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Male Grief

The treatment of grief is an area I specialise in and I have written before about this almost inevitable experience. It’s a complex response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone you loved. And what I wanted to focus on this time is specifically male grief. It’s that men experience grief differently to women is more that often they have fewer resources to cope. Set aside the old fashioned, stiff upper lip, men don’t cry beliefs, men generally have fewer friends and so less of a support network than women.

Typically, women will choose to talk through their feelings of grief with friends and family while men tend to cope with it though thoughts and actions. Philip Karahassan (founder of Therapy in London, Psychotherapist and Psychologist) believes that society tends to look more virtuously on women’s apparent innate ability to recognise and express their emotions. And this actually makes it more difficult for men to open up about their grief.

He said, “That lack of expression can make us look for other ways to deal with grief such as destructive behaviours, just in order to defer feeling any grief. This can range from rage and anger to substance abuse. It can feel like it is working in the short term but leads to destructive habits and a build-up of hard to deal with emotions.”

Sir Michael Palin (Comedian and Monty Python) recently opened up about his grief at the loss of his wife (Helen Gibbins), who died after 57 years of marriage in 2023. He said he felt, “lopsided” and without a “rudder” afterwards. They had met when he was still in his teens and described her as “the bedrock of my life”.

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Speaking on Rob Brydon’s Wondery podcast Sir Michael said: “We were together for a very long time. We were married for 57 years and I met her before that so more than two thirds of my life was spent with her. And so you form a kind of unit. You don’t realise that until someone’s gone and then it’s slightly lopsided, like something tips over, and your rudder goes. You end up thinking it was just me but I need my partner there to sort of keep me on the straight and narrow. It’s not the great things that you’ve said, very often a lot of things that are unsaid because if you know somebody really, really well, you don’t have to sort of analyse everything or say everything, you just know the way they will feel. So I had to get adjusted to that.”

When someone has experienced a loss it can be hard to know what to do or say. I know when I have lost close relatives, some of friends withdrew not knowing what to do or say and not wanting to make things worse. But in fact, a helping hand, a laugh and a joke or a comforting presence can go a long way. So, offer that helping hand, lend an ear or a thoughtful message and be there for them. Help, how and when you can, and if they are struggling then encourage them to seek expert help.

Hypnotherapy has several techniques that can help those struggling with a recent loss. If you or someone you know could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

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Oneofusismissing

8 July each year is oneofusismissing day. It was started in April 2021 by Latonya Brown after she lost her daughter in an accident. The day commemorates our departed loved ones.  It’s a day for healing, remembrance and shared grief. It encourages those of us who live on to be grateful for every day we have. It’s an opportunity to set aside all differences in race, religion, class and creed to unite in our appreciation of life and those who are no longer with us.

Latonya speaks eloquently about her experience, why she created this special day and her grief. She said, “On this day 2019, I joined a culture of people I never intended on joining. I lost my only daughter in a horrible car accident with two of her best friends. This does not sum up their lives but it brings awareness to the fact that we only have one life and one chance. I survived losing my daughter. She is the reason I stepped into the role of a mother. My body transformed to bring forth a life that’s no longer here. The age of her life is not what’s important. One of us will always be missing”.

She went on to say, “Recently, we’ve lost so many people in record numbers. I want their families to know that we stand together in the grieving process. There is life after death. It’s ok to live, laugh and love again. On this day we can reflect on those we have lost by doing a cohesive fun activity to promote healing. This will be the day that people of all nationalities across the nation can come together and celebrate the lives and experiences of those we have lost to gun violence, police brutality, accidents, miscarriages, stillbirths and natural causes. Grief will not consume us. This day will be a day of healing!”

I think this is a healthy and powerful message about grief and loss. Losing a loved one is traumatic and you should take time to grieve. But in time, you will start to feel better and able to carry on with life again.

Appreciation of the life we have is an important message and we can easily lose sight of what we have when we experience difficult times. Brad Pitt (American Actor) makes a good point when he said, “I had a friend who worked at a hospice, and he said people in their final moments don’t discuss their successes, awards or what books they wrote or what they accomplished. They only talk about their loves and their regrets, and I think that’s very telling”.

As long as we remember our loved ones who have passed they live on. Make time to talk about the time you spent with them, both the good and bad moments, to keep their spirit alive. And remember, you’re most likely not the only one grieving your loved one. Offer your support to others working through the pain of the same loss.

Hypnotherapy can help with grief and adjusting to the loss of a friend or family member. If you think it could help you, then contact me.

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Grief Awareness

National Grief Awareness week is 2 – 8 December. It is an annual event organised by the Good Grief Trust, a UK charity run by the bereaved for the bereaved. Their aim is to encourage everyone to have an open, honest and straightforward dialogue about grief. The idea is to help ease the pain and make life a little bit more bearable for these experiencing the grieving process. As Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman Statesman) said, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief”.

There are approximately 650,000 deaths in the UK each year. So, at some point we will all be faced with the death of someone close to us. And the recent pandemic has, for some of us, meant we have had to face this experience in less than ideal times. The awareness week has several key messages to hope those who are bereaved and those close to them.

Distance shouldn’t mean we can’t share our grief. The pandemic has meant that the bereaved have not been able to reach out to family and friends for a much needed human connection. But, by using technology, distance should not prevent us from being there for others and sharing our grief.

Just because I’m smiling doesn’t mean I am not grieving. The bereaved often feel they have to mask their grief from family, friends and colleagues, so as not to burden them. If you know someone has experienced a loss, look out for them, check they are OK. They may seem alright, they may seem back to normal, but deep inside they could be struggling and would appreciate a chat or your help and understanding.

Say their name, I’m thinking about them anyway. You may be afraid to mention the person’s name who has died. We worry that this may upset our friend or family member, but it is normally the opposite. By remembering them and talking about them you are helping to share your love and affection for that person. This is important and will let those grieving to know that you will help to keep their memory alive.

There is no one face of grief. Grief does not discriminate, it is very likely we will all be affected by a bereavement regardless of age, faith, culture and wealth. Specifically, we need to help all minority groups who are often stigmatised and help to support anyone, anywhere who needs it.

There is no set time to grieve. Some say that you get over grief or eventually move on. While the effects of grief will lessen over time you never really get over a loss. Once the practical parts of a bereavement, such as a funeral, are over, things get back to normal. But this is often the time when the bereaved most need support, when they can feel most alone and isolated.

I think Terri Irwin (Australian Naturalist) put it very well when she said, “Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honour the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity”.

So if you know someone who has been bereaved, lend an ear or a thoughtful message and be there for them. Hypnotherapy has several techniques that can help those struggling with a recent loss. If you or someone you know could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

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Grief Awareness Day

30 August is National Grief Awareness Day. If you have not experienced grief yet in your life you have been very fortunate, but it’s highly likely you will at some point. This day is about examining grief and raising awareness both of how to cope with grief yourself and how to help others.

Grief is a complex response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone you loved. Although usually less extreme is can be a response to the loss of something else, such as a large amount of money, a job or a cherished pet. Grief is usually thought of as an emotional response but it can have physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, cultural and philosophical dimensions as well.

Many believe in the five stages of grief and this is a good way to describe the process. The stages are;
• Denial. The first reaction is disbelief. Some sort of mistake must have happened. It is natural to cling to some hope no matter how unrealistic it might be.
• Anger. When denial has run its course then frustration and anger at the situation is common. Responses such as ‘Why has this happened?’, ‘Who is responsible?’, ‘Why me?’.
• Bargaining. This involves the hope that the crisis can somehow be avoided. This may include negotiation with god to have time to achieve something, perhaps attend an important event, in exchange for a lifestyle change.
• Depression. You despair at the reality of the situation. In this stage you may become withdrawn, sullen and mournful.
• Acceptance. You embraces the reality of the situation and the inevitability of the outcome. In the case of people who are dying, this acceptance often is reached before the loved ones around them.

What these steps don’t convey is that the stages are not always sequential. A grieving person may not always go through them once and you can bounce between them for minutes, hours, days or even months. For example, when my Partner’s father died, he was extremely busy with work. He dealt with practical aspects, arranged the funeral, etc., but did not really grieve. It was the first anniversary of the death that triggered a grieving process. Each person is different, as is their methods of grief and coping.

Grief is a normal reaction to a loss and in most cases will lessen over time and not cause any lasting problems. The amount of time spent grieving and in each stage of the process can vary from person to person and depend on the nature of the loss. But, some people find it difficult to move on and this can cause problems that may need some additional help. Hypnotherapy can help to:
• Reduce the symptoms of grief
• Organise their grief so that you can grieve but not all the time
• Find a way to grieve that doesn’t overwhelm you
• Change your perception of the loss
• Deal with feelings of (survivors) guilty or regret
• Reconnect to memories of the person, without painful feelings or distress
• Allow you to access feelings of calm and strength
• Assist you to socialise and reintegrate into society
• Empower you to achieve necessary goals and tasks

When someone has experienced a loss it can be hard to know what to do or say. I know when I have lost close relatives, some of friends withdrew not knowing what to do or say and not wanting to make things worse. But in fact, a helping hand, a laugh and a joke or a comforting presence can go a long way. So, offer that helping hand, lend an ear or a thoughtful message and be there for them. Help, how and when you can, and if they are struggling then encourage them to seek expert help. If you or someone you know could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

And finally, remember, as George Elliot (British Author) said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”.