Grief Series Part 3: Grief and Relationships

Grief Series Part 3: Grief and Relationships

4 Ways Relationships Might Change When Facing Grief

Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the biggest challenge a person faces. Grieving can feel overwhelming and consume every facet of your life. It is during this time that you need the comfort of others the most, and yet social connections often feel strained or flipped upside-down as you navigate grief and relationships.

Here are four ways relationships can shift when you are trying to navigate the loss of a loved one:

1. Your Support System May Surprise You

You may be surprised who steps up in your greatest hour of need. Some of your closest loved ones, those who have been by your side through dating and childbirth and other life dilemmas, may not be able to be there for you during your bereavement. It is often people you’d least expect who show up to hold your hand while you grieve. An old friend you’ve lost touch with, a co-worker you’ve hardly spoken to but who understands the complexities of living with death… these are sometimes the people who help the hurt go away.

2. You Will Feel Angry – And That’s Okay

You will try and understand why your closest friends and relatives seem to have abandoned you during one of the most painful times in your life. But understanding won’t make the pain of it go away.

Yes, it’s important to realize that not everyone can cope with death and loss, including the people closest to you. It’s also important to recognize that feeling this additional pain, and even anger and resentment about feeling abandoned, is totally normal and okay.

3. People Will Avoid You

Losing loved ones is something all of us will go through, but some people cannot handle this reality. Just the thought of a loved one dying is more than many people can bear. Seeing your pain and sitting with you in your time of darkness will force others to look this stark reality in the face. Many people simply can’t do it. If you find that friends and relatives seem to be avoiding you, understand it is most likely because they cannot handle their own fears of loss.

4. You Will Have Something in Common with Others

For most people, it’s hard to understand certain things until they experience it themselves: Having children, running a marathon, getting divorced. Losing a loved one is certainly on this list as well. While your current group of loved ones will try to empathize with you, the reality is that you now belong to a special club and those who you feel close to and understood by may change.

This does not mean you will no longer feel close to those you did before the loss, but it means you have now changed and how you perceive the world and others has changed as well.

Relationships are hard, and they can be more difficult during periods of loss and grief. It’s important that you are gentle with yourself during this time and seek help. Consider joining a support group. Being around those who share your pain firsthand can be a comfort during this time.

You may also want the guidance of a therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to work through your grief.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Grief Series Part 2: The Impact of Grief on Relationships

Grief Series Part 2: The Impact of Grief on Relationships

Experiencing the death of a loved one is one of the most painful things a person faces

The shock of your beloved friend or family member having passed away, along with the finality of their death is difficult to deal with.

Everyone Mourns Differently

The process of mourning is a very personal experience. Because grief is so personal, each person reacts differently to the death of a loved one; your instinct may be to reach out and connect, and the instinct of your friend or relative may be to retreat, distract themselves with work or hobbies or shut down.

Your relationship with the deceased was a unique one, so the process in which you grieve the loss will also be unique and personal to you. The close friends and family that you would expect to be there for you in one of the most challenging times of your life may not be present in the way you’d hoped or anticipated. Even your spouse or partner may not provide the comfort you’d expect.

Relationships Impacted by Grief Will Change

Although it’s disappointing and hurtful to experience what feels like a breakdown in your relationships when you need them the most, you must realize that your friends, family and spouse are likely also affected by grief, and going through their own process of mourning.

It’s also important not to rely solely on your spouse for comfort. It’s healthier for both of you, and will ease the stress on your marriage, if you have other people to turn to for help.

The impact of grief is an incredible strain on your existing relationships, as who you are as a person is temporarily altered as you struggle to cope with the loss and find a way to move forward. Your close friends and loved ones may have difficulty coping with how you’re mourning, causing them to pull away temporarily. They could also be very used to seeing you as a source of strength, and a pillar, and seeing you in this vulnerable state (in addition to possibly dealing with their own grief) is more than they can bear.

Seek Out New Sources of Support

Maintaining relationships takes effort, and they’re vulnerable to the difficulties we face as we move through life. You may need to turn to distant family members, other friends or acquaintances, make new connections through bereavement groups or seek professional help from a mental health counselor to find solace and understanding.

Although we can expect bereavement to change our relationships, we can also expect some semblance of normalcy as everyone affected copes with the loss over the passage of time. By forgiving friends or loved ones who weren’t there for you as you dealt with your grief, you can re-establish lost connections.

If you’re having difficulty with your relationships as you grieve and need some understanding and guidance, please give me a call and we can set up an appointment to talk.

Grief Series Part 1: Coping With Grief Through Meditation

Grief Series Part 1: Coping With Grief Through Meditation

Losing someone we love can cause us to feel angry, anxious or depressed.

When coping with grief, it may feel like you can’t move forward, or you don’t know how you can continue living in a world without your loved one in it.

To help deal with these intense and overwhelming emotions, turning to meditation can help. Meditation is a practice of calm and silence, where the frenetic thoughts and worries in your mind are quieted for a moment of reflection or mindfulness. Through meditation, you can begin to calm your emotions, assess your feelings, and come to a place of acceptance and peace.

A Meditation to Cope with Grief:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable space to sit where you can be alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Play some soft ambient music if you like.
  • Close your eyes and begin by taking slow, mindful and natural deep breaths: in through the nose, then slowly exhale.
  • Try to push away any thoughts or worries and concentrate only on being in this moment.
  • Think of the face of the person you’re missing, and imagine them before you, now. You can imagine that their spirit is there with you, or you can simply envision their face.
  • Express anything you’d like to them. Focus on making the conversation loving and compassionate. If you’d like, you can reimagine a memory. Put yourself back in time with your loved one and imagine experiencing everything in that moment.
  • Thank your loved one for coming to visit you. Imagine a peaceful and gentle goodbye.
  • Slowly bring your awareness back to the room. Feel the energy of yourself from the top of your head to your toes as you take slow and natural deep breaths.

Try this meditation any time you feel the need to do so.

There are apps you can download for your smartphone or tablet to help guide you through different meditations; just search for “meditation” in the App Store. You can also search YouTube for “meditations for grief” and try the guided meditations available there for free.

There is no one way to grieve; everyone grieves differently. There’s also no time table or deadline. The journey of grief is a very personal one, and the only way to get through it is to deal with the emotions you’re experiencing as they come.

If you’re having trouble moving forward after losing someone you love and would like some help, please give me a call today so we can set up an appointment.

How to Heal After a Loss

How to Heal After a Loss

You’re not grieving wrong!


Experiencing the death of a loved one is the hardest thing we can go through in this life. What can make grieving even more challenging is the feeling that we’re somehow doing it wrong.

But grieving is a unique experience and there is truly no “right” way to do it. Author Anne Morrow Lindberg put it best when she said, “… suffering … no matter how multiplied, is always individual.”

While there is no one right way to grieve the loss of a loved one, there are some guidelines that will help you heal.

You Will Survive the Loss

The pain of a loved one’s death is so great that we often feel it may cause our own death. But it’s important to remember that emotions, no matter how big, cannot harm you.

In fact, not feeling emotions and bottling them up can often make the situation, and sometimes our health, much worse. Avoiding the pain of loss tends to stunt our grieving and we end up taking our pain with us into our future.

Understand the Ebb and Flow of Grief

Grieving is a process with no stillness. There is always movement; an ebb and flow to our grief. After a few weeks, you may have a day when you feel like you can finally catch your breath; where you notice how pretty a sunny day is, and when you dog can make you laugh again. And then the very next day, you feel that old, familiar darkness and despair slide under your skin.

This is natural, and it’s important for you to pay attention to these rhythms of grief. The more you become aware of the ebb and flow of your personal journey, the more you’ll believe that someday there will be more good days than bad.

Practice Self Care

It’s important during this time that you care for yourself as you would a dear friend. Make sure that you get enough rest and try and eat well, even when eating seems like the last thing you want to do. Keeping up your strength is important during this time.

Try and get fresh air and move your body. This will help alleviate the stress and tension you have been feeling. And above all, be kind to yourself mentally and emotionally. Don’t chide yourself for crying in the bathroom on your lunch break. You would never do that to a dear friend, would you? Just let yourself feel your feelings when they come and be gentle with yourself.

Get Support

The people who love you will want to help you during the weeks and months that follow the loss. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and support. If you need someone to watch the baby so you can go out for a much-needed run, ask. If your spouse was always the one to handle repairs around the house, ask a family member to come over and help.

It’s also a good idea to seek the guidance of a therapist who can help you work through your emotions and develop coping skills.

If you or a loved one is reeling from a personal loss and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

5 Things To Remember When Your Are Grieving

5 Things To Remember When Your Are Grieving

It’s been a shocking week in Nova Scotia.  The unexplainable actions that left so much devastation have been discussed in nearly every therapy session I’ve had.  

It seems that the old adage about ‘6 degrees of separation’ doesn’t hold up for Nova Scotians.  As close knit, connected Maritimers, it feels like we have all been touched in some way.

When we are upset and grieving, people often try to help by giving advice or making comments, with the best of intentions, but they can inadvertently cause much more pain. 

Because there are so many misperceptions about grief and the grief process, here are some things I want you to know.

1. Feel your emotions don’t try to forget the pain.

 Because the grieving process can be so painful many people (and well meaning friends) think that the best thing to do is to fix or forget the pain. This is actually not the best way to deal with grief.  

Using excessive busyness, over eating, shopping, binge watching television or drinking/drug use or any other means to distract, numb, avoid  or minimize your feelings can become unhelpful in the long run. 

In fact, over using these strategies to deal with your emotions can potentially lead you into painful and destructive situations.   

Truth is, this loss you have experienced is a part of your story.  While it will most certainly become less raw and painful over time, you will never forget that this has happened to you. This experience will shape you and change you.  No matter what, you cannot make what you have gone through disappear from your memory.  


loss sadness death loved one Halifax Bedford

2.Find a safe community of people to support you

One of the easiest ways to gather people around you is to be brave enough to tell people what you need and also to articulate what is helpful  (and not!) for you.  

It’s been my experience that people are well-meaning, but don’t intuitively know what to do.  

Make a list of things  you need done (school pick-ups, babysitting, meals, etc.) so that when people ask how they can help, you have some ready suggestions. 

If you need a friend to be a listening ear (rather than an advice giver and fixer) it can be helpful to share this with your friend so that she knows how best to support you.  

3.There is no ‘right’ way to grieve

In the 1990s, while at university, I had my first personal experience of loss.  I was simultaneously taking undergraduate psychology courses and learned very well-known five stages of grief, as postulated by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.  

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance: these are the five stages of grief, so well-known it’s now engrained in pop culture.

I was surprised that my own experience of grief did not follow this model, since I was distinctly left with the impression from my textbooks, that there should be some sort of progression to my deep sadness.  

 At the time of the book’s publication, very little instruction was given in medical school on the subject of death and dying, which was what motivated Kübler-Ross to share her findings in her work with terminally ill patients.

Before her death in 2004, Kübler-Ross noted in her book On Grief and Grieving that the five stages were not meant to be a linear and predictable progression of grief, and that she regretted that the stages had been misinterpreted.

Coinciding with Kübler-Ross’ own remarks on the five stages, there appears to be no evidence that people go through any or all of these stages, or in any particular order. As unique as is each individual and their relationships, so too is their experience with the grieving process.


loss grieving loved one Nova Scotia Halifax Bedford

4. Cry 

There is a strange perception in our culture that we need to get over our loss and that things that remind us of our loss are bad. It’s as though somehow need to stop noticing that our lives have been altered and the sooner we “get over it”, the better.  

So many of the grieving people I work with are under the impression that they need to “move on” from their loss and that the sign that they talk less about their loved one and that they appear less visibly upset. 

Tears actually help us to release stress hormones, soothe our emotions and feel a lift in our mood, thanks to the production of oxytocin that accompanies them.  

5.Tell Stories

Unfortunately, many people who are grieving, find themselves facing “the elephant in the room”.  Friends, family and co-workers seem to be unsure how to talk to you all of a sudden!  Many seem afraid to mention anything remotely related to your loss, let alone address it directly.  

Let me encourage you to find someone with whom you can share these stories.  If there is no one in your circle, experiment with journalling or drawing or writing your story as a means of remembering.  

Although grief has no particular stages, timeline or ending, it doesn’t mean that we will grieve in the same way forever. The people that we love and lose are forever engrained in our hearts and minds. 

Over time, the indescribable sorrow of grief morphs into a sort of bittersweet gratitude: still sad that we lost our loved one, but happy and grateful for the gift of sharing our life and time with them.

If you are struggling with grief and need support and guidance, don ‘t hesitate to reach out.  I offer free 15 minute consultation appointments so we can make sure we’ll be a good fit.  All of my appointments are being done online through a secure video platform or by phone for people who live anywhere in Nova Scotia.


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