Monthly Archives: May 2016

Loss, its Impacts and Moving Forward

Here is a blog I wrote for Cinnabar training (http://cinnabartraining.com/impact-loss):

Our society places great focus upon gains – gaining an education, gaining employment, getting a husband or a wife or a partner, having children, securing financial stability. What is often unspoken about is loss. Inherent to any gains we make, there is loss; the loss of a loved one, the loss of a career, the loss of a home or an animal companion, the loss of a role that we previously cherished. When experiencing loss we can often feel completely alone because loss is not something that many people like to talk about or to share, perhaps because of the emotional and psychological pain this invokes.

Loss can have significant impacts on us. Sally Brampton, a former magazine editor who ended her life last week, wrote about her experience of clinical depression. In her account Sally wrote that depression can be about loss, and how her depression was linked to the loss of a job, a home and a partner. Loss can be traumatic for us in that we find it hard to comprehend how something or somebody that was a fundamental aspect of our lives is not there anymore. Loss can make us feel powerless, for we can experience that we could not have acted to prevent this loss.   Loss can overwhelm us, so that our lives no longer seem to have any direction, perspective or purpose, we ourselves are lost, struggling to find some meaning and structure to what is going on around us.

Acceptance of loss can be healing. Accepting that everyone’s life is touched, and indeed transformed, by loss can help a great deal. Relieving the stress, the emotional pain of loss can also be hugely cathartic. Thus, we can rage, cry, sometimes simply remain in silence as a way of acknowledging and processing the pain we are in. It can also be very helpful to remain connected to the loved one that we have lost. For example, we might walk through the same places that they used to walk through, we might like to use their life as continuing inspiration for our own life, we might find times when we feel that the person that we have lost is close to us.

Counselling can be beneficial in helping us to process loss, to accept this when and if this is possible, and to explore how we might live with and beyond loss. Counselling provides the space for our grief, and enables us to explore some of our emotions and thinking. A good counsellor will provide a safe space where we can be ourselves and where we can feel that we are accepted in our loss, without judgement and without any conditions. It is important within a society where loss is often hidden or denied for there to be support available for us all. Counselling can be one important type of support.

Rutland Slow Time

I hear the water lapping against the shore edge as I run. I look out upon the clear, blue water, speckled with diamond lights as the sun reflects off the liquid surface.   A flock of sheep going somewhere by themselves, no humans telling them what to do. They bleat, they communicate with each other. I notice a mother sheep sitting by the water’s edge looking out onto the horizon, her baby lamb sitting next to her. They are enjoying the wonderful scenery just as I am ! I enter a space dominated by swallows. They dart from left to right, right to left, up and down, down and up. They eat the midges that fly through the air every so often en masse. I find that if I see the cloud of midges early enough I can avoid them bumping into my face simply by stepping to one side.

I feel disappointment. Today there are no waders in the spot where I saw them only last week. A pair wiggling around in the marshy land. Then I am in awe because I notice a pair of birds that I have not seen before at Rutland Water, with a couple of chicks. It touches my heart that they have chosen this place to start their family. A special place. I realise that no one day is ever the same, that each time I run I witness different things and experience different surprises.

I run past apple trees heavy with white blossoms. I breathe in the aroma and for a time the smell helps me forget about how tired my legs are, having run over 12 miles by this stage. In the same way that I have become absorbed by the landscape, the landscape has absorbed me. I feel part of a rich biodiversity, and experience the generosity of nature. Somehow the landscape and its creatures have transformed me. In the same way that my steps have left an impact upon the ground, the environment has impacted upon me. I have entered Rutland slow time – no worries, no beginning, no ending, just being. This experience of time is truly a gift, in today’s society of fast cars and fast living. Where I am there is only an expanse of contentment, a hidden message of peace and joy.

 

Anxiety, Acceptance and Breathing

Anxiety can make us restless and exhausted at the same time. We can feel our heart palpitate, our palms sweat, tingling in our fingers. We can feel a massive urge to do something, anything, and so we engage in quite manic behaviour, cleaning the house or tidying the garden or a high intensity workout. When we try to calm our bodies and minds we can find that our mind races away with us, thoughts constantly bombarding us, really preventing us from trying to meditate. Meditation itself becomes a battle as anxiety can prevent us from being able to sit and calm ourselves. We are constantly saying to ourselves that we have to or that we should be a particular way, or that we should or be doing something else.

When experiencing high anxiety it is important to try to just accept our heightened state of alertness. Trying to quash anxiety can actually make this worse. Equally, trying to force ourselves to undertake long periods of meditation can become yet another thing to beat ourselves up about, increasing rather than reducing our anxiety. I try to hold my anxiety with compassion rather than trying to fight it. I say to my anxiety, ‘I give you loving kindness’ as I imagine holding and supporting my palpitating heart. This acceptance and kindness somehow reduces the intensity of the anxiety that I feel.

It is also important to focus on breathing when we feel anxious. I sit down in a safe place, even for just five minutes, and I allow myself to just breathe. If any thoughts come up I accept them, and imagine them rising up into the air like a balloon. In this way unhelpful, self-critical, even angry thoughts are accepted and then let go to float gently away. It is important to try and breathe from the diaphragm rather than the chest in order to create deep breathing. Do not place any pressure on the breathing, simply breathe in and out. Sometimes as I breathe I say to myself, ‘Calming my body, I breathe in; Caring for my body, I breathe out. Smiling to my body, I breathe in. Easing my body, I breathe out’. In this way the body becomes calmed and anxiety can be reduced. Engaging in this practice on a daily basis can really help with anxiety.