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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. 

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.

I suck at math!

IMG_2737 When I was in 5th grade it was decided that they would divide the three 5th grade classes in my school into three math groups depending on our abilities in that subject. Hence we were divided into the “fast” group, the “average” group and the “slow” group. I have no idea if they were given those exact names, but that was the general idea behind the three groups. I ended up in the “fast” group as I was one of the fastest in math in my class, and had been since 1st grade.

One day, as we were about to get a math test back, our teacher declared (in a very annoyed tone) that someone in the group had managed to MOVE  THE COMMA THE WRONG WAY THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE TEST! That very test ended up on MY desk! I was the one that had been so utterly stupid to do such a thing that the teacher felt the need to tell the whole group about it! I was 11 and I felt so ashamed.

Since that day, because of WHAT that teacher said, HOW she said it and what she DIDN’T DO to repair the damage, I’ve held this view of myself that I suck at math. My whole life I’ve been avoiding having to calculate “in public”, making sure I can triple check if the answer is correct before I show it to someone. I’ve had to ask colleagues to make fool proof formulas that I could follow whenever I needed to do any form of calculation for my “task list”. I’ve gone to great length so save myself from making such “stupid” mistakes ever again because it was so humiliating that first time.

Now, that was just ONE DAY of my life, and what ONE TEACHER said and yet it has affected my ability to calculate in a negative way! I can’t say it’s been a HUGE loss in my life, but I wanted to use it as an example to show you how the opinion from an authority figure from our childhood, (be it a teacher, a coach, a parent or grandparent…) can do to our presently held beliefs about our abilities. Maybe you are carrying a similar story from your childhood around, and maybe that story has created this limiting belief about your own abilities. And that in turn might be limiting you to aim for your dreams TODAY!

Find that memory, lift it up and have a close look at it. Forgive the person who said or did it so that you can free up that space and energy for better and more fun things in life – then move on! If you need assistance in that procedure, just give me a shout OK? Warm regards, 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.

Big day tomorrow, 12th of March!

Tomorrow I’m starting the first Grief Recovery Group Outreach Program here in Zurich! I’m so excited to see what’s going to happen during the course. And yes, there is a last chance to sign up today if you feel intrigued to try it!

The things I’ve witnessed with my one-on-one clients so far has been absolutely amazing! I’ mean, I’m “just” the facilitator, it’s the clients who are doing the BIG job. To be able to watch that process of healing is simply awesome! Thank you all <3

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