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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

 

Can broken dreams cause grief?

Broken dreamsA lot of people react when I tell them what I work with, and most of them say “Luckily nothing terrible has happened to me yet.” or “I haven’t lost anyone close to me, but when I do I know who to call.” That’s all fine, of course, it’s not that I wish for anyone to have a traumatic experience so I can have something to do!

But what about the time you had a really bad break up with someone? Maybe that shattered not only your heart, but also the dream of you two being together, starting a family and growing old together?  Or what about the loss of a job, and hence loss of financial security and a dream of a career within that company or field? Or moving abroad (as we expats have done), not only being a big adventure, but also bringing with it the loss of familiarity, language, friends, and (often) the ability to be present at big life events such as weddings, christenings, funerals, or birthdays.

So in what way does the Grief Recovery Method® help you get rid of the pain and frustration that broken dreams brings with it? You might have been trying a number of different things to feel better again, but are tired of trying and “failing” yet another “self help” method. What could possibly be different with this Program?

For me, it’s been the simple fact that I got to take a good look at all my disappointments, losses and broken dreams in my life so far. I’ve looked at the myths I’ve been taught how to deal with loss, all the intellectual comments I’ve heard when in grief, and all the (often unconscious) behaviours I’ve been using in order to avoid facing my feelings triggered by a traumatic event (food, anger, frustration, TV…).

It’s like taking out the weeds by the roots instead of either ignoring them completely (yet knowing perfectly well that they are still there), or swearing about their presence but refusing to do anything about it!  For me, it was a clear and logical step-by-step action plan that finally quietened a majority of my extremely limiting “Why’s?”, “What if’s” and “If only’s”. I say majority, because the job never gets completely done. I would be lying if I said that you would be living happily ever after just by working through this Program.

But your you will have a brand new set of extremely helpful tools to help you handle major life events. You will have taken back the responsibility how you let those events affect you, and therefore you get to decide how to feel and what kind of support you need. I was so good at giving away the power over my own emotions to others, but now I ask myself this question when faced with a situation that triggers all these scary emotions: “To who or what do I give the power to control how I feel in this very moment, and why?”, and that is something I did not do before!

So if you want to know more about me, what the Grief Recovery Method® is, and if it is for you at all(!), please feel free to book a first meeting for FREE with me either in person or on Skype!

Karin Andersson Hagelin

Here you can read what others have said after finishing the Grief Recovery Outreach Program with me. 

 

Much Love, Karin

 

Talking to children about loss

Simple DO’s and DON’Ts:

  • DO – Go first. As the adult, you are the leader. 
  • DO – Tell the truth about how you feel. – Telling the truth about your own grief and about how you feel will establish a tone of trust and make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.
  • DO – Recognise that grief is emotional, not intellectual and that sad or scared feelings are normal. Avoid the trap of asking your child what is wrong, for he or she will automatically say “Nothing”.
  • DO – Listen with you heart, not your head. Allow all emotions to be expressed without judgement, criticism, or analysis.
  • DO – Remember that each child is unique and has a unique relationship to the loss.
  • DO – Be patient. Don’t force your child to talk. Give your child time. Make sure to plant healthy ideas about talking about feelings.

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  • DON’T – Say “Don’t feel scared”. Fear is a common and normal response.
  • DON’T – Say “Don’t feel sad”. Sadness is a healthy and normal reaction. Sadness and fear, the most common feelings attached to loss of any kind, are essential to being human.
  • DON’T – Ask your children how they are feeling. Like adults, fearful of being judged, they will automatically say, “I’m fine”, even though they are not.
  • DON’T – Act strong for your children. They will interpret your “non-feeling” as something they are supposed to copy.
  •  DON’T – Compare their lives or situations to others in the world. Comparison always minimizes feelings.
  • DON’T – Make promises that you cannot keep. Instead of saying “Everything’s going to be okay”, say, “We’ll do everything we can to be safe”.
  • DON’T – Forget that your children are very smart. Treat them and their feelings with respect and dignity as you would like to be treated by others.

Stay tuned for the first Course “Helping Children deal with Loss” in Zurich, in spring 2013. Sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know the dates as I only have four (4) spaces available.