The function of crying after loss

The function of crying after loss

Recently two women in my bereavement group shared; that since their husband died, there were many moments during the day where they felt a need to cry. This reminded me of my own tears during my grieving process. In this blog I’ll take a look at the cultural aspects and the scientific and psychological insights about the function of crying after loss.

Crying brings calm and relief
The psychologist Alex Goetz carried out research on the effect of tears on the body and mind. Sadness causes stress in the body and therefore crying can relieve this stress. The majority of people – me included, feel better after a good cry, I wonder if this is also your experience?

Are we allowed to cry?
This depends on the culture and the family in which we are raised and also how your parents dealt with emotions and crying. In your family or school was crying tolerated or not? Men and women have been brought up differently with regards to showing emotions too. Are we still saying “Boys don’t cry”? I think people are more aware of that label nowadays. In general I think to show your emotions these days is more acceptable and I think that this is a positive development.

Not able to cry
With loss there is a whole range of varying emotions; sadness, anger, fear. If we’ve learnt that we must keep our emotions under control there is a danger of repressing all these too.
My experience and that of other Psychologists know that a healthier approach is to acknowledge pain and emotions rather than to repress it, though this can be difficult. I support people with this in my practice. If you ignore emotional pain, it can disrupt your life by manifesting in other ways, such as physical pain, illness, stress and burnout.

Finding Balance
Sometimes it’s normal just to want to forget our grief for a while, so that we can put our tears to one side. To find a distraction like shopping or doing sport is a normal way of coping during grieving. Stroebe en Schut talk about a Dual Process Model where there is a seesaw effect between grieving and getting on with life. I wonder if you recognise that?

Communication and connection
What is often not talked about is that if you are sad and cry in front of someone , it reveals your vulnerability. It tells them how you are feeling, what you are going through and then they can give you the support that you might need. After all until you tell them, they don’t know the depth of your feelings. It can bring a deeper connection with those around you.

Finally
If anything in my blog struck a chord with you, and it would feel good to share this with a professional who can offer you a safe and confidential space to share . Please feel free to contact me on 0610144644 or drop me a line on welkom@palmyrabakker.nl for a free initial conversation.

The Anniversary

The Anniversary

Emotions around the anniversary of the death of my partner
Every year as the anniversary of the death of my partner Paul approaches, my emotions are noticeably very present. In the weeks leading up to it I’m more sensitive and more emotional and tears flow easily. It just happened when a friend invited me to meditate together on that day. I’m so thankful for my empathic friends. It touches me too that my brothers and sister make a point of calling me on the 26th of May to see how I am.

This year it’s eleven years ago! And some memories come up that make it feel like yesterday. The actual chain of events on that day is always very clear. What happened after that has faded more into the background. I know that I have integrated the loss into my life and I have found happiness in life again.

Waves of sadness
I experience sadness like waves, in the beginning constant waves that overtake and overwhelmed me. Literally I hadn’t had any control over my emotions and the sadness was intense. As time passed the waves become less intense and I found myself in calmer water. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays brings up a wave of sadness again. At these times the memories come back and the sadness is somehow present again.

Healing process
Recently during a five day therapeutic process, something inside me was touched and I cried for two hours solid about Paul. I noticed then, how angry I was that he had left me, I had buried the anger, even though I know he couldn’t help it. Nowadays I feel lighter and more free. I’ve let go of a heavy load and a change has happened.

My meaning
The way I have made sense of my loss was to follow a professional training on grief and loss, so that I could help others to make meaning of their loss.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” says Søren Kierkegaard
Life is far too precious not to be lived fully and I can help to guide you back to finding your lust for life.
I welcome your thoughts on how you’ve dealt with such a loss? Have you been able to make your own sense of it?

If you’ve been touched by my experience, you can contact me for a consultation.

Thanks to Hush Naidoo for the beautiful photo.

Saying goodbye during a pandemic

Saying goodbye during a pandemic

Reflection
This week it’s 3 years since my mother died. I look back with gratitude at our goodbye with all 5 children at her bedside. We had taken turns to watch over her for 8 days. Everyone was at her funeral; including nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances. What a contrast to what is imposed on us now, standing at the side of the road or just paying our respects together on Facebook or zoom.

Current Situation
It is heartbreaking that we can’t visit our loved ones in a hospice or care home. Keeping a distance whilst we really want to be close. Due to government guidelines, saying goodbye has become very complicated. You can’t put an arm around your loved one, it feels difficult and painful and can leave us feeling powerless, bringing up emotions such as sadness and anger.

Saying Goodbye
In just a few weeks time our world has changed drastically. If someone in your close family is dying you can visit but you need to wear a Hasmat suit. It is unthinkable that you need to hold the hand of your father mother, brother, sister or grandparent wearing gloves.
In the Netherlands, burials and cremations went from max 100 to 30 mourners and some decide just close blood relatives as they find it difficult to decide, also you’d get a fine if you don’t obey the rules.

Comfort
However due to the smaller gatherings those left behind are experiencing a lot of warmth from friends who can’t be there, letters, flowers and stories. This kind of sharing offers a different kind of comfort and they look forward to the time where they can really come together to remember their loved one.

Contact
I wish everyone strength in this situation.
If you feel the need to talk about your experience of losing a loved one, feel free to call me without obligation.

If you feel like talking

If you feel like talking

I’m offering 30 minute sessions in English or Dutch, in these extraordinary times

 

The Corona situation

The world is in the grip of the Corona virus. The progression is fast and measures we need to implement change daily. Initially some people thought: “ This is just a flu epidemic, so why the extreme measures? “. In just a few weeks the world has changed drastically. The government has taken the necessary precautions in the light of the outbreak. We are restricting our movement and observing the instruction to “Stay at Home”.

The new reality 

We are living with new experiences; insecurity about our health and that of friends and family. Concern exists for our relatives in homes or hospitals who cannot receive visitors. We are missing caring for our grandchildren. We are faced with ourselves because we are quarantined at home and wondering how to deal with it. We begin to notice how much we need other living beings/people around us and what that gives us.

Some groups are even more vulnerable. Think of those who have dementia and can’t understand what’s happening are maybe starting to feel abandoned. The longer you stay away from your loved ones, you fear they may not recognise you anymore. For relatives it can be difficult and painful. I know this from experience.
What about the people dear to you in intensive care, who can’t (or barely) receive visitors. In these times you want to be close to them, feel their presence and maybe just hold their hands and let them know they are not alone in this. How painful it is if you can’t say farewell in person.

My offer

These are special times and this asks for a different approach. So I want to offer a 30 minute session to talk and to support you through this difficult time.

Contact

Please call me on +31 (0)6 10144644 to make an appointment or go to : https://www.palmyrabakker.nl/#contact and suggest a time that suits you best. Slots are available on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 – 11 am.

 

Major decisions after loss

Major decisions after loss

Situation after loss
After the death of my father and later my boyfriend, Paul, my head felt full and it seemed like nothing would go in anymore. Routines were okay and as soon as something new came my way, I got stressed, because there was no space in my head. I functioned on sort of automatic pilot. I did it, only I wasn’t mindful.

My cousin, who lost his girlfriend years before, gave me the advice not to take any major decisions in the first six months. This was a good advice, to postpone decisions where possible. No decision about moving house, finances and/or changing my job. Not having to do this was a relief and allowed me the peace and quiet I required.

Decisions and grief
One of my personal challenges was shortly before Paul died, I had to decide if I should participate within a 6 months project located in Nigeria. Paul was enthusiastic and wanted to come with me. This was fantastic and felt good.
After he passed away, I didn’t want to walk away from my feelings and also didn’t want to leave my familiar surroundings. I thought going to Nigeria would mean the delay of my mourning process and it felt right to surrender to my grief. Also it didn’t feel right to go on my own.
Luckily my manager had a sixth sense and asked: “Nigeria is probably not an option anymore?” and I just had to confirm that it was not.
Now, many years later, I know better, as you take your grief with you wherever you go. Postponing or avoiding can happen, however grief can catch up with you at any time.

So, what about the smaller tasks? Even those can be postponed. Maybe you just can’t or don’t feel like doing them or you just don’t have the energy for it. One moment you begin enthusiastically with something and the next moment you don’t feel like doing it anymore. If you don’t fancy cooking, then order something online or maybe you fancy cooking and halfway through you can’t be bothered anymore. It is all alright. There is no handbook how to deal with loss, how to mourn or how long it will take. Everybody mourns in their own way.

Do what feels right for you
What could you do in the first period? Look at what is important for you and what gives you support or comfort. If you can, take time for yourself and allow your sorrow. You could do this by listening to music, share memories, talk about what happened and how you feel, gather good friends and family around you, make a photo album or keep a journal. These are examples which helped me. It doesn’t matter what it is, even if it is doing nothing, just do what feels right for you.

Half a year is an indication, as this can be different for you. For me, I found that after six months the mist in my head started to clear and slowly I started to look around me again, but the timescale is not predictable.

Contact
I’d love to know how the experience was for you.
If you are still struggling to come to terms with your loss, you can always contact me for an initial chat.

Special days

Special days

When you are born and grow up, most of us celebrate our birthday. I remember seeing on calendars, which mostly hang in the toilet in the Netherlands, the birthdays and also anniversary of death. As a child, I thought this was strange, why would you want to remember that ? The person is not there anymore.

Since my father and boyfriend, Paul died, I understand it. Suddenly the anniversary becomes more important than the birthday. The person who has passed away doesn’t become older anymore and anniversary is the new benchmark.

So what about bank holidays, long weekends where we get chance to spend time with family and loved ones. If I think back to Christmas growing up, togetherness and cozyness was key. Mostly we were around 15 people at the diner table, with great food, long dining and lengthy conversations.

Suddenly you spent the days without your loved ones. It hurts and you feel their absence. You wish they were there. Christmas and New Year without them is not the same. This loss can be due to; death, divorce, sickness, quarrel or living in another country. This video, explains in a good way, how special days influence our lives relating to grief.

Whatever circumstances you are in and whatever you believe, I wish you nice days of joy, reflections and self love.

 

BBC Stories: Like Minds on BBC iPlayer

'You don't get over grief, you just learn to have it as part of your life.'This analogy of how we deal with bereavement is spot on.

Geplaatst door BBC iPlayer op Zondag 22 april 2018