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Addiction

Addiction is something that, historically, has been stigmatised and looked down upon. Those who suffer from addiction are often ignored, criminalised, treated as outcasts and even sent to prison. This cultural view of addiction is that it is some kind of personal defect, moral failing or a lack of willpower. These views also come with the, often unspoken, assumption that addiction is a conscious life style choice. These are all damaging and unhelpful attitudes. Condemnation and judgement are usually born of ignorance, but understanding can brings about a more compassionate view. As Sheldon Whitehouse (US Senator) says, “Addiction is a tough illness, and recovery from it is a hard but noble path. Men and women who walk that path deserve our support, encouragement, and admiration”.

One very useful and popular method to treat addiction is the twelve step model. This had a revolutionary effect on treatment as it changed the thinking about the nature of addiction. It taught that addicts have an incurable disease that can be managed. It provided a framework for addicts to refrain from using substances, attend regular support meetings and work a thorough programme in order to restore a functional life and free them from their substance addiction and the chaos that it causes.

This twelve step approach has ideas such as taking a personal inventory, accepting and working on personal shortcomings as well as seeking forgiveness and enlightenment. I believe this a tremendously powerful and effective approach. And if you or someone you know has an addiction I strongly suggest starting the journey to managing it with this approach.

But, I do not feel this is the whole story. I believe there is a part of the puzzle of addiction missing in this model. For me there needs to be an understanding of trauma and the role it plays in self-soothing behaviours and addictions. As Gabor Mate (Hungarian-Canadian physician) says “Every addict has trauma, but not everyone who has trauma becomes an addict”.

An addiction is a behaviour where by a person is unable to stop an activity despite harmful consequences. There is a wide spectrum of these compulsive behaviours but I believe they almost always start with the subconscious trying to protect us from harm or discomfort. Addictions often, at least initially, bring relief or distraction from the pain being faced.

When we feel in a state of threat or pain or dysregulation we often exhibit the Fight or Flight response to combat or run away from that which is harming us. Trauma, especially an emotional one, is not easily resolved by this response and so we become stuck in this fear state. Our minds then seek ways to mitigate, lessen or pacify the trauma and this is where addictions can take root.

Now some addicts have argued that they have not suffered a trauma. But if we look at traumas from the perspective of the subconscious or auto nervous system and how it responds to pain (both physical and emotional) we can see that addictions is often driven by a trauma of some kind.

This trauma based view of addiction has started to transform addiction management and treatment. A trauma-informed approach to addiction, and mental health, is a more compassionate, realistic and scientific approach. And Hypnotherapy has a key role to play in this. It has a number of techniques to help clients explore the origins and root causes of addictions, phobias and other unwanted behaviours. If you feel that hypnotherapy could help you or someone you know then contact me.

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Dolores Cannon

Dolores Cannon was a pioneer of past life regression and developed her own technique for using hypnosis to heal called Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique (QHHT). She is a fascinating character and one that truly helped to bring hypnosis and past life regression into the mainstream.

She started, along with her husband Johnny, in the 1960s using hypnosis to treat unwanted habits such as smoking. In 1968, while working with a woman to resolve an eating disorder the client started to describe a life as a woman living in Chicago in the 1920s. The woman seemed to transform into a different personality complete with a different voice and mannerisms. Fascinated by this experience, her and her husband continued to work with this woman and over the following months explored five different lifetimes. These events were described in her first book, Five Lives Remembered. This event sparked her interest in lost knowledge and reincarnation and led to the development of QHHT.

QHHT combines past life regression and a healing process to address physical ailments and problems. Past Life Regression involves the hypnotherapist regressing an individual and guiding them through a past life. The subconscious of the client selects which past life to visit and the past life is always relevant to the current life the individual is living. It is common for multiple past lives to be shown during a single session.

Guided by the Hypnotherapist, the subconscious then identifies any physical problem it detects within the body. It can also explain the cause of its presence, be it from the current life or a past life. The Hypnotherapist then asks the subconscious if it is suitable for healing to occur. If so, this is done instantaneously by replacing the problem with positive energy. Healing will only be effective if the individual wants to be healed and if it does not conflict with the goals of their present lifetime.

As Pooja Bedi (Indian Actress) said, “I’ve ventured into my past life and have experienced it. What I was in the previous life and why I’ve taken birth in this world, I believe in all of this because I’ve seen it on my own”.

This is a very powerful technique that has many practitioners throughout the world. There are no guarantees, but there are often some of the most remarkable results from a session. The only limitations are those of our imagination and those we place on ourselves. Anything is possible.

To find out more about past life regression and the healing effects of hypnotherapy in general then contact me.

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Abraham–Hicks’

Abraham–Hicks’ teachings are a popular belief system about our existence and the universe, especially among followers of Spiritualism and New Age ideas. Esther Hicks is an American Channeler, Public Speaker and Author. She has co-written several books with her late husband, Jerry Hicks, on the Law of Attraction and Abraham-Hicks teachings.

When channelling Hicks has frequently encountered an entity calling itself Abraham. This was first documented by Esther and Jerry Hicks in to 1980s. Many of Esther Hicks’ books are regarded as “translated from a group of non-physical entities called Abraham”. Hicks also describes these experiences as tapping into an “infinite intelligence”.

Through Hicks, Abraham has also said, “We are that which you are. You are the leading edge of that which we are. We are that which is at the heart of all religions.” And that, whenever one feels moments of great love, exhilaration, or pure joy, that is the energy of Source and that is who Abraham is. Source is the source energy from which we are all derived.

These teachings and philosophies are known as Abraham – Hicks teachings. Key elements of these teachings are that people create their own reality through their attention and focus. Also that emotions are a person’s guidance system that indicates how close or distant they are to how their Source feels about a particular topic of focus.

Another key part is that we are all the physical extensions of the non-physical entities. And Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (French Philosopher) put it very well when he said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”.

Other parts of Abraham–Hicks’ teachings are:
• People are in their bodies because they chose to be.
• The basis of life is freedom; the purpose of life is joy; the result of life is growth.
• People are creators; they create with their thoughts and attention.
• Whatever people can imagine clearly with emotion, by creating a perfect vibrational match, is theirs to be, do, or have.
• Individuals choose their creations as they choose their focus.
• Emotions indicate what people are creating, either consciously or unconsciously.
• The universe adores people; it knows their broadest intentions.
• Individuals are invited to happily relax into their natural well-being and know that all is well.
• Life is not meant to be a struggle, but a process of allowing.
• People are creators of “throughways” on their unique “paths of joy”.
• Desirable physical manifestations such as money, relationships, and lifestyle success are by-products of focusing on joy.
• Individuals may depart their body without illness or pain.
• People cannot die; their lives are everlasting. Death of the physical body does not end the life of the individual.
• The nature of the universe is life-affirming. It is infinite, creative and expanding.
• All desire can be fulfilled – anything you can imagine is yours to be, do, or have.
• Individuals are not only a part of the universe, but are the very source of it.
• As you are choosing your thoughts, your emotions are guiding you.

A large part of Hicks’ work centres around the Law of Attraction, a concept which William Walker Atkinson (American pioneer of the New Thought movement) wrote about in his book Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World (1906). Esther Hicks has been interviewed about the Law of Attraction and Abraham by Oprah Winfrey in 2019. 

 

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Stress Awareness Week

The first week of November, 1 – 6 November 2021 is Stress Awareness Week. Organised by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA), it builds on the well-established Stress Awareness Day which has been observed since 1998. The ISMA is a UK charity and the lead professional body for workplace and personal Stress Management and Well-being. The week was developed as an annual event focusing on stress management and campaigning against the stigma associated mental health and stress issues.

I have written several times before about stress, but this time I wanted to focus in detail about what stress is and how to recognise the signs. The Confederation of British Industry describes stress as, “That which arises when the pressure placed upon an individual exceeds the capacity of that individual to cope”.

Stress can come from many sources, but typical sources in the modern world are work, family and finances. Stress is an ancient response to a threat. When we are stressed, we release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which prepares the body for physical action – fight or flight. While this might be useful in the short term (to run from a dangerous situation), prolonged unresolved, stress is not healthy and can have damaging effects on the body.

So how can you tell if you, or someone you know, is stressed? Well the symptoms fall into four main categories – Psychological, Emotional, Physical and Behavioural.

Psychological signs can include memory lapses and problems with concentrate (easily distracted, being unfocused, etc.), reduced creativity and difficulty sleeping. Other signs include negative thoughts and worrying, feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious.

Emotional signs can include mood swings, anger, irritability and frustration. Other signs include defensive behaviours, sensitivity to criticism as well as reduced confidence and self-esteem.

Stress often manifests in physical symptoms. This can be due to the negative impact on the immune systems. But sometimes the physical impacts are more subtle such as weight loss / gain, indigestion and ulcers or tiredness. Other physical signs can include raised blood pressure, hyperventilation, digestive issues and reproductive concerns such as reduced libido or menstrual changes.

Behavioural signs can include increased use of alcohol, nicotine or other recreational drugs. Other symptoms include lack of self-care, relationship problems, sleeplessness or withdrawal from friends and family.

Hypnotherapy includes a range of techniques including relaxation, mindfulness, boosting self-esteem and positive affirmation. These can help you to develop effective coping strategies for when you are stressed and ensure you remain focused and effective to resolve the stressful situation. As Andrew Bernstein (American Philosopher) said, “Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life”.

So, if you, or someone you know, could benefit from Hypnotherapy then contact me.

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World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day as 10 October every year. The objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and help mobilise efforts in support of mental health. It’s also an opportunity for those working in mental health to talk about their work and the issues they face.

It’s important to realise that being mentally healthy isn’t just the absence of a mental health problem. To be truly in good mental health, you must be able to make the most of your potential, cope adequately with life and be able to play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends. Further, good mental health is characterised by a your ability to learn, the ability to feel, express and manage your emotions, the ability to form and maintain good relationships and, finally, the ability to cope with and manage change and uncertainty.

The theme this year was set by the World Federation for Mental Health and is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. As Jagmeet Singh (Canadian Politician) said, “To me poverty, mental health, and addictions don’t sound like criminal justice problems. They sound to me like a social justice problem”.

The last few years have highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. These inequalities have an enormous impact on people’s mental health.

It is thought that between 75% and 95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle income countries are unable to access mental health services at all. Access in high income countries is not perfect either. Lack of investment in mental health compared to the overall health budget contributes to a significant mental health treatment gap.

I have written before about the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who experience mental ill health. It not only affects a person’s physical and mental health, stigma also affects their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects, and also affects their families and loved ones.

The 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’ will enable us to focus on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequality, both locally and globally.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and you think they could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

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Uncertain times

It seems we are living in uncertain times. I try to remain positive and not worry too much, but worrying is an aspect of who I am. I have had some moments of pause and reflection on the world as it is now. Winter is on the way, COVID is still with us, the NHS is near breaking point, there are fuel shortages, potential food shortages and a spike in energy prices.

While these problems are real and should not be downplayed, I realised I was experiencing a period of anxiety. And this is understandable, normal and nothing to worry about in itself. But having a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds is a challenge to our mental health and can lead to anxiety and depression. This is all the more so for those already dealing with issues as the fear of being out of control and unable to deal with uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders. As Rosie Weatherley from MIND (UK mental health charity) said, “A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen”.

So at times like this it’s good to remind ourselves how to protect our mental health and look out for others who may not be coping as well as we are. Firstly, make sure you have access to high quality, truthful information. If you are going to worry about something make sure it’s real.

Consider when you want to consume information. Checking the news first thing in the morning and again in the evening is probably better than being constantly bombarded all day long. Also, try to avoid things that trigger your anxiety. There are some media outlets that seem obsessed with alarming people and are always trying to predict the next big crisis.

Stay connected to people you care about and people who care about you. Limit your time with those who are very pessimistic or negative. Also, having a routine can be good to remind you that life, day to day, goes on.

Anxiety UK (UK charity for those with anxiety) suggests practising the “APPLE” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

• Acknowledge. Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty when it comes to mind.
• Pause: Try not to react as you normally. Pause and breathe.
• Pull back. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts, they are just thoughts or feelings. Remind yourself this is just the worry talking. The seeming need for certainty is not necessary.
• Let go. Let go of the thought or feeling. You don’t have to respond to them. They will pass. You can perhaps imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
• Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Practise mindfulness – notice your breathing, the sensations of your breathing, notice the ground beneath you. Look around and talk in what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Once you have centred yourself, shift your focus of attention to something else. Focus on what you need to do now, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to help with anxiety and other disorders. If you feel that hypnotherapy can help you then contact me.

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Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

“If you don’t believe in yourself, somewhere or another, you sabotage yourself.” Jason Day (Australian Golfer)

So, what is self-sabotage? Some say it’s Self destructive behaviour, such as smoking or drinking excessively. And while that can be the case, that’s not quite what I am talking about here. I am thinking more of self-limiting beliefs and behaviours, such as “I have no will power” or “I am unlucky in love”.

As with any problem or concern it’s important to not let it define you and explore the root cause of it. Often these self-sabotaging behaviours stem from a lack of self-love, lack of self-worth (self-esteem) or a lack of self-belief / confidence. Another way to express this is the thought that ‘you are not enough’, not deserving (of love, success, etc.) or I am lucky to have got where I am now and that’s enough for me. All these are self-sabotaging thoughts. Hypnotherapy has a range of techniques to help explore the reasons for these thoughts and address the resulting unwanted behaviours.

Despite what you may think this is not your mind playing tricks or trying to damage or harm you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your subconscious tries to keep you safe, happy and away from pain. Your conscious mind would pull your hand away from a flame without a thought. And your subconscious does the same with physiological pain. But often this is not a conscious process. So, for example, perhaps you want to stop smoking, but you feel you have no will power. Well, to spare you the embarrassment, anxiety or shame of failing to stop smoking, your subconscious tells you it not possible because of your lack of will power. It doesn’t realise that you want and perhaps really need to stop smoking for health reasons.

Another strategy the subconscious uses to protect you is to bury unhappy or unpleasant memories and traumas. And while this can be a good thing in the short term, having unresolved problems or buried traumas can bring different problems in the long term. Not least because, your subconscious will analyse the buried memories and draw conclusions and learn lessons from them. All this without your conscious mind knowing. These lessons and conclusions may not be correct or are contrary to what conscious mind it trying to achieve.

For example, one aspect of self-sabotaging behaviour is the inability to deal with and process the stress stemming from your lack of self-confidence. So, in a relationship you might wonder, how can they love someone like me? Self-sabotaging people tend to lack healthy coping strategies. So, they may feel that showing they are incompetent or unworthy is a way to untangle themselves from emotional, personal or work demands.

Even successful individuals may have self-destructively or sabotaging urges. This may stem from a feeling of anxiety, unworthiness or from an impulse to repeat the process that made them successful. As Mitski (Japanese Musician) said, “I always have strong urges to sabotage myself. Whenever someone says they like something about my music, I tend to not want to do that anymore. It’s not even that I don’t like it anymore: it’s that I keep trying to find ways for people to dislike me”.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to speak directly to the subconscious and ask it to change and support the changes you want to make in your life. If you feel that hypnotherapy can help you then contact me.

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Suicide Awareness

10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) was started it in 2003 and is co-sponsored by the World Federation for Mental Health and World Health Organisation (WHO).

Suicide is a growing problem in the world and especially amongst the under 30s. The statistics are truly frightening. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every 40 seconds someone successfully takes their own life. That equates to approximately 800,000 people every year (globally) or one in a hundred of every death. And for each successful suicide it is estimated that there are 40 attempted suicides. The sad thing is, as Phil Donahue (US media personality) put it, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Suicide is largely preventable as undiagnosed, or untreated, mental illness is the largest contributor to it.

Each suicide is a tragic waste of life and devastating, sometimes life changing, to those left behind. So, by raising awareness, addressing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, it is hoped that the instances of suicide around the world can be reduced. World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to do these things and reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. There are five key messages:

1. Creating hope through action. This is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide. Our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. Through action, you can make a difference to someone (as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour) in their darkest moments. We can all play a part in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by it.

2. Suicidal thoughts are complex. The causes of suicide are complex and many. There is no one size fits all approach. We know that certain life events can make someone more vulnerable to suicide. Also mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can also be a contributor. People who are suicidal can feel trapped or a burden to their family and those around them and thus they feel as though they are alone and have no other options. The COVID-19 Pandemic has greatly contributed to increased feelings of isolation and vulnerability. By Creating Hope Through Action, we can signal to people experiencing these thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them.

3. You can help give someone hope by showing that you care. We can all play a role, no matter how small. You do not need to tell them what to do or have solutions, just make the time and space to listen to them. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope in somebody who may be struggling.

4. Stigma is a major barrier to help-seeking. I have written before battling stigma and prejudice around all forms of mental illness. Changing the narrative around suicide through the promotion of hope will help to create a more compassionate society where those who need help feel comfortable in coming forward.

5. The insights and stories of people with a lived experience of suicide. Personal stories of someone’s experiences of emotional distress, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and their experiences in recovery can inspire hope in others. It illustrates that they too can move through the period of crisis. Also, individuals sharing experiences of being bereaved by suicide and how they came to live their ‘new normal’, can help others experiencing suicidal loss make sense of their devastation and believe they will be able to live through and with the loss.

So, if you know someone who make be anxious, depressed or suicidal help them to get the professional assistance they need. And be an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.

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Youth Mental Health Day

7 September is Youth Mental Health Day (YMHD). It’s an awareness day founded by the leading young person’s mental health charity stem4. stem4 is a UK charity that promotes positive mental health in teenagers. They work with individuals, their families and carers, education professionals, as well as school nurses and GPs through the provision of mental health education, resilience strategies and early intervention. This is primarily done digitally through their education programme, pioneering mental health apps, clinically-informed website and mental health conferences.

YMHD encourages understanding and awareness of mental health in young people with a view to enabling them to live happy and healthy lives. Each year, the day aims to get young people, and those who care for and support them, talking about how to improve mental health.

This is all the more important with the covid-19 pandemic disrupting the lives of young people more than you might realise. YMHD 2021 focuses on how young people can #StrideForward with their mental health.

Missed classes, lack of social interaction, missing friends, cancelled exams and university lockdowns – the last 18 months have been rough. This time has seen many decisions made on behalf of young people and without their input. But as Vikram Patel (Indian psychiatrist and researcher) said, “There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone, and mental health is everyone’s business”.

Looking to place young people’s voices at the forefront of the conversation once more, YMHD 2021 invites young people across the country to reflect on how the last year has impacted their lives and share how they will #StrideForward and move towards positive mental health.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, one in six young people aged 5-16-year olds had a mental health disorder. The crisis will no doubt have worsened the situation. These disorders include anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders and addictions. Mental health can often be overlooked at the symptoms are not as visual as other health concerns. As Kate Middleton (member of the British Royal Family) said, “A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support”.

Youth Mental Health Day seeks to help by engaging young people in discussions and activities about how to improve their mental health. YMHD looks to go beyond awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health into tackling the heart of the issue.

As a Hypnotherapist, I do not work with people under the age of 18. But if you are worried about someone who is, stem4 is a good place to start to look for the help and support you need.

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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”.