For those who have lost a loved one, not being understood by family and friends is no reason to hide grief, says Vanderhoof’s grief recovery specialist.
Fay Wuthrich, director and founder of counselling service Annie’s Door: A Healing Place for the Soul, discussed grief and emotional healing with Vanderhoof residents at the public library on Jan. 28.
“Grief is a normal and natural reaction to significant emotional loss of any kind that affects you,” Wuthrich explained. “No one feels the way you do…our relationships with people are unique as fingerprints.”
Though most people meant no harm with comments to offer comfort, only about 10 per cent of the responses were helpful, she said.
Unhelpful comments may include, “I know how you feel,” or “I can imagine that,” while helpful questions can be, “What happened, “How did you find out,” or even simply “I am sorry.”
“Grievers just want their grief to be heard; they want heart, ears, and no mouth — which judges what they’re feeling,” Wuthrich said. “Most people listen not with the intent to understand, but to respond.”
Learning how to recover from grief is especially important for those who are overcome by a series of unfortunate events, she explained.
“For example, someone who just had three or four tragedies in the life seemingly really close together,” she said.
Wuthrich’s service is named after her mother Annie, who passed away three years ago.
“I had experienced a tumultuous relationship with my mom most of her life, and when she passed away, it’s like I was hit on the head by a two-by-four, and my feet were swept out from under me,” she explained. “I was so taken up by the grief that I experienced at her death.”
At the same time, other life-threatening events occurred in her family, Wuthrich said.
“My grandson needed surgery at the children’s hospital, and my husband was told he had a tumour on his vocal cord,” she said. “It was just a lot of grief things happened all at once, and I didn’t know how to cope.
“I didn’t have the tools, in my life skills coping tool belt kind of thing, to function.”
The memory of her mother no longer brings the pain of her death — recovery from grief doesn’t mean forgetting, Wuthrich said. “I can talk about my mom without the pain of her death, or about the pain of regret and how bad of a daughter I was,” she said. “When you realize how people are grieving out there, then you see them everywhere you look…you just want to help people.”
Though three people attended the evening information session, audience members expressed that it may be due to availability, rather than lack of interest, from the community, as well as the nature of grief.
“It’s scary to admit this is what I’m feeling, then I need to deal with it,” said an attendee who underwent trauma and requested to be unnamed. Halfway through the discussion, she left the room for several minutes as she struggled to breathe.
“It’s scary to be with a group,” she said. “I had a panic attack and I felt very vulnerable.”
Having consulted a counsellor, who has over 25 years of experience, for four years, she agreed with the discussed methods.
“It’s good to continue learning…different counsellors have different viewpoints, and everybody will give you different tools and ideas and perspectives to work on,” she said.
Learning about grief may be difficult for those who are struggling to recover, but facing it is the first step, she explained.
“I wish people will come,” she said. “When you feel trauma and if you push them away, you think they aren’t real.
“But they are real, and they need to deal with them.” She added, “People think they are stuck, but they are not, if they can cross the ocean of grief.”
More information on Annie’s Door can be found on www.anniesdoor.ca.