How you become the person that knows what to say – facing adversity, grief and crisis

I decided to go for a walk today. In my headphones, the podcast ‘On Being’ where the host was interviewing Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, and Adam Grant, professor of psychology.They talked about Sheryl’s loss of her husband Dave and how that triggered the creations of their book and non-profit organization ‘Option B’. Tears were streaming down my face as I was listening to the interview (leaving the people I passed on the way looking very puzzled indeed), having experienced a lot of what they were talking about first hand after losing my first daughter Ingrid.

 

I work with disaster on a daily basis, as I have the honour of being invited to the most painful parts of peoples lives, be it a heart ripping divorce or separation; the loss of a job and with it, financial safety and loss of identity; a devastating medical diagnosis; crushed hopes and dreams; fears of failure; or carrying stories of guilt and shame that consumes your energy and robs you of joy.

 

It is, in my humble opinion, the most soul baring and brave act a person can engage in, to open up about their grief, loss and sense of feeling completely lost. The willingness to heal from disaster and devastation; to start building resilience muscles; to find a new “normal”; and to aim for post-traumatic growth instead of post-traumatic stress is indeed an act of bravery. But, as with everything in life, a little help from a friend will make this journey a lot easier.

Adversity, grief and loss come with the package of being human, and if you want to engage in relationships with people you most certainly will bump into someone going though a life crisis at some point. Yet we live in a society that doesn’t want to talk about adversity. When disaster strikes, it often leads to a whole host of everyday awkward moments, leaving the affected person feeling even more isolated and weird; or as Sheryl pointed out in the interview “I felt like a ghost (that everyone avoided).”

 

Often when we meet a co-worker, a neighbour or a friend that has gone though something devastating, it’s like they are being followed by a big elephant that no one wants to address. Rather than being the “idiot” that said the “wrong thing”, many of us opt for the far less scary option of saying nothing.

 

So how do you become the person who knows what to say and do? 

 

Here are a few things to think about:

 

  • Realise and acknowledge how dramatically their life has changed. There won’t be a “going back to normal”, there will only be a “building a new normal, or finding Option B.”

 

  • Your friend might not be able to focus completely on work or anything else for a long time, so don’t expect them to jump right back up and behave like they always used to behave before the crisis hit them. Instead, try to evaluate how much he/she is able to handle and offer to share the workload.

 

  • Stop and ask how they are doing, as in “How are you feeling today? Know that I’m here to listen.”, and then really live up to that promise even if it is uncomfortable!

 

  • Meet up for a coffee break or go out for lunch. Don’t avoid them just because you feel uncomfortable.

 

  • Ask him/her what they need right now. Offer practical help, such as grocery shopping, cooking, helping out with the kids, make sure that bills are being paid and appointments are being kept or re-scheduled.

 

  • Offer your support and concern. There are no magic words, but at least say something like “I’m so sorry for your loss.”, “I know you must be suffering right now, I’m here for you.” or at least “I have no idea what to say.”

 

  • Not everyone wants to talk about private matters at work or at the schoolyard, so respect their privacy if they don’t want to talk, but make sure they know that you are there for them should they want to talk.

 

  • If the person has lost a loved one, talk about the memories and mention the name of the person or animal that died. You don’t have to be scared of thinking that you might remind them of their loss. They are acutely aware of it, all the time.

 

  • Caring co-workers, neighbours, and friends can be a significant source of support and healing to a person going though a life crisis. Don’t downplay your your actions or think that what you say or do won’t matter as you “aren’t that close”. It might well be that what you are able to provide might be a hugely important part in the affected persons life and and play a role in their ability to heal. If a person feels acknowledged in their pain, suffering and grief, they will have a much better chance of emotional healing sooner.

 

  • Remember that the person’s life will be changed FOREVER, not just the first couple of months. There is no time limit on grief.

 

  • Be yourself and keep the relationship you had with the person before the life crisis occurred. There is nothing more devastating than when friends, neighbours or co-workers “disappear” or avoid you after a significant crisis.

 

Also, make sure you listen to the podcast I was mentioning in the beginning: https://onbeing.org/programs/sheryl-sandberg-and-adam-grant-resilience-after-unimaginable-loss/

 

Don’t wait for a life crisis to hit in your own life before you know how to be there for others, like I did.

8 tips on how to support a family in grief

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Ten years ago I was on the most devastating journey of my entire life.

Two days before we flew back to Sweden for the Christmas holidays, we had received the most devastating news a parent can get; Ingrid had a terminal genetic disease and had about 5 more months to live.

Now we had to face our families and friends and tell them that Ingrid, only three months old, would be leaving us again. I can’t begin to describe how awful I felt, and how it pained me to see our friends and family having to cope with the news. But they did, and they stood by us like the rocks they are.

It also made me think….

How would I have reacted as the friend?

What would I have done for a family in that situation?

Would I have known what to do or say at all, had it been a friend telling me the same news?

The answer was no.

Below I have listed 8 helpful things you could do if you have friends or family that have experienced loss this year.

1 – Respect that they might not want to participate in the holiday celebrations this year, maybe it’s just too much for them. Ask what they want and need instead, and if there is anything you can do to accommodate their wishes.

2 – Offer to help with practical tasks, like cooking and cleaning. After a loss there is just no energy for the everyday routines.

3 – Invite the family for dinner so they don’t have the pressure of hosting holiday events themselves. There is no energy for those either, believe me.

4 – Respect that the family might want to be left alone. Check in with them form time to time to let them know that you are there for them, but don’t try and activate them and “get them out of the house”.

5 – If the family has children, offer to take them out for activities so the parents can have some alone time.

6 – Help them remember. One of the biggest fears after a loss is that the person who died will be forgotten. Give the family an opportunity to talk about what has happened, share memories, and give space for tears.

7 – Have patience. Don’t get annoyed or frustrated because they want to repeat the same stories over and over again. It’s not because they are stuck or refusing to “get over it”, this is an important step for the healing journey.

8 – Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT avoid a family in grief. There is nothing more painful than seeing friends and relatives disappear after a loss, just because they didn’t know what to say or do. It’s better to say “I have no idea what you are going though, but I’m here for you.”, than disappearing from their lives because you didn’t feel comfortable.

 

Should you have any questions on how to support a family in grief, do not hesitate to contact me! That’s why I’m here. 

The five stages of grief

You expect to quit a job, not get fired from it.

You expect to be married to your partner for the rest of your life, not end up filing for divorce.

You expect to fall pregnant with ease, not to have to go through numerous rounds of fertility treatments and miscarriages along the way.

You expect to bring up a healthy child, not to have to choose the music for her funeral.

You expect to have your family around for support and love, not to be alienated from them.

You expect to live a long and healthy life, not to be diagnosed with some awful disease.

Reality very seldom lives up to the expectations you have for it, so when life hands you disappointments, losses and grief you are often caught off guard. There was no class in school to teach you about emotional resilience, and the word grief is mainly associated with death, so you don’t even recognize when you are grieving for reasons other than someone dying.

Grief, by definition, is the natural response to any type of loss or major change in life. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone is gone. Normally we think of death, divorce, maybe losing a pet or moving far away from home, but there are also subtle losses like losing your self-esteem or self-confidence, losing your health or wellbeing, or experiencing a financial change. It can be the loss of a job or the loss of a role like the “stay-at-home mum” when your kids move away from home. Grief and loss events are part of life; there is unfortunately no way around that.

Let’s take a closer look at the five stages of grief established by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. 

First, let me point out the misconceptions about these five stages. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months, but there is no linear quality to these stages. The stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours, and we tend to flip in and out, back and forth among the different stages.

1. Denial. The world becomes meaningless and overwhelming; life no longer makes sense. You are in a state of shock and numbness and you are just trying to find a way to cope and get through the day. Denial doesn’t mean that you “forget” what has happened; it’s simply nature’s way of pacing the grief experience by only letting in as much as you can handle at that point.

2. Anger. Anger actually forces you to feel something again. It replaces the numbness; gives you structure and even if it’s really uncomfortable to show your anger, it’s an important part of the healing process.

3. Bargaining. This is where all the “What if…” and “If only…” statements appear. You want life returned to what it was. You want to go back in time and change the outcome. Guilt is often a companion in the bargaining stage, as you question whether you could have stopped the event from happening, whether an illness, accident, getting fired from a job or being left by your partner.

4. Depression. The feeling of grief enters on a deeper level, deeper than you ever imagined possible, and it feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. The loss of life as you knew it is depressing, and it’s completely normal to be feeling this way. There is nothing to fix or medicate away; more importantly, you should find support to deal with it in a healthy way if you feel that you are stuck in this depression stage for too long. It can be through friends, loved ones, colleagues, or professional help.

5. Acceptance. Acceptance is often confused with being “OK” with what has happened, but this is not really the case. Of course you will never feel “OK” with losing a loved one, your safety, or your health. It has more to do with the realization that life will never be the same again. There will always be a “before” and an “after.” Acceptance is more about learning to live with it. It means that you have to readjust, reorganize roles, and refocus your goals and dreams in life. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you can replace what has been lost; it means that you are given the chance of finding new meaning and joy in life.

It might sound almost impossible to reach the stage of acceptance, but that is where you take back your power over your emotional wellbeing. Instead of repeating the question “Why did this happen?” (trust me, you will never get a decent answer to that question) start asking yourself the following questions:

What am I learning from this experience? In what way can it inspire me to change my life for the better?

So who am I to tell you to accept and let go?

On the 16th of December 2006, we were given the diagnosis for our three-month old daughter Ingrid, and it was bad. Spinal muscular atrophy type 1, a deadly genetic disease that we had never, ever heard of, just smashed our lives to pieces. The doctor explained that most babies with this disease live to the age of eight months, so we were given a maximum of five more months to be with our child.

It felt like my life had ended. Not only did I lose my child, but I also lost the hopes and dreams of us being a little family and watching her grow up. I lost trust in life and my ability to have a healthy child. I lost my role as a mother, as I no longer had physical proof of a child. I lost my social life, as I no longer joined the mummy groups I had attended with Ingrid.

In my case, my ability to accept and let go of the emotional pain opened up a new path of helping others in healing their hearts and trusting life again. Grief is complex, but by healing your emotional pain you can open up for a life filled with love, connection, joy and possibilities. If I could, you can, too.

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ― Louise ErdrichThe Painted Drum LP

By Karin Andersson Hagelin

Karin Andersson Hagelin is a certified EFT Tapping practitioner and Grief Recovery Specialist®, running her coaching practice via Skype or in person in Zurich. She is of Swedish origin but has been living in Zürich since 2005. To find out more, connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/karinanderssonhagelin), Instagram (instagram.com/karin_lifecrisis_coach) or visit her website.

This article was first featured in Mothering Matters, October 2015

How to make a Vision Board

It has arrived, the new year. 2016. A fresh beginning with lots of hope, ideas, and “this year I’m going to…”

I don’t do new year’s resolutions any longer, instead I make a vision board and find a theme for the year. In the video below I’m going to take you through my own vision board process for 2016.

I also go within and ask myself what I need more of in my life, and find a word that can represent all of these wishes, as it’s easier to remember one key word ;-).

This year the word GRACE came up strong.

Grace, to me, means the willingness to give to myself what I already give to others in bucket loads, namely love, kindness and compassion. When I can give it to myself unconditionally, I can also give it to others in a more authentic, powerful way.

It means listening and trusting the guidance we are receiving. I have micro managed and questioned my inner guidance for way too long now.

It also means letting go of my need to control everything and trust that the Universe has my back. It means surrendering fully to the idea that all is well and that there is no need to push, force or demand a certain outcome.

So this year I finally surrender to grace.

What will your word be?

Much love,
Karin

Enough is enough!

First I have to confess that I’ve had enough…

…of sabotaging for myself.

…of hiding my true self because of what others might think of me.

…of putting off extreme self-care routines because I’m “too busy”.

The list could go on and on.

Sounds familiar?
What have you had enough of?

Have you had enough of letting your fear / limiting beliefs / pain / grief (insert any other annoying issues here____) keep you stuck from moving forward?

Have you had enough of not addressing that nagging feeling that you are here for a greater purpose?

Have you had enough of compromising the potential life you could be leading because you fear what could happen if you followed your heart?

Enough is enough!

I truly want to support you in any way I can in order for you to to wake up to your fullest potential; to what makes your heart sing; to what brings the world joy an peace; to living your legacy!

What I don’t want for you is that you wake up “too late” and regret that you didn’t live the life you wished you had. I think this top regret of the dying says it all:

“#1 I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” The top five regrets of the dying by Bronnie Ware

 

I’ve witnessed clients tap away fears, phobias, physical pain and emotional blocks that had kept them hostage for years, and I’m equally blown away every time I see it happen!

By all means choose the coach, method, therapy or group that feels right for you. I’m just one of many that offer tools and expertice in this field. What I want you to take away from reading this article is to take the action needed for you to get on the path to living a life true to yourself. Promise?

 

X-mas stress or X-mas stillness, it’s actually your choice

Are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed about the fact that Christmas is in 24 days time (or 23 if you are Swedish like me ) ?

Why? What’s triggering that stress? What NEEDS to happen this month that makes you feel oh so overwhelmed?

Just stop and ask yourself, “What is making me feel so STRESSED about the fact that it’s DECEMBER?”?

As the Christmas lights are now covering Zürich in a magical glow, it has also made me think…

I’ve noticed that shops are being open later than usual, and EVEN on Sundays which is normally unheard of here (even voted against!). I see stressed out people rushing through town, eyes darting from one shopping window to the next, and I’m wondering when the Christmas month started to be the equivalent of “shop until you drop” or “fit as much in to the calendar as possible” as if the year end would be the end oIMG_7445f the World as well?

Is it the fact that we see our Facebook , Instagram or Pinterest feed flooded with other peoples home baked bread, home made candy and gorgeous Christmas decorations as if cut out of a homes styling magazine? “Keeping up with the Joneses” has become some sort of modern malady, always chasing for more, bigger, prettier and better. Always posting, sharing and commenting, which is absolutely fine if it didn’t leave you feeling even more disempowered, overwhelmed and stressed out. When do people have time? Why does everyone else seem to afford X, Y, Z…?

And where does it take us? Into more stress, overwhelm, worry, debt, mortgage payments, spiralling into even more financial and emotional stress.

So what can you do about it?

The last time I checked we were all equipped with free will, so we do have a choice even if it doesn’t feel that way many times. I get it, you don’t want to disappoint the kids, the neighbours, the colleagues, the extended family… But at what price?

So what if there was a way to ease the pressure this year? What if you could actually choose to ENJOY December instead of feeling stressed out about the whole thing? December is here whether you like it or not, so why not make a conscious choice of how you want to experience it?

What if you had a magic wand and you could wish freely how you would like to feel and do this Christmas? How would it look like? How would it feel? How would your body feel? How would your family interact with each other? After all it’s Christmas soon and we get to wish 😉

Dare to DREAM BIG, and TELL ME about it! I’m actually researching how I can be of help during the Christmas Stress so you are actually doing me a favour if you leave a comment below!

Thank you!

If God is a DJ…

I was in my car alone (which doesn’t happen often), driving up to Interlaken as this song started playing on the radio. It was a song I’ve heard a million times as I happen to be a Pink-fan and I’ve always loved it. However I noticed that I have NEVER really LISTENED to the lyrics of this song before, and as I started listening to every word she sang I nearly got tears in my eyes.

I mean, what IF God is a DJ and you are the music? What music do you want to play, what music do you want to contribute to this world, what music do you want to be remembered as?

You are your own unique instrument and NO ONE on this Planet can ever come up with the exact tune and melody that is you. How cool is that? No matter how many books that have been written, you are the only one that can write YOUR book using your words and your story. You are like a snow flake, totally unique in your way and there will never, ever be an exact same YOU walking on this Earth ever again.

Your unique music needs to be heard now, or that piece of music will die with you.

hands with a candle“If God is a DJ

Life is a dance floor

Love is the rhythm

You are the music

If God is a DJ

Life is a dance floor

You get what you’re given

It’s all how you use it” Pink

So think about it, HOW WILL YOU USE IT?
Love, Karin

My shopping list for YOU

IMG_6813 This morning I was rushing off to Lidl to get some groceries for dinner. As I arrived at the store I dove in to my pocket for my grocery shopping list that I had so diligently written that morning while serving my kids breakfast, brushing teeth, packing lunch boxes and shouting out orders to hurry up… You get the picture, right?

What I got out was the list that you can see in the picture above! I stopped dead in my tracks and started giggling, and then I giggled some more!

This my friends, it the result of brainstorming I did at the kitchen table (hence the mix up of lists) to answer the question “What value are you bringing to your clients?” So this shopping list is actually for YOU! These items on that list  is what I want for YOU. These items exist within you, and my job (passion to be more precise) is to be your guide on that treasure hunt for more wellbeing, grace, hopefulness, fearlessness, and empowerment (Wanbun, I didn’t find the “fearless” aisle, and no Johan, the guy at the check out just looked at me sheepishly when I asked where the grace & hopefulness-shelf  was… 🙂 ).

So if you have these items, any or all, KNOW that it’s possible to achieve it! I wish you all a wonderful, shining, blissful Wednesday and I hope that your day starts with a giggle too 🙂 Karin

Moving on; how to heal your heart after divorce

IMG_2039I’m on thin ice here because I haven’t gone through a divorce myself, and I don’t want to pretend I know anything about how it is. I really want to be clear on that as I want to be authentic. However, I’ve just witnessed the devastation, grief and overwhelm that close friends and family have gone through due to divorce or separation, so I know that I have to write this post to honour you who are out there, not knowing how to survive and cope after a divorce, that I do know that there is a way to heal your heart again.

Divorce is said to be one of the most profoundly painful experiences that a human being can survive. It’s often tied to a profound fear that the pain will never end. It’s been compared to the stages of death because the experience is often one of not only losing your marriage, but also, yourself. It reaches out and changes not only the couple, but also the children, family, friends, business associates, and overall community that make up the interwoven support system of the couple.” Debra Warner, MF, MFT www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife

It is different for everyone and you can never, ever compare losses or situations in your life with someone else’s, but none the less it is a tremendous loss to get divorced. Usually there is so much going on around a divorce like selling the home, dividing the belongings, agree on financial settlements, explain to friends and family, losing the daily contact with your children, and a heap of other legal and practical stuff. There is simply no time or energy left to grieve!

There is tremendous tension, pain and sadness from both parts (yes, also from the one that took the initiative) and a lot of hurtful words are thrown around. Words that can take years, if ever, to heal from. Words cause havoc in your emotional system without leaving physical marks, and they are stored in our only piece of hardware you have in this life, your body. And hurtful actions. Actions that you would never have taken if you weren’t hurting so badly, actions which can never be taken back, actions that cause consequences that you couldn’t in your wildest dreams have foreseen. It’s an evil circle of hurting and blaming, and no one leaves as a winner.

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So what is there to be done?

– What do you do when we have broken our leg?

– You go to the doctor or Emergency Room!

– What do you do if you want to get fit and strong?

– You hire a Personal Trainer or join a gym!

– What do you do when you want to change career or start a business?

– You hire a career coach.

– What do you do when your life and your heart get smashed to pieces?

– ?

Many do nothing. We sit and wait for time to heal our wounds; We stay strong for the people we love; We fill our diaries to the brim not to have to face sitting alone with our pain and sadness; We grieve alone and pretend that everything is fine so we don’t have to show our vulnerability; We replace the loss by finding a new partner before we are done healing the old, causing the new relationship to break down before it had a fighting chance.

What if there was help to get during a rough patch? An emotional support person that could walk by your side, listen without judging and guide you through all the emotional up’s and down’s? What if there was a way to get more resilient when it comes to grief and loss?

I don’t want to make this blog post into a sales pitch but I want you to consider the following:

  1. Moving on bookreading the book Moving on by John W. James and Russell Friedman
  2. find out if there is a divorce support group in your area
  3. watch this video using EFT tapping to let go of the past

You can also book a first assessment meeting with me for FREE on Skype to find out more about the Grief Recovery Method and how I can help and support you. I have witnessed the results of clients that have gone through a divorce and I so want you to know that there is a way to get emotional support and to heal your heart again. It’s all about breaking the patterns of the past, heal and let go of old relationships and free up space and energy to invite new, loving relationships both with yourself, friends and partners.

Warm wishes, Karin