Difficult Journeys


How are you?

Do you feel that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel?

I am referring to Covid of course, but not everything is about Covid is it?

For some of us, whilst it is ever present, it is not the heaviest burden.

With that in mind, I am going to speak to you in general terms; about relatable stuff that might hit a raw nerve or two.

I blog for many reasons. The main one is that I would like to reach out to potential Clients and show you what I offer.

I also want to provoke reflection and thoughtful contemplation. This is genuinely in the hope of being helpful.

On a much more personal level, I find writing therapeutic. It offers me a platform to process my own thoughts, reflections and feelings.

I have always found this to be useful and alongside other tools it has kept me (relatively) sane.

So, finding what helps us is important, and realising that that is different for us all is also important.

You only need to think of your own friendship group and family to realise that you know lots of people that have experienced loss.

Loss comes in many shapes; death is the shape foremost in our consciousness usually. But loss can alter its lines subtly and be about breakdowns in relationships, aging, poor health and surgery, and all kinds of trauma.

In my friendship group I know many dear friends who have been thrust into a world of grief and loss and I have endeavoured to offer empathy and support in very difficult circumstances.

The temptation is to push for arrival at a place of acceptance, seeking a way to move forward without the sheer and utter misery of loss ever present.

It is difficult to be around someone so completely sad and unable to carry any hope.

But that is all we can really do; be there. Bear witness. Be present.

A friend said to me today; “I don’t know how to help them”, in reference to a mutual friend who had suffered a loss through death.

I replied much as I have said, “just be there”.

But that is difficult isn’t it? It’s uncomfortable, and we eventually question whether it’s ultimately healthy. We want to see progress.

This brings me to think about Toxic Positivity and the need to be wary of it.

To bring these words to life picture this; you have something on your mind, it’s bothering you, interrupting your daily routine and sleep pattern. It is not necessarily a matter of life or death but is causing you anxiety. Someone notices and asks you what’s the matter. You tell them, and rather than acknowledge your legitimate worry, they gazump your problem with a bigger one, or worse still, they point out that it could be worse; “well no one died, did they?”

We know this, but our worry is there and through acknowledgement it can be processed.

I am a huge fan of the “it could be worse” theory for my own issues, it is a personal mantra by which I have learnt resilience, helping me sort problems as they occur, but only since processing past experiences through acknowledgment. I have learnt that talking about stuff to someone that listens without judgement is processing, and once processed it can be stored and scheduled for experiencing when I choose to rather then being a constant burden., interrupting my life negatively.

When we bear witness to someone’s story, we are acknowledging that it happened, and we are acknowledging how it affected them.

When we listen and do not offer advice, competition or some kind of criteria or hierarchy of misery, we give empathy, and more importantly, they feel empathy. They feel heard, understood and worthy.

Processing a loss can feel like closing a door on a loved one. It can be too final. Acceptance seems like moving on from them, putting distance between them and us.

I lost my father 37 years ago, but I still purposely keep a door open to that loss to honour him.

He is still dead.

I still miss him.

But I have accepted that I will feel like this. I want to miss him, he was lovely, I love him.

Processing a loss like this is as individual as we all are. There can be no time limits or expectation of suddenly feeling better without processing.

In the end we accept how we feel, and we find ways to keep our loved ones very much alive in our hearts and memory.

This is very personal, but it is important to demonstrate this to others, asking them to continue to bear witness.

We needn’t become paralysed by our loss, but it is there, and we can eventually schedule time to feel it, like on anniversaries and special days, however it will occasionally creep up on us and take us unawares. It is the price of love I suppose and in a way that is a positive.

So, how do we help?

Well, as simplistic as this sounds, we bear witness. We acknowledge the hugeness, the depth of their loss. We do this without comparisons but when it feels right, and this is always lead by them, we look for small positives. We look for cracks of light in their darkness.

For me, I can now feel blessed for the times I spent with my father versus focussing on the agonising injustice at the length of time I had with him.

This only came through feeling empathy, from feeling as though someone was a witness to my loss, to how it felt for me. They didn’t override the depth of my individual sorrow with; “at least he didn’t suffer a long illness” etc.

Due to acknowledgement of my grief, I have processed my loss and I now celebrate that at least he didn’t suffer a long illness…… so you see, we get there, no need to push, just stay with us on our journey, however long it takes.

I am simplifying this process, but you get the idea.

So “Toxic Positivity” interferes with acceptance, it can prolong the agony of processing a loss.

Therapeutic Counselling provides a platform to process. It does not make things unhappen, they still happened.

I can bear witness and acknowledge your loss and I can hold your hope.

When the time is right, I can sit with you in the dark, but I can gently point at the stars.

Being positive, finding solutions and being pro active brings autonomy and gives us much needed control in sticky, tricky and downright awful situations; I would always advocate looking for what we can change, however, first we need to acknowledge the issue. Sit with it and feel its weight.

So, it is not easy to travel with someone in despair over a loss, but sometimes the most difficult roads lead to the most rewarding destinations.

Go slow, take in the scenery and stop to re fuel often.

To close on a more hopeful, positive (not toxic) note; there is always growth through being vulnerable; we are supposed to love, and to feel loved is joy at its purest level, and so when we lose somebody, we are supposed to feel that loss acutely. Allowing someone alive to offer the comfort of company, allowing them to stumble around in the dark looking for stars together is not closing a door on that lost loved one, it opens the door to some more love from another source.

Let’s stumble around together.

With love

Anna x