic, but this time it was for an unlimited time I moved away form my friends and family. Our first daughter Ingrid was born in September 2006, one day after our first wedding anniversary, and we fell in love with her immediately. All of a sudden we are responsible for this little human being, for life!

As we went for Ingrid’s 2-month check up the doctor was concerned about her lack of leg movement, so she sent us off to the Children’s Hospital here in Zurich for further tests. On the 16th of December 2006 we got the diagnosis, Spinal Muscle Atrophy type 1, a very rare genetic disease with a life expectancy of approximately eight months. Our hearts smashes to tiny little pieces and our lives would never be the same again. There is no way you can prepare yourself for a moment like that, to hear that your 3 month old baby has got a terminal illness and is going to die. I just wanted to scream and never stop screaming!

ängel Ingrid och mammaWe had our first battle with SMA already two weeks after getting the diagnosis, when Ingrid caught a bad cold and one of her lungs collapsed. She fought death off that time, as she would on several occasions after that.

We had the most amazing care team from Kinderspitex in Zurich, which gave us the chance to care for Ingrid at home. To be able to live life as normal as possible in the comfort of our own home was such a big help for us. I’m convinced that it prolonged Ingrid’s life and definitely ensured the optimal quality of life as a family. Ingrid passed away peacefully at home in May of 2007, almost 8 months old.

After we had lost Ingrid it dawned on me how little help there was for us as parents. We had received excellent medical care for our child, but after she was gone and all the medical equipment had been collected we were pretty much left to fend for ourselves. We now had to arrange all the practical details like organizing the funeral, order a tombstone and arrange all documents to be able to fly back to Sweden with an urn. Having to deal with all of this while in a state of chock and grief was daunting, and I have never felt so alone, isolated and lost in my whole life. There was no real list of support options presented to us, so on top of everything else I had to muster the energy to look for help myself.

Immediately after Ingrid’s passing I signed myself up as support parent at the Children’s hospital as well as with the palliative home care team (Kinderspitex) here in Zürich. At least I would be able to give other parents with SMA babies a chance to contact a fellow parent. But what about all the other people being stuck in loss and grief for various reasons? How could I be there for fellow expats experiencing loss and grief? How could I assist people living far away form their natural support system of family, friends, native language and familiarity?

That’s when the Grief Recovery Handbook mysteriously nudged itself out of its dusty existence in my bookshelf. I decided to do the certification to become a Grief Recovery Specialist to be able to offer this support, not only to fellow SMA parents, but also to other people experiencing loss.

-214Today I work with my passion to help others getting unstuck from their unresolved grief, feel less alone and isolated and have someone listening to their story. I wake up every day feeling so blessed to be able to do this kind of work, and that Ingrid taught me so much about life, death and all the things in between.

With love, Karin

 

Time heals all wounds… Or does it? 5 things to ease the pain

One of those myths we keep on hearing about Grief is that time is supposed to heal all wounds.

Really?

My own take on this is that the intensity of the chock, grief and pain after a significant loss does indeed subside over time. However,  you only need to hear that certain song, quote or word; see that certain church, hospital, picture; celebrate the first Christmas without, anniversary without, birthday without… Or you start to imagine how life would have turned out had they still been in your life (you get the picture right?). All of a sudden the memory and the physical discomfort associated with it starts to flare up like a bad nightmare.

Before you know it you are fully re-living the stress, sadness, chock and heartbreak as if it was happening right this very second. It’s happened to me on several occasions, and it feels like I was transported back in time and put back in that very instant. And I have caught myself thinking, “but time is supposed to heal all wounds, so why am I still so overwhelmed, sad and stuck? What a load of BS!”

“The mistaken idea that after enough time passes something will magically change to make us whole again is preposterous. If we were dealing with any other human pain, no one would say – Just give it time.” from the Grief Recovery Handbook

Take care of your broken heartIf you broke your arm, no one would suggest you sit and wait until it heals, right? But if your HEART breaks, that’s one of the first “helpful tips” we get!

How many of you are still experiencing pain caused by a death, separation, pet loss, move or loss of faith that might have happened 20 years ago?

I often meet people that are dealing with “old” pain and grief dating back as far as childhood, and as soon as we start talking about it they are immediately experiencing the event with the same intensity as if it was indeed happening RIGHT NOW. Unless you are given the right tools and action steps (might it be thought therapy, coaching or any other technique), the old pain will still be stored in your memory and sometimes even in a body part, causing pain and discomfort.

I had pain in my right shoulder for many years after we lost our daughter. I just didn’t get why the pain was there until I got help to connect the dots, that my right shoulder was still carrying her. As her muscles were so weak,  she was CONSTANTLY hanging on my right shoulder. Not until I realised that and dealt with the pain of losing her did the pain go away!

So here are 5 things that you could do to ease the immediate pain:

1. Think about a loss that is still very painful.

2. Write down exactly how you feel about it, and if there is a physical pain that goes with that feeling.

3. Start writing down what is still bothering you about the situation.

4. Put all of your thoughts, apologies, forgiveness and other emotional statements you would like to tell this person in to a letter.

5. Imagine this person, or take out a photo and read the letter out loud adressed to this person. End with a clear GOODBYE.

I would still recommend to get in touch with a Grief Specialist or therapist if the pain is too great to face on your own.

You might also find this video helpful:

I’ve just left my thirties and this is how I feel about it!

IMG_5765I just turned 40 this week! I thought I would have a major 40-year crisis,  but on the contrary, I feel extremely happy, curious and excited about what this next decade is going to bring.  I truly feel that I’ve stepped in to the age of wisdom, peace and power! The busy 30ies are over.

I have a lot to thank my  5, 10,15, 20 and 30-something self for though. Without her resilience, determination and willingness to change I wouldn’t be here and embrace this new decade in the way I do now. Without her decisions, her courage and her eagerness to learn new things, I wouldn’t have entered my 40-ies in the radiant and excited way I do now.

ängel Ingrid och mammaIf you take the time and reflect on what gifts your younger self has equipped you with, you will start to notice how it all fits together. Life is indeed a tapestry being woven as you go along being busy with grocery shopping, cleaning and folding laundry. It is being woven as you make life changing connections, learn new things, take classes/courses/programs, read books and watch inspiring movies.

IMG_5768I feel somewhat lighter stepping in to this new decade, without all the “must do’s” of my 30-year old self -> “I have to have reached this position/salary bracket/travelled to…/fill in the blank… before I turn 40.” It’s stressful, fun, exciting, exhausting and confusing at the same time.

IMG_5766I see a lot of clients in their 40ies, as I believe it’s one of these big turning points in life.  It’s when you start evaluating your decisions, values, and beliefs. It’s when you start recognising where your limiting beliefs come from,  and the old wounds that has made you NOT pursue your deepest desires shows it’s ugly face.

I see it as an excellent time to be doing an emotional Spring Clean and start living your life in a way that makes you happy instead. This is the only life we will get and you might as well enjoy the ride and fulfil all your desires!

 

The day I lost my dad

It was September 2001.

The world was in turmoil after the 9/11 events in USA, and my dad was in hospital with end stage cancer.

Me and my (then) boyfriend (now husband) were on holiday in Spain as I got the call from my mum. “Dad is in a really bad state and you don’t have time to come back to Sweden.”, she said.

I went completely cold, then  paralysed with fear. I CAN’T BE ON HOLIDAY WHEN MY DAD IS DYING!

IMG_5696Somehow we managed to get to the airport in Malaga, get the last tickets on the flight to Madrid and onwards to Stockholm. I called my dad as we reached Madrid and he just thought I was being ridiculous for rushing home. During our last leg up to Stockholm, my dad got a lot worse and in order to stay conscious he got the phone book out and called ALL his friends and family to say good bye.

I can’t imagine how it must have felt for the people picking up the phone that day. I mean, what do you say when your friend calls to say goodbye FOREVER? But that was his way, his friends were so important to him and as he had decided that it indeed was the day to leave, he wanted to be nice (I guess) and let everyone have a chance to say their goodbyes.

We reached Arlanda Airport and rushed through the customs. All of a sudden I hear “Karin! HI!!”, and there was my father’s best (and oldest) friend’s daughter. She had been on the same flight as us, and ironically her father was the only person my dad didn’t manage to get hold of on the phone that day.

We stayed with my dad the whole night. I was lying beside him and we were telling stories, recalling memories, giggling and crying. All of a sudden I noticed a shift in his breathing. We gathered around the bed, said our goodbyes and he took his last breath.

broken heart

My heart broke, like it’s never been broken before. He was my mentor and my guide, and now I had to navigate the world without him. It was odd (and frankly, scary as hell), because he had always been there. And now he wasn’t. I just couldn’t understand how the world could continue without him in it. I saw people going about their daily business, bewildered. How could anyone still think it was important to go grocery shopping, go partying, go to work?

I hurt for two whole years, existing in a burnout blur that no doctor or therapist could help me heal from. No one seemed to be able to put the pieces together – the fact that grief and burnout had very similar symptoms. It was only when an ad caught my eye on the train one day – the Grief Recovery Method – it said. one of those light bulb moments – OMG, it was GRIEF I was suffering from! I immediately bought the book at once, but when it arrived I didn’t dare to read it. So it went in to hiding in my book shelf.

Instead of getting more help, I brushed it off and started changing the outer issues of my life. I left my job, enrolled in a university program, started a summer café and managed to heal in the best way I could. The pain and sadness was pushed deep within, only to surface on special occasions like birthdays and seasonal holidays.

And that’s the thing with people we lose early. They are not only missed because of the past we share, they are also missed because of all the things they won’t be there with us to experience! That has been one of the hardest things for me to get over.

I remember our wedding day, the day of days you want your whole family to be there. My mum had asked my dad before he passed away what advice he had for us when it came to getting married; “Well, they shall walk with their husbands ‘to be’ down the aisle. They are not my property to give away, so I wouldn’t be doing that.”, he said. Now that I was standing there, knowing what he had said, I felt less burdened but yet tremendously sad that he wasn’t there in person.

He had also expressed a wish to have grandchildren one day, so when I got pregnant with Ingrid my heart started aching again. He wouldn’t be there to see his first grandchild being born. But after we got Ingrid’s terminal diagnosis I felt so relieved that my father would be there to greet her and take care of her when the time came for her to leave.

IMG_1252Today they share their grave in Uppsala, which is both sad and reassuring in a weird combination. 

“We were going to have a baby, but we had an Angel instead”

Book: “We were going to have a baby, but we had an Angel instead”

Author: Pat Schwiebert.

About: A children’s book told from a young child’s perspective about the excitement and dreams of a coming baby, and the disappointment and sadness of a miscarriage. Beautiful ink and watercolour illustrations.

Karin’s point of view: I bought the book just to see who such a theme would be out in a children’s book. I must say that I’m impressed with Pat’s story telling and the pictures beautifully match it.

A TED talk that got me going this morning!

Hi all, it’s Tuesday and BLOG MONDAY was, yes you have guessed it, YESTERDAY! I’ve had a busy few weeks, doing major “behind the scenes” improvement to my business AND finished a three month health coaching program with a dear friend (I’ll tell you more in a later blog post). So this morning, after leaving my 4-year old at the play group I finally allowed myself some rest. I started with a meditation which obviously led me to falling asleep on the couch. Luckily I got woken up by an SMS, and since I had the phone next to me (highly likely on any day, location and time) I clicked on a link that was recommended to me yesterday.

What happened next was that I jumped off the couch, ran to the BIG (stationary, yes we have one) computer, watched it AGAIN, signed up for his mailing list AND got stuck reading more of this mind blowing content on this guy’s website.

Just the name made me jump with joy, LIVE YOUR LEGEND! I mean, WHO doesn’t want to live life like that? Then I thought to myself, I have all the potential in the freaking WORLD to do just that! I have a passionate WHY, I want to help people thrive by emptying out that huge bag of issues that are holding us back (“We all have our bags to carry.” – BUT WE ALSO HAVE TOOLS TO HEAL FROM IT!!!). And yet I find myself starring out in space, not knowing what the heck to do next, I think I’ve had a Social Media shock reaction or something.

So here I am, blogging away like a crazy person, on a TUESDAY, trying to figure out how to LIVE MY LEGEND so that I can be of even more service to the people of this planet.

When you start living your life fearlessly (probably what legends do, I would assume?) you can also make a huge impact on the planet and live YOUR legend! I think a big part of getting there is to release all your old fear, pain, grief, guilt and shame so that you can take that freed up energy and DARE GREATLY – for your sake and for all of us. Who’s with me? I do want to hear your comments!

 

The loss of hopes and dreams

Swiss MountainsOn the 14th of May 2007 I did not only loose my child, I also lost all the hopes and dreams that I had painted up in my mind while she was growing in my belly.

To finally be a little family. To see her develop and grow. To experience her first tooth, her first birthday, her first steps, her first words, her first day of school, our family holidays. To see her experience and learn about the world. To see what her path would be in life and to be there to cheer her on, comfort her, encourage her and see her grow up to be an adult. To love her unconditionally.

All of that was also lost, and all of that I finally had the opportunity to express as I wrote her a letter. It made all the difference, so there is hope, people! You CAN survive, and you can even be happy again. I’m the perfect example.

“Our little angel is going to leave us”

This is a blog post I wrote on the Swedish Forum  Familjeliv.se on January 26, 2007:

Ingrid Eva Linnéa“On 18 September 2006 our little angle was born. She was perfect and we were so happy to have got such a pretty girl. At the 2-month check up the paediatrician discovered that she had wasn’t moving the way she should be, and we were referred to Children’s Hospital for further check-ups. On the 15th of December we were given the nightmare diagnosis that our little girl had spinal muscular atrophy type 1, and that most of these children die before the age of 1 year. So now we are sitting here waiting for the inevitable, that her muscles will become weaker and weaker. That she will no longer be able to eat by herself, and finally not being able to breathe any longer. HOW on Earth will I be able to handle this?? Is there someone who has something helpful to say? We are trying to be brave for her sake, but our hearts are right now breaking from all the grief. ”

If you know someone in a similar situation, please send them my link. It’s not about me, it’s about all those desperate parents that I might be able to offer a glimmer of hope. THANKS!

It took me nine years to face my grief

scared as hellIt took me NINE years to reach that point of exhaustion where I just said to myself “I really, really, really need to get help to finally let go of the all the pain and drama in my life”. By that time I had lost my dad, moved abroad and lost my first born daughter (in that exact order).

What would happen if I finally took charge of my emotional system? What would need to change? Who or what would I have to let go of in my life? What patterns, behaviours and thoughts would I have to change? What would I have to start doing or who would I have to start being if I got well, finally felt unstuck, started to live my purpose, quit that awful, life draining job? Who would I have to become if I let go of all the drama that defines me?

That’s a lot of scary stuff… I know, that’s why I waited for so long. But I refused to define myself as the bereaved mother, stuck in pain, guilt and sadness forever and ever. There had to be another way!

Only you will know when you have reached that crucial point when changing how you define yourself and your pain and drama is the only sustainable thing you can do in order to move forward. Why don’t you grab the opportunity and start getting clear for the new year NOW by redefining how you want to show up in the world? How you want to feel? What you want to contribute to?

There are a million-and-one techniques out there, I’m teaching ONE of them, but I encourage you to go out and investigate which one rings true to you. Only you know whats best for you.

It’s easier to do good if you feel good

Elin, 2012Hi all, first I want tot wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope for you all that you will have an AWESOME year ahead!

How easy is it to meet a new day with a smile if you are full of resentment and anger? How willing will you be to help that mother with the pram getting off the bus? How happy will you be to help your colleague with a task at work? How friendly will you be to the cashier at the grocery store, or the waiter at the lunch restaurant? How loving will you be to your family at the dinner table in the evening?

Now flip it and ask you the same questions when you feel happy and content. What happened?

Please share your thoughts, I really want to hear!

And DO watch this “paying it forward” 5 minute video, it will make you feel better for sure!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc8ZbVcdHpg