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The Integrated Coaching Academy

Where Coaching and Counselling Connect

Prince harry, grief and how to really help


Prince Harry has gone very public about his mental health struggles resulting from the death of his mother, Princess Diana. In Apple TV’s ‘The Me You Can’t See’ he says he ‘boxed up his emotions’ for 20 years.

It’s true; people often attempt to deal with life’s losses and traumas by disconnecting and switching off their feelings.


The ‘box-it-up’ method can work for a while, as it did for Harry, but what tends to happen over time is that the lid of the box begins to lift all on its own and the anger and despair begin to tumble out in an uncontrolled way. For Harry, the lid of the box seems to have really started to open after his marriage to Meghan and the build up to the birth of his first child created a psychological pattern match to the trauma of his mother’s death.


Harry was filmed in an EMDR session with his therapist. It seems to have really helped. I wish he could also experience the Rewind Technique which was originated by Dr David Muss in the 1970s. It can be even more effective. I did some training with David. As a newly qualified psychotherapist many years ago, I was so amazed by the successes I was having for my PTSD clients that I wrote a book about it. It works in a similar way to EMDR by grounding the client and setting a cognitive task that anchors the brain into the neo cortex. It’s less well known simply because it hasn’t attracted the research and funding of the EMDR programme originated by Francine Shapiro.


Here, an EMDR therapist gives a succinct explanation about the underlying mechanism. She says:

‘The therapy works by the therapist creating a safe and trusting space. We identify the experiences … and bring them into the room in a gentle way to reprocess those memories so the past can be in the past and our past life experiences do not continue to create stress, anxiety and triggers in our current life’


The subconscious mind


What stays in the subconscious mind has the ability to control us. Allowing suppressed emotions to safely surface can actually process long term grief in just one session... if that is what the client wants.

Sometimes, however, the bereaved just want to speak, to be allowed to explore and express their emotions in their own time and in their own way. Fortunately, a Fusion Therapeutic Coach will have the empathic attunement to understand what the client needs from their practitioner.


Yes, if they want resolution, the Rewind Technique can achieve that quickly and efficiently but if they need to talk, a Fusion Coach knows how to offer the time and space for that to happen. It’s about making the model fit the client rather than the client fit the preferred therapy style of the practitioner.


My article this week looks at suppressed grief and how the reaction to unprocessed emotions can take us by surprise many years later.


I hope it helps…


Grief and how to really help


As James sat in front of me, memory after memory of his father’s death surfaced, released, and ran softly down his face.


‘He died when I was 10’, said James. ‘It was an unexpected heart attack. He went to work one morning and didn't come home. Mum thought I was too young to go to the funeral so I went to school on that day just, like any other day.’


James's mum wasn’t being cruel. She had hoped to protect her young son from the pain of seeing her so desperately upset at the grave side. She wanted him to escape somehow the turbulent and intense range of emotions that are a part of the journey through the grieving process. So she made life as normal as possible for him. She compensated by taking him on lavish holidays, buying him the latest gadgets and putting on her ‘I'm fine’ face in the daytime.


Crying alone


She had removed all the pictures of James's father in the house and he was now rarely referred to.

The mother-who-meant-well stayed strong and kept going. She was doing a good job she told herself. After a year, James seemed fine, was doing well at school and never mentioned his father at all.

But the grief hadn’t gone away and it was only after she put James to bed at night that she allowed herself to cry. What she didn't realise was that, in bed at night, James could hear his mother crying and would often cry himself to sleep too.


Both mother and son were going through an intense range of emotions they did not want to communicate to each other, for fear of causing more upset. They had both become isolated in a shared grief for the most well-intentioned of reasons and they were making a mistake that many of us make.

I must keep going


There are plenty of laudable reasons for not dealing with grief. People have to go to work to keep their job. They have to get the kids off to school. They have to mow the lawn, do the shopping, cook and pay the bills. They think if they give way to grief, it will be like a dam has burst. They won’t be able to cope with the deluge and will drown in a flood of their own tears.


But deferring grief is like living with an undetonated bomb. We fool ourselves that if we tiptoe around it, perhaps it won’t go off.


An open wound


However the loss and grief remain as a concealed, but still-open, wound. Although we may have put a plaster over it, it will not begin to heal until we acknowledge its presence and let some light and air onto the injury.


As Prince Harry has observed, death has become a sanitised business.


We try to ignore it. We clean it up with phrases like ‘passed over’, or ‘slipped away’ rather than saying someone has died. Or we wrap it up and leave it on a shelf in a darkened room that we try not to visit.

We are taught, in the face of adversity to stand strong. We must stay in control. We have to keep a very British ‘stiff upper lip’.


But grief is not an illness. It’s a fact of life. We will all lose someone we love and we will all feel the pain. Being able to ride the intense waves of emotion that come with bereavement is an example of mind management and asking for help or talking to someone about how we really feel is a sign of emotional intelligence, not weakness.


As a therapeutic coach, I have a range of skills in my professional toolbox. But for James, as with most of my clients who are grieving, I used the simplest, yet most powerful of them all.

I listened.


Frances Masters MBACP accred GHGI


Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist, coach, training consultant and author of the book PTSD Resolution: Reclaiming life from trauma.


In 2009, Frances founded the charity Reclaim Life; training its volunteers to work in the new, integrated coach-counselling model, Fusion.


As founding Principal of the Integrated Coaching Academy Frances gained accreditation for her training from NCFE as Customised Awards; 'The Fusion Therapeutic Coaching, Counselling and Training Diploma in Therapeutic Coaching and the distance learning programme Certificate in Therapeutic Coaching Skills'


Training programmes also include


The Integrated Coaching Academy certified Fusion Mindfulness Based Mind Management Skills Certificate

and new online training Breathe Stress Away


Fusion® Therapeutic Coaching is an approved NCFE training centre, an organisational member of he British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association for Coaching

Blog

How mindfulness will help you stay strong

Posted on February 12, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Are you able to deal with the stresses and strains of life?

Ups and downs are a normal and natural part being human. Life does not travel in a straight line; is not a plateau but a series of valleys and hills. But it can be tough, especially if you feel you’ve been stuck in the valley for too long. Sometimes we just have to stay strong and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

A little while ago, I wrote a guided meditation for Sally, a young woman who had lost touch with her inner strength and lost faith in her own ability to cope. Her mother and brother had both died in a car accident. Her marriage was in trouble too. Sally was beginning to crumble under the weight of her grief.

She made good progress as we worked together over 5 weeks and started to feel more positive but, just at the point of returning to work, she had a wobble. We started to practice meditation together. It helped her to stop fearing the future and accept there were things she could not control no matter how much she worried about them.

Surrender

Mindfulness meditation is about surrender rather than demand. It is not about forcing things to go our way. It is relaxing into the way things are. It’s letting go.

It’s a time when we can rest in the presence of our breath, our body and our emotions with a detached, kind and gentle curiosity and in doing so; we befriend our breath, our body and our emotions.

We befriend ourselves.

This is one of the meditations I wrote for Sally. It’s designed to be spoken or read slowly and with periods of silence for introspection and insight.

The therapeutic suggestions are in bold as are the embedded seven pillars of mindfulness as outlined by MBSR creator Jon Kabat Zin.

I wrote a haiku for Sally too and that is at the end:

Guided mountain meditation

Either close the eyes, or half close the eyes, soft focusing on an area of floor about two feet in front of you:

Begin to notice the breath, saying silently ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out.’

As you follow the breath you might notice the warmth or coolness of the breath as it passes over the upper lip

After a little while, the out breath may naturally extend as you begin to relax

Observe the breath as it moves down the diaphragm and then gently back up again.

Set aside the focus on the breath and simply begin to notice the rise and fall of the abdomen allowing the attention to ride and rest where it will

In your mind’s eye, bring up an image of a mountain

And, as you begin to pay attention to the mountain, you might notice its shape

It may be a small, wide mountain or a tall, narrow mountain. It doesn’t matter for, as you look more closely at the mountain, you may have a sense of it being the most beautiful, graceful and elegant mountain you have ever seen

And this mountain has a secret; it has been here since time began and the mountain has been a witness to many things

As you observe the mountain, you might notice how the sun passes over it, creating pools of light and shadow and, as the sun sets, how it is gently illuminated by the soft glow of the moon

Each day passes in this way

The mountain does not judge the day or the night, does not prefer one to the other, does not cling to the heat of the sun or the coolness of the moon, does not pull or push

The mountain appreciates both sun and moon, day and night, with a simple yet immovable presence

And so it is with the seasons: as you observe the mountain, you might notice how the green leaves on the trees, rooted in its crags and crevices, bathed in the full sun of summer, begin to redden and wither and fall to the ground. In time, autumn transitions to winter. Now snow caps the top of the mountain and cloud descends

And the mountain is silent and still with a wise strength that knows there is no need to fight the wind or repel the rain and in this way remains free from pain and free from suffering, trusting in the rhythm of the seasons and waiting to emerge from those passing clouds as the frozen earth is caressed by the first rays of early spring

The mountain is patient and present to each moment. It knows there is no reason to hurry. The buds on the trees will unfold in their own time

And isn’t it amazing how you can be an observer of the mountain in all its detail, moving in close to see the crags and crevices, the buds on the trees as they emerge, the little spring flowers bursting through the warming ground

And, if you wish, you can travel in your imagination, around to the other side of the mountain and see it for the very first time as though seeing with new eyes, perhaps noticing how different it seems from a new perspective

And you can, if you wish, in your imagination, drift into the mountain, become the mountain and have a sense of the mountain, with its solid base, like your seated base of hips and legs that extend firmly to the floor

Your spine and neck and head can extend tall like the lofty peaks of the mountain

We can all be like the mountain with its patience, trust and acceptance

We can be a witness to our experience and see with new eyes

We can choose to let go of attachment and striving

We can set judgement aside and understand there are things we cannot control.

We can accept times of darkness and winter chill

We can stay strong and steady

We can trust and wait for the sun to shine again

The mountain knows a secret

The air does not breathe

Water has no mind to swim

Snow is simply snow


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