Grief & Loss

What’s So Great About Workshops?

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Why do I love facilitating workshops? I was asked this recently in an interview I did with Jessica from Birth Takes a Village on post-partum rage (video being posted soon!)

What I love about facilitating workshops is: bringing people together with what might be an otherwise unknown commonality, and creating a space for safe and empowering discussion and self-exploration.

I am always so excited when I create workshops to be able to share information about topics I am passionate about, and helping others to foster self-awareness and take steps towards their goals.

Workshops are a perfect place to start exploring a topic or area that you are interested in. It can be a gateway to starting therapy or an addition or any work you are already doing on yourself (with or without a professional).

Check out my website for more info on my upcoming workshops: www.theessenceofyou.ca/events

^ Private workshops and Individual Counselling sessions are also available by appointment if you’d rather explore these topics 1-1.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. JEN OFFERS WORKSHOPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING ONLINE & IN PERSON IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

Book into Jen’s Workshops below:

Nobody Should Suffer Alone Through Pregnancy Loss

Pregnancy loss is a delicate subject. If you are reading this, you've likely experienced pregnancy loss or know somebody who has, so you know how tender and hard to talk about it can be. The vulnerability that surrounds pregnancy loss can keep us quiet and disconnected from others, even though it's a time when we need support the most.

Grief comes in waves, and impacts us all in different ways... Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are the 5 Stages of Grief (outlined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross). Your experience with grief won't necessarily happen in that order, and each stage might look different for the varying losses you experience in your life. One aspect of Denial and Bargaining is SHOCK. When we are in shock it can feel impossible to even comprehend what is going on for us, never mind talk about it!

But also, talking about it might be what helps. It might help you to move past the shock, sink into your feelings and gather your thoughts. It might help you to feel supported - less alone, less isolated. If you don't process your grief, it often stays stuck and unresolved, and might get acted out in different ways subconsciously.

I came across a comic recently that was done to represent a woman's experience with having a miscarriage. (View the comic here, it's worth your time, I promise!!!). This comic beautifully illustrates the devastation that can come with a miscarriage, alongside the different stages of grief. Chari Pere, the woman who wrote the comic and article shows how isolating it can be when you think you are the only one experiencing a miscarriage, and she has made a point to share her loss experience widely to support other women who have suffered miscarriages.

When I had my miscarriage, I only knew of two other people who had had experienced this.  I initially felt like NOBODY understood. All of the comments from people who were trying to make me feel better, but hadn't experienced it themselves, were making me feel worse: "At least you know you can get pregnant!" "You can keep trying." "You're not worried that you won't get pregnant again are you?" "It's really common, it's not a big deal."

And not only the comments, but the expectation that I'd be back to normal once it passed. The physical trauma that came with the experience was shocking and difficult to cope with as well, and the reminders that followed with each cycle that followed after my miscarriage.

Despite the physical and emotional pain and discomfort that I was going through, I was very open about my miscarriage with others; and as I shared, I found out that many other people in my life had had miscarriages too. As more and more people shared their experiences with me, I felt more supported and understood. But I would never have had this opportunity for connection if I hadn't opened up about it myself, and instead of getting support, I would have stayed isolated in my grief.

Having the knowledge that pregnancy loss is common isn't going to reduce or minimize your grief, but it does provide support and reduces feelings of isolation. Talking about this shared experience can also reduce blaming and shaming that women so often do to themselves when they experience pregnancy loss, and processing your experience is what will help you to work through your grief. What helped you the most when you experienced your loss? What did you need that you didn't get? Please leave a comment below!

Jen from The Essence of You offers support for grief and loss through group therapy & individual therapy sessions. Next Group Starting August 21st.

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

 

My 3 Favourite Strategies for Managing Anxiety:

ANXIETY

I work with the majority of my clients to manage their [varying degrees of] anxiety. I thought I'd share some of my favourite anxiety management strategies that I have learned over the past seven years in my career as a counsellor.

Some common presenting symptoms of anxiety are: short of breath, racing heart, shaking/trembling hands, sweating, difficulty concentrating or focusing, feeling lightheaded, feeling restless or on edge, difficulty sleeping, worrying and racing thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar? READ ON!

The below strategies can be applied for something small like feeling a little nervous to something bigger like a panic attack.

1) Literally GROUND yourself. Plant both of your feet flat on the ground, push them gently and allow yourself to feel the weight of your body resting on your feet. Not enough? Try alternating your weight from one foot to the other, or from your toes to your feet, and back again to both feet firmly on the ground.

2) Belly breathing. When you are anxious, you are usually taking short, shallow breaths. Belly breathing brings your energy down, deep into your body, which can help alleviate your anxiety - when you are anxious, almost all of your energy is way up in your head. First, notice your breath. Is it shallow? With your next breath, bring it deeper into your body, and your next breath deeper again, until you are breathing all the way into your belly or lower back. Continue until you notice your symptoms of anxiety easing up.

3) Connect to all 5 senses. Name 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can physically feel (eg: your clothes against your body, your breath moving in and out of your nose/mouth), 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, 1 thing that you can taste.

All of these can be used together! Start with grounding your feet on the ground, move into belly breathing, and then connect to all 5 senses. What I like about these strategies is that they bring your focus and energy into your body and they connect you to the here-and-now. Anxiety is often linked to fear of something that has happened in the past or fear of something in the future, so doing anything to bring your focus and awareness into the present moment can be helpful.

Another strategy to consider: get a reality check around what you are feeling anxious about, or check in with yourself if you need to be thinking about whatever is causing the anxiety in that moment. Give yourself permission to come back to it when you are adequately supported to deal with what came up.

If you tried these, I'd love to hear how they worked for you! Please leave a comment below. :)

Something to keep in mind: these are not one-size-fits-all. Every person responds differently to their triggers and to their grounding strategies. I recommend testing a few out and finding the ones that work best for YOU. For long-term management of anxiety, I recommend seeking support from a professional to help you address the underlying issues of your anxiety.

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

 

Guest Post: Grief in the Transition into Motherhood

Guest Post by Dr Gillian Sawyer & Jen Reddish: Grief in the Transition into Motherhood

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I never even thought this was a possibility until I was sitting in a room with Jen, who you will meet below having this ah-ha moment. About 6 months after having my second baby I started to feel really anxious. I was getting frustrated easily, I was checking out often, I was becoming short with my loved ones, I was angry and overwhelmed. I really was not feeling myself. I started to wonder if postpartum anxiety was creeping in. After several weeks of feeling not good I followed my gut and sought some professional help because navigating all of these feelings seemed like a lot for me to manage on my own with 2 small kids. And I can tell you it’s one of the BEST things I’ve done. Jen and I talked about the transition into motherhood. For me transitioning into motherhood the first time coincided with losing my mom… at interestingly enough 6 months postpartum was right when I started to feel off the second time around. We talked about how some of the feelings that were coming up or that I was expressing outwardly were familiar/easy to express like anger but there was for me a whole lot of underlying grief that was bubbling up. I realized through our sessions that grief is common in transitioning into motherhood for so many women, even if you haven’t lost a loved one.

Read on mamas, Here is Jen Reddish from The Essence of You Counselling in #YYC. Jen is one of the Women’s Health Experts that is interviewed in #YourBodyAfterBaby Program.

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One significant aspect of the transition into motherhood that is often overlooked is grief. You might be wondering, what does grief have to do with becoming a mother? – This is not something commonly discussed, but there are so many things that a woman must grieve as she enters into the post-partum period.
Grief occurs whenever you experience change, because with every change comes loss. Every woman experiences a multitude of changes as she enters into motherhood, and therefore, she has a lot to grieve. Just to name a few of these changes:
Relationships, day to day activities, thoughts, plans & decisions, our bodies, hormones and emotions.  And we are also grieving what our lives used to look like, we are grieving the loss of our former selves, our independence, and often we are grieving the loss of what we wanted/planned for our birth experience & transition into the post-partum period. During pregnancy you probably had thought a lot about what your birth would look like and what it would be like once you had your baby, and the reality doesn’t always meet these expectations, so you need to grieve the loss of what you had wanted and expected.
What grief can look like in the post-partum period:
  • Noticing frustration or anger coming out more frequently in daily tasks and interactions
  • Feeling angry or resentful towards your partner for being able to live their life more freely
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed with how much has changed in your life
  • Trying to live life the same as it was before baby, wishing that things were different or wondering when things will change again/get easier or more manageable
  • Feeling disconnected from your sense of self and who you are
  • Feeling isolated and alone
  • Avoidance of emotions
  • Acting as if everything is okay and normal, despite struggles that you are experiencing
You might notice that the above list resembles traits of post-partum depression and post-partum anxiety. While it is possible to experience some of these without having post-partum depression or anxiety, it is also common for there to be overlap with these. If you are experiencing any of the above, it might be worthwhile exploring this further with a counsellor or other mental health professional to get support.

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Mama’s again, I can’t stress enough the importance of your Mental Health Postpartum. To have access to the video interview with Jen and myself in my upcoming program #YourBodyAfterBaby you can still join the waitlist. The program releases June 27th and will guide you through all things postpartum. I hope you’ll join us!

 

xo

 

Dr. Gillian

Pregnancy & Infant Loss: Now What?

As “Pregnancy and infant loss awareness month” is coming to an end, I'm finding myself feeling unfulfilled. Dissatisfied.

I love that this month created a buzz around the importance of recognising and honouring loss. It pushed me to be more vocal about my own experiences, and I witnessed many brave women share openly about their experiences too. I believe that this month helped promote awareness, and I hope that many people were able to gain connection and relief in sharing their experiences and listening to others
stories.

But what happens November 1st? Are we just expected to seal ourselves back up again and pretend that everything's okay?

There is nothing like growing a life inside of you to have it taken away too early. No matter how much you rationalize, let go, or trust in the process of life as it unfolds, there might always be an emptiness that now occupies a part of you, where your baby once resided. There will be so many different emotions tangled up with your loss experience and it is different for everyone.

Did you take time to connect to your feelings around your loss during this month of awareness? Did you reach out for support? Or did you find yourself suppressing your memories and feelings? If you did talk about it more, was your sharing met with supportiveness? I think that what often prevents people from sharing is fear of how others will respond to your vulnerability.

I love Butterfly Baby Doula’s blog post on What NOT to Say to someone experiencing loss. Some of my favourites:

“There was a reason, or everything happens for a reason.”

“Maybe there was something wrong with it.”

I’m wondering why is it so hard to support someone in their sadness? Why is it so hard to express our sadness to others? And the biggest question: why is it so hard to allow ourselves to sit in our sadness? So I ask you this as I ask myself the same question - what now? What will you do to continue honouring your loss(es), cope with your grief, and continue to increase awareness of this topic even though October is over?

For information on Grief & Loss Sessions, contact Jen.