In her decades of experience in assisting clients through the grief process, Paula Shaw has found that there are specific elements along the loss path that need to be addressed and worked through as they arise. These are things that will often make one feel as if they are all alone in their journey or on an island of endless despair. This in fact the opposite of what is actually taking place. Grief follows a similar pathway for many, and you are most definitely not alone or 'crazy' in feeling the way that you do.
There are several aspects of the grief journey that are important to recognize. As with the dimensions of grief, not all of these aspects will be experienced by everyone. However, when experienced, they are destabilizing and frightening enough to make the griever wonder if he or she is going “crazy.” Therefore, I feel it is important to know what is possible, so that if it occurs, it will not produce fear and shame. If you missed part one of this piece, please scroll down and read it.
GRIEF ATTACKS OR MEMORY EMBRACES
“I thought I was totally over the pain, then I heard that song, and I fell apart.” This is a typical description of a “grief attack” or memory embrace.” These are unpredictable episodes when the pain of loss becomes especially acute. They can be totally overwhelming and devastating. They are, however, a very common occurrence. All grieving people have “triggers” that can be activated by a wide variety of stimuli. Suddenly you may feel an overwhelming sense of missing a person you loved a place that was special, or a circumstance that has changed. You may instantly and uncontrollably be reduced to tears or some other intense emotion. If this happens to you, don’t panic; know that this is normal, and be gentle with yourself. The most important thing is to let your self have the feeling without shame or judgment. Don’t try to deny it or stifle it. The energy it takes to do this can really begin to deplete you if it happens often. Also, doing so, may eventually lead to emotional, spiritual and physical paralysis.
ANNIVERSARY AND HOLIDAY GRIEF OCCASIONS
These times can produce especially painful “grief attacks” or “memory embraces.” These are the times when the presence of someone loved means so very much, and the lack of that presence can be devastating. It is natural to feel particularly lonely or depressed at these times. If you are aware of this possibility, help yourself by planning ahead. Be sure to have support available. Make changes in the ritual, if it will torture you to try to do it the same way it was done in the past. Don’t be afraid to do what you need to do, to take care of yourself. Only you know what you need.
SUDDEN CHANGES IN MOOD
This behavior causes confusion because people wrongly believe that they should follow a pattern of continually feeling better. The truth is, that many things can trigger the mood changes that are a normal part of the grief experience. A familiar sight, a song, something said; any of these things can change a euphoric mood to one of anger, sadness, depression, etc. If you have these ups and downs, be patient with yourself. It will not always be this way; but it can be a confusing, frustrating, lengthy path, that must be walked, to get to the other side.
IDENTIFICATION SYMPTOMS OF PHYSICAL ILLNESS
This circumstance will most commonly occur when there has been a death, but it can occur with other kinds of losses as well. Sometimes the grieving person will take on symptoms similar to those experienced by a loved one while they were ill. It’s a way of identifying and feeling close to the person who is gone. For example, the survivor of someone who died of a brain tumor may start experiencing headaches. It may be chest pains if the death was due to a heart attack. Persons, who lose someone significant to mental illness, can start experiencing symptoms typical of the disorder the loved one has. This might be confusion, depression, anxiety, paranoia, etc. If this should happen to you or someone you know, don’t be alarmed. Your body is responding to the loss. As you do the work of grieving, these symptoms should dissipate. It would always be advisable though, to see a doctor and make sure that something serious isn’t causing the problem. Once that is ruled out, then the best course of action is talking to someone you trust about the experience. Journaling can be very helpful too.
Take a moment to reflect on a grief journey of your own and see which of these dimensions you may have experienced. They will be discussed in even more depth in my soon to be released book, When Will This Pain Ever End? Meanwhile, be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss further excerpts and helpful tips on moving beyond your grief.
PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the auther of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as the upcoming book When Will This Pain Ever End? Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair after Suffering Profound Grief and Loss, which will be released in the spring of 2015.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
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Thank you for reading Paula's Blog. Because our site moved in June, we were unable to transfer all of our blog posts over. You can however, read the rest of them by visiting our old blog site. HERE