Grief Counselling Grief Counselling

Grief Counselling

According to the Webster’s dictionary, grief is defined as the pain of mind on account of somethingin the past; mental suffering arising from any cause, as misfortune, loss of friends, misconduct ofone’s self or others, etc.; sorrow; sadness. Grief is the mess of feelings we get when we lose someoneor something, feelings like: shock, numbness, sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, fear, mixed with smallmoments of relief, peace, and happiness. While all these feelings can be overwhelming, they are

normal and they are needful; it is how we process loss.


There are different types of grief and are often labeled according to situation, duration, and severity

of symptoms. First there is normal grief that most people will feel at different junctures in their lives.

The second kind of grief is called by many names; complicated grief, persistent complex

bereavement disorder, separation trauma, traumatic grief or prolonged acute grief. The symptoms of

this type of grief are described as preoccupation with a loved one, excessive loneliness, longing and

yearning for the loved one, and difficulty doing everyday things without the loved one. The third on

is anticipatory grief which happens during the time that our loved one is sick and dying. This type of

grief helps prepare us for the impending loss.


Coping with loss can be painful, sometimes traumatic and is not limited to loss through death. Some

losses that can cause deep grief include:

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job and loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home or moving to another city/town


Grief is hard and it certainly is not fun. The truth of the matter is many people are not equipped or

“ready” to deal with grief, so they seek out information to help them cope and may come across

contradictory advice. Let me list the ones that do not work.


  • The pain will go away faster if you ignore it. The truth is that trying to ignore your pain will only

make it worse in the long run. For real healing to happen, it is necessary for you to acknowledge

your pain and actively deal with it. Just know that it is OK and very normal to feel sad!


  • It’s important to be strong for yourself and for others. It is normal to feel sad, frightened, or

lonely when faced with loss. Crying DOES NOT mean you are weak. It is not your job to protect

your family or friends by pretending to be brave. Showing your true feelings can help them and

you. This is especially important when there are small children involved. They need to know that

it is normal to feels sad and cry and chances are high that you would validate their feelings and

support them in their pain. YOU DESERVE THIS TOO!

  • If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss. While crying is a relatively normal

response to sadness; it’s not the only one. People show grief in different ways. What works for

one does not necessarily work for someone else. It is OK to grieve the way that feels right for


  • Grieving should last about a year. There is no time frame and length of time it takes differs from

person to person.

  • Moving on with your life means forgetting about your loss. Moving on means you’ve accepted

your loss; not forgotten it. It is completely normal to move on with your life and keep the

memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you. The truth is these

memories can become the most important way that we define ourselves.


Other helpful things to remember while you move through your grief is:

  • First and foremost, acknowledge your pain and accept that you are in pain. It is OK!
  • Be aware that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions. It can feel like an

emotional roller coaster!

  • Your grieving process will be unique to you. There is no right way or wrong way.
  • Find support from people who care about you.
  • Support yourself by taking care of yourself physically. This one will feel hard but it is very

important that your physical self is maintained.

  • While this one is more difficult, try to recognize the difference between grief and depression

and if you don’t know, ask a professional.


There are 5 stages to grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While Kubler-Ross

created this to help explain grief, it was for the grief someone goes through when they find out they

are dying. Still, it is helpful in explaining what grief can look like and what you might expect when

experiencing grief.


Denial – The first reaction is denial. In this stage, individuals believe the diagnosis is

somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.


Anger – When denial of the situation is no longer an option, a person will become frustrated.

“Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”; “Why would

this happen?”.


Bargaining – This stage involves the hope that an individual will not have to experience

grief. An individual will attempt to negotiate for an extended life in exchange for something

important to them. For example, a person could negotiate with God to attend a daughter’s

wedding in exchange for a reformed lifestyle, or say things such as “If I could trade their life

for mine”.


Depression – Loss of hope, “why bother?”



Other emotional symptoms you can experience includes:

  • Shock and disbelief. This is part of the denial stage. It can be hard to believe that someone

you lost is gone; that it really happened. You still expect them to see them; to tell you it was a



  • Sadness. This is the stage of depression and is the most universally experienced symptom of

grief. Feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness may be experienced during

this time and you may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.


  • Guilt. You may feel regret or feel guilty about things said or not said, things you did or did

not do. You may also feel guilty about feeling relieved if the person died after a long, difficult



  • Anger. You may feel angry and resentful. Depending on the circumstances you may be angry

with yourself, at God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you.


  • Trigger fears about your own mortality and make you question your abilities to deal with

things yourself.


To help support yourself through your grief in the best way possible, remember to embrace your

feelings; it is ok! Try expressing them through journaling, writing a letter to yourself or loved one, or

scrap book a celebration of the life that was lost. Try to maintain hobbies and interests; there is

comfort in routine and doing the things that give us joy. Plan ahead for your grief triggers; this

includes all holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones. Talk to friend and family who

may participate in get togethers; let them know what you are comfortable with talking about.

Emotional symptoms can turn into physical symptoms over time. These can include feeling

unbelievably tired, nauseous, easily catching colds, weight loss or gain, aches and pains in

various parts of your body, and sleeping to much or too little.


Sometimes our grief can turn into depression and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference. Grief can

be a roller coaster of emotions and you will experience good and bad days. Symptoms that may

suggest that you have moved into a depression, include:

  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
  • Feel like life isn’t worth living
  • Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
  • Feel numb or disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Slow speech and body movements; feeling lethargic
  • Unable to function normally at home, work, or school
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

If you question if your grief has turned into depression, consult with your doctor. I have had clients

ask if antidepressants can help grief. The answer is while medication can help relieve some of the

symptoms, it doesn’t treat the cause which is the loss. While numbing the pain sounds like a good

thing, the pain must be worked through and antidepressants will only delay the mourning process.


If you’re experiencing symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health

professional right away. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significantemotional damage, health problems, and even suicide. Treatment can help you get better.
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It happened, but I can’t get over it


When we think of trauma, we think of the unspeakable, we think of unbearable hurt and pain, we

think of the worst of the worst; then we stop thinking, we stop feeling, we go into denial. Due to

this denial, survivors of trauma work very hard to push through their experiences on their own.

Why do we deny? While there is no one real answer to this, fear is a large factor; fear of pain,

fear of suffering, fear of powerlessness and lack of control. If this happened to this person, it can

happen to me and now I am fearful. Not a very nice feeling to have for long, so we deny the

survivor’s experience; it did not happen the way they remember, they asked for it in some way, I

am different, therefore it will not happen to me. Now I feel better! You’re wondering about this?

Let me tell you about the people who don’t deny and support the trauma survivor through their



As a mental health therapist, I am trained to deal with my client’s trauma. I have spent

considerable time working through and processing my feelings around my own experiences of

trauma so that I am better equipped to help my clients work through theirs. Is this fool proof?

The answer is a definite no. As with all people, therapists are subject to life stressors, health

problems, etc., so vicarious trauma is a possibility for people in the field of mental health.

Vicarious trauma is something that happens over time in response to the traumatic stories of

others. For friends and family that are exposed to their loved one’s trauma, secondary trauma is a

possibility. Secondary trauma is more immediate and can happen when exposed to just one

traumatic story. When confronted with horror, it makes sense that we would choose to deny it in

some way, shape, or form.


Denial doesn’t just come from others; it can come from the survivors themselves. After a trauma,

survivors are highly vulnerable and more often than not, are not supported in a positive and

validating environment. Again, this is usually due to the people around them not being able to

deal with the reality that their safety is at risk too. When this occurs, survivors can become

entrenched in a spiral of shame and confusion. Confronted with the denial of others, survivors of

trauma start to question their experiences (confusion) and worse of all start wondering how they

may have caused it to happen (guilt). This brings up huge feelings of shame; I did something

bad/stupid, others think I did something bad/stupid, therefore I am bad/stupid. Except it was not

their fault! Someone else chose to violate them! Often survivors of trauma are unable to come to

a fair assessment of their conduct (unrealistic guilt) and balance this with denial of responsibility.

They did not seek it out by anything they said or did, but faced with a less than supportive

environment, their own unrealistic guilt, survivors emotionally shutdown, try to tell themselves

and others that the trauma really wasn’t a big deal, and become numb in order to cope.


This is what re-traumatization looks like. The first trauma, if dealt with right away in a

supporting and validating environment can be healed with minimal effort; when it isn’t, the

second trauma that occurs, the re-traumatization, is harder to heal as the shame the survivor feels

is compounded daily by the judgement of others who are unable to deal with or accept the reality

of the traumatized person. It has been reported that survivors of trauma that do not have

supportive families are at increased risk for persistent post-traumatic symptoms.


Then we have the justice system. This is a system that we as a society count on to charge the

perpetrator and put on trial so that the perpetrator pays for the pain and suffering they have

caused to an innocent person. It’s not a terrible system unless you are a traumatized individual

that has to go through the process to get the justice they seek; then it becomes a place of

nightmares. We see this re-traumatization clearly as traumatized individuals move through the

court process. Our justice system works on the premise that a person is innocent until proven

guilty; great! But this means that it is upon the survivor and their legal team to prove that their

story is true. On the other side, the perpetrator’s legal team is formulating questions that will

poke holes in the victim’s story. So now the trauma survivor has to convince people that they are

not liars; that their experience is valid and it is as they say. This is where re-traumatization occurs

and can be even more devastating than the initial trauma; I think it is safe to say that it is more



Survivors of trauma need to understand that what they are feeling is normal. Experiencing

trauma can make a person feel very isolated, powerless, that their sense of self has been

shattered, that they are disconnected from others, and that they cannot trust anyone. The focus of

the victim is to establish a sense of safety and to regain some sort of security. After a trauma has

occurred and a sense of some safety and security has been established, it is imperative to move

into rebuilding some form of trust. Reconnecting with people after a trauma is also a primary

necessity as being able to trust someone helps us feel safe and protected. Studies show that

survivors of trauma that have supportive people in the aftermath of trauma report shorter times of

recovery! The kind of support is key to this recovery and even with supportive family and

friends, it is important that you seek professional help. Therapists are trained in trauma and better

equipped to help you navigate through the thoughts and emotions you are experiencing. Family

and friends are a great support, but the journey towards real healing takes its toll on those we

love too.


Is there someone in your life that is trying to cope with a trauma and you are wondering how you

can support them? First off be aware of your responses to the survivor’s story. It is very normal

for family, lovers, or friends to be over protective which can impede the survivor’s ability and

need to reestablish their sense of autonomy. This can take the shape of aggressive outbursts, the

family insisting on deciding their own course of action, or an intimate partner attempting to seek

revenge in spite of the survivor’s wishes. It is imperative that as a supportive person that you do

not override the survivor’s wishes as this only compounds the trauma by further disempowering

them. Giving support to someone that has been traumatized is like walking a tight rope as even

positive affirmations (they are not at fault) can trigger the survivor’s shame and guilt. This is due

to the survivor’s focus on fairness of moral responsibility; did I do something to make them do

that to me? Am I certain that I did not create a misunderstanding? The thoughts and feelings

around the trauma can be very complex for the survivor, so it is important to remain neutral in

your support.


Here are a few more tips to providing someone with a safe space to share their story:

  • Let them know that you are there for them and that they do not have to go through this


  • Actively listen. This means that you just listen and do not assign blame! When we are just

able to listen, this can allow the survivor to work through the experience and hopefully

can come to a realistic judgement of their conduct and a fair understanding of responsibility.

  • Empathize. Do not tell them you understand! Everyone’s experiences are different. Let

them know that you can imagine the pain and suffering that they are experiencing.

  • Validate. Suspend what you believe or don’t believe. This is where you are letting them

know that whatever they say is the gospel truth.

  • Support them in actively seeking out resources, such as a therapist.


The good news is that you can come to terms with the traumatic experience and create a new and

better future for yourself. If you are suffering symptoms due to a traumatic experience, know that

you are not alone and you do not need to go through it alone. Seek help right away! The sooner

you get the support you need, the faster you will recover. At Interactive Counselling, our

Kelowna counsellors are trained professionals that can support you through your journey of

healing and empowerment.

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(1) Sense of Entitlement
(2) Lack of Empathy
(3) Preoccupation with Beauty, Success, Status, Power, or Ideal Love
(4) Demonstration of Arrogant or Haughty Behaviours or Attitudes
(5) Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
(6) Belief they are special or unique and can only be understood by, or
should associate with, other special or high-status people or
(7) Need for Excessive Admiration
(8) Interpersonally exploitive behaviour
(9) Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance

Even knowing the official criteria for diagnosing a narcissist does not
usually make it easier to spot a narcissist, especially if you are
romantically involved with one.

What it boils down to is selfishness at the expense of others, plus the
inability to consider other’s feelings at all. NPD (Narcissist
Personality Disorder) is not black or white, it falls on a spectrum.

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders lists nine criteria for NDP, but it specifies that a
person only needs to meet five of them to clinically qualify as a

I often have clients that say, “Well I think he does have empathy”.
Well yes of course a person with NDP will have some empathy as the
criteria says “lack of empathy”. The criteria does not say “no
empathy”. However, if you pay attention closely to what the person you
suspect may have NPD their ability to empathize tends to relate to their
feelings not others. So yes the person with NPD can cry or be sad when
someone they love dies or gets sick. However, an example of a narcissist
lacking empathy would be, say you told the narcissist your car was
broken into the day before and a bunch of your items were stolen, the
person with NPD may pretend to care but if you watch closely they most
likely do not care because it was not their car that was broken into or
their items that were stolen. However, if the next day the person you
suspect may have NPD has their car broken into and their items stolen
they may seem enraged and very upset. So empathy is the ability to put
yourself in someone’s else shoes without ever experiencing what that
person experienced. People with NPD lack the ability to put themselves
in someone’s else shoes and actual care about another’s feelings.
Sometimes the narcissist will pretend to care because they know that is
the social acceptable thing to do, however if you listen closely to
their words versus their actions you often can see that their words are
not genuine or sincere.

Part 1 of the points to remember on how to recognize that a person may
have NPD:

(1) Narcissists often have this air about them that excudes confidence.
They are often very charming especially when they first meet someone.
People often get sucked into their charm and confidence and tend to like
and trust a person with NPD. In regards to a romantic relationship a
Narcissist tends to come on very strong. It may seem like a fairy tale
or too good to be true. The narcissist may have texted or call you
constantly or perhaps told you they loved you within the first month.
Something the experts refer to as “love bombing”. Or maybe they tell
you how smart you are or how compatible you are, even if you just
started seeing each other. People with NPD will try to manufacture
superficial connections early on in the relationship to hook their new
love interest. So therefore be aware if someone comes on too strong in
the beginning and you suspect they may have NPD.

(2) Often the person with NPD has a good sense of humour and/or can
often be the life of the party. These qualities are often likeable
especially in a dating relationship and will suck a person into a
intimate relationship with a narcissist.

(3) Often the person with NDP will hog the conversation and talk about
how great they are. Narcissists love you talk about their own
accomplishments and achievements. The narcissist will often exaggerate
their accomplishments and embellish their talents in stories in order to
gain admiration of others.

(4) Often the person with NDP will think they are right about everything
and it apologize. Fighting with a narcissist feels impossible. There is
no debating or compromise with a narcissist because they are always

Okay, so now you are dating a narcissist now what?

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist chances are you have
already experience quite a bit abuse. Being in a relationship with a
narcissist who is always criticizing, belittling, or gaslighting and not
committing to you is exhausting. That is why the experts recommend that
you get out of the relationship as soon as possible and do not look back
for your own sanity.

How to prepare for a break up with a narcissist.
(1) constantly remind yourself that you deserve better
(2) strengthen your relationships with your empathetic friends
(3)build a support network with family and friends who can help remind
you what is reality
(4) read up on narcissist personality disorder and educate yourself on
the condition
(5) get a counsellor yourself as soon as possible as you will need
support to help you leave the unhealthy relationship

Remember you cannot change a person with narcissist personality disorder
or make them happy by loving them enough or by changing yourself to meet
their unrealistic desires. They will never be in tune with you, or never
empathetic to your experiences, or you will always feel empty after an
interaction with them. Narcissist cannot feel fulfilled in
relationships, or in any area of their lives, because nothing is ever
special enough for them. Essentially, you will never be enough for them,
because they are never enough for themselves. The best thing you can do
is cut ties. Break up with them and offer them no second or third
chances. Often the narcissist will most likely make attempts at
contacting you and harassing you with calls and or texts once they have
processed the rejection. The experts recommend blocking the narcissist
to help you stick to your decision.

If you think you are in a relationship with a narcissist or want some
help getting out of a unhealthy relationship with a narcissist please
call Interactive Counselling at 250-859-4485 and book with Alexandria
our counsellor that specializes with victims of abuse.

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Asking for help can be hard. Sharing your most intimate thoughts and feelings can be hard; but change IS hard. Why is this? In a nutshell, it is because we as humans are creatures of habit and behaviour is habitual; we learn to do things a certain way and if it works it becomes our go to behaviour.


Motivation to make change might be high for most that come in for counselling, but there is going to be mixed feelings about replacing old behaviours for new. You as the client will have to weigh out the benefits versus the risks of changing your behaviours, for example “If I learn to not accept bad behavior from others, they may get mad at me and they may leave me” can be a reason that people are worried about change. Change can be scary!


What is needed for change? The answer is how motivated are you? If you are looking up information about mental health topics and checking out potential counsellors, then you are either in what we call the contemplative or preparation stage of change. Contemplative is when you know there is a problem; you’re thinking about change but you’re not totally committed to a plan of action. Preparation is you are ready to commit to a plan of action. As a clinical counsellor it is my job to empower you to make the changes you want to see in your life. Through the sharing of your story, together we identify the areas that require change, we identify the skills and strengths you already have and use, and we build a plan that is right for you.


Why is it important to have a plan? It is important to develop goals and different strategies to meet those goals so that you do not become frustrated and quit. This is a process that requires constant evaluation and possible tweaking of strategies, that when done alone can be overwhelming. That is why it is important to have someone like me on your team; you are the expert of yourself, you know what you capable of and what works for you (yes, you really do!) and I share the knowledge I have, so that you can be successful in reaching your goals. Together we work on keeping you on track and motivated for change.

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Mental Wellness during COVID-19 and Coping with Anxiety during this Pandemic Mental Wellness during COVID-19 and Coping with Anxiety during this Pandemic

Mental wellness is a positive state of mental health. It is more than the absence of mental illness. Being mentally well means that your mind is in order and functioning in your best interest. You are able to think, feel, and act in ways that create positive impact on your physical and social well-being.


The following may help you cope and help reduce anxiety as we navigate the developments of COVID-19:

· Set a Time Limit for Watching the News and Updates – Keep informed but do not let the information consumption take up too much of your time. Make sure you are using reliable information sources.

· Maintain Your Connections – Stay in touch with friends and family through social media, facetime, telephone conversations. Also see if you can go for walk or a bike ride with a friend and just stay 6 feet apart to stay safe.

· Maintain Healthy Habits – make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercise as often as you can. Also try to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day to enjoy the sun and feel like you are not trapped in your home.

· Perspective is Key – Remember that you have survived difficult situations in the past. Realize that the COVID-19 restrictions will slowly be decreasing so therefore there is hope to return to a “new normal”.

· Maintain your Normal – As much as you can, continue to live your normal life. Routine can create calm. For example, go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time.

· Make Choices to Reduce your Anxiety – Select a daily activity that helps reduce stress can be very helpful. This can be anything from having a gratitude journal, meditation, yoga, a hobby, going for a bike ride, walking your pet, or getting fresh air by yourself.


If you are feeling overly stressed out or worrying more than usual and you notice the stress and anxiety is starting to disrupt your daily life, then it is time to ask for help. Speaking to one of our counsellors at Interactive Counselling would be beneficial. We can offer some new ideas and strategies to help you manage this new normal life with COVID-19. Please call us at Interactive Counselling to book a counselling appointment.

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