Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Help for Anxiety in Major Life Transitions: Loss

October 23rd, 2012 · Anxiety, grief, help for anxiety, life transitions, major life transitions

Grief and loss are often fundamental aspects of major life transitions, and individuals confronted with such situations often need help for anxiety of the type associated with such experiences of loss.

help for anxiety

No one wants to experience loss with respect to something that is valuable to him or her — that is, in some sense or other, treasured.

1.  Can I Grieve for What is Gone?

Whether a major life transition is anticipated or feared, there will be feelings about the loss of the old way of life or old state.

Most often, major life transitions involve a big alteration in the way an individual experiences his or her own life.  Even if the change is for the better, there is still often a great sense of loss that accompanies these fundamental changes. Sometimes the loss will be as tangible as losing a home, a workplace or a key relationship.  Sometimes the sense of loss will be just as real, but less easy to identify or describe.   In any case, such a loss will likely be something that we will carry either consciously or unconsciously.

2.  Who Was I Back Then?

In many cases, the sense of loss may pertain to the attachment that I have to an earlier version of myself.  Perhaps I have a sense that I was happier or more secure than I now feel as I undergo a major life transition, and I may yearn to go back to that state.

These feelings may be accompanied by a deep resentment toward any person or situation has disturbed my connection with this earlier time.

All of these feelings may be associated with a question that may provoke a lot of anxiety:  who am I now?

3.  Have I Lost My Innocence?

As the section above suggests, often, often a major life transition leaves us with the sense that our world is now more complex, or more difficult.  Or perhaps, it’s just that I’m now living with certain kinds of consciousness of my world that I wish I was not.  The dominant myth may be that of Adam and Eve cast out of the Garden: innocence lost, and a world suddenly full of shades of gray.  And it’s painful.

4.  Have I Lost My Connection to Others?

In the midst of major life transitions, part of a sense of anxiety may stem from the fact that my experience leaves me feeling that I cannot connect with others in the way I once did.  It may well be that it’s not easy to relate to people who haven’t confronted this type of situation, who simply do not know what it’s like to live through this type of thing.

Is There Something to be Found in My Loss?

Part of the help for anxiety that we need in dealing with major life transitions may stem from coming to accept that such situations combine loss — and finding.  Along with what is lost, the opportunity for new consciousness develops in us, promising a new awareness of the world and a new, deeper sense of our own identity — and of our own personal myth.

PHOTO: Attribution SomeRightsReserved | John-Morgan


9/11, 2011, & Jungian Bereavement & Grief Counselling

September 14th, 2011 · bereavement, grief, grief counselling

grief counselling

Ten years on, changes in the ways 9/11 is commemorated can teach us a great deal about bereavement, about grief counselling, and about transformations and processes in grief.

The Globe and Mail article “After 9/11: for some it’s time to move on” highlights ways in which, 10 years on, the grief of relatives and survivors is undiminished, yet undergoing transformation.

  • Grief Changes

Grief counselling teaches us that grief evolves.  Particularly where loss is sudden or unexpected, it can result in feelings often as overwhelming as complete despair and hopelessness.  But the feelings can and do change, as the work of grief gets done over time.  The loss is not felt any less, but felt in a different way.

  • Experiences of Grief & Bereavement Differ

Interviews with 9/11 survivors show that grief is experienced differently by different people.  For some, the grief reaction is as keen and raw as on the original 9/11; for others, not.  Grief counselling shows no one “right way” to respond to grievors: we have to listen to their stories, and respond individually.

  • There is Healing in Grieving, but It’s Not the Same as “Getting Over It”

For some 9/11 grievers, a kind of healing has come with the passage of time.  The impact of their loss has not diminished.  But, there is some way in which they are starting to come to terms with it, and to find ways to move back into their lives.  They have found some kind of meaning and life energy that draws them.

  • Grief Counselling Lesson: Re-Traumatization is Not Grieving

In his 9/11 address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said,  “We can never unsee what happened here.”  That’s true.  No one who has seen them will ever forget the dreadful images which the media with seeming relish keeps unrelentingly inflicting on 9/11 survivors and bereaved loved ones.  One clear lesson: that’s not the way to help anyone heal from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jungians recognize that, if a grieving individual can put the loss of the loved one into a meaningful context, and find a way to relate to the memory and personal reality of the lost loved one, life can go on.  Often, this return of life is experienced as the re-awakening of the desire to be in life.

I wish all of you, and especially those who may currently be carrying the burden of grief, the gift of meaning on your journey towards wholeness.

PHOTO: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved Brendan Loy
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Grief Counselling, Bereavement & Jack Layton

August 27th, 2011 · bereavement, counselling, grief, grief counselling

grief counselling

The sad early passing of beloved Canadian political leader Jack Layton teaches us much about bereavement and grief counselling as archetypal experience.   Millions felt personally connected to Jack.  His warmth, deep personal conviction and love of Canadians made him a beloved figure on our political landscape.

We feel deep sadness and personal loss at his sudden decline and passing.  As a nation, we have experienced some of the key characteristics of grief reactions.

1) Even if Foreseen, Grief is an Incredible Shock

We saw Jack Layton on TV when he stepped aside in July.  We must have been aware that he did not look like his former self, and was obviously a very sick man.  We really knew he would not turn over the reins of the NDP without an extremely good reason.  Yet we experience deep shock upon his passing.

This is characteristic when people lose a loved one.  When the reality finally hits, we are absolutely stunned.  It’s incredibly hard to accept that the loved one is actually gone.  We find ourselves saying, “You know, I just keep expecting him/her to come through that door at any moment.”

2) We’re Outraged by Death

We feel outrage in the face of death, when someone passes at an age that seems far too young, as with Jack Layton, aged 61.  On a level that I believe is archetypal, we have a sense of what is a complete or full life.  When someone dies before that time, we feel that it is bitterly wrong.  It should somehow have been different.

3) We Want to Do Something — but We Don’t Know What

The death of a loved one fills us with a sense of powerlessness, even despair.  We’re overwhelmed with the desire to do something to make it better, to remove the sense of loss.  But there seems so little that concretely can be done. The loved one’s absence is so formidible and so unavoidable.

4) Finding Meaning in the Life of the Loved One — and Our Own

With time, we begin to find ongoing value and meaning in the life of the lost loved one.  We realize the ways in which we still carry the loved one within us, and how that brings meaning.  Through recall and ritual, we find ways to keep the person’s memory alive.

So it will be for us, remembering, celebrating and living out the spirit of Jack Layton, a man who, now forever, is “Le Bon Jack“.

PHOTO: ©  All rights reserved by thankyougravity
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)



Jungian Psychotherapy and the Reality of Grief

March 4th, 2011 · grief

Jungian psychotherapy is fully aware that the intensity of grief as an experience is something shared by almost all human beings.  Its devastating character echoes down through the aeons, affecting nearly every life in every generation.  Sometimes the mute expressions of grief by those who lived long ago carry an aching eloquence that makes us feel our bond of common humanity with those brave and resilient people, the ancestors.  That’s how I felt when I heard a recent news story.

The Ancients

The New York Times recently reported on an article in the journal Science documenting the earliest human remains ever found in the Arctic region.  They are the remains of a 3 year old child who died over 11,500 years ago, in what is modern-day central Alaska.   We don’t know a lot of details of the story of the people who lived there.  We don’t really seem to know how they lost their child.  We do know that they performed the funeral ritual of cremation right in the center of their home.  Then they apparently left their home, never to return, or so the archeological record implies.

“Then they apparently left their home, never to return” — what words.  We do not know the exact facts, but across the ages, the aching pathos of that fact seems to speak volumes.  It is hard, on the feeling level, not to project our own reaction to their loss: too painful…never go back…

And Never Go Home…

We may wonder about this.  Across the ages, we wonder at the inconsolable pain caused by the untimely death of a child, a pain so great for these people that it seems to have forced them from their dwelling.

It is a symbollic truth that grief does make us leave home, in a very real psychological sense.  Grief can make that which has felt familiar and safe feel alien, sterile and full of pain.  This can be the effect on one’s own personality or on one’s familiar personal space.  The symbolism in these ancients’ acts is very eloquent: to leave the home, which very often in dreams is the symbol of the personality or of the “psychological space” of the individual.  In a very real sense, grief can evict us from our own lives.

Loss of something that we thought we had.  Disability of a child.  Death of a child.  Loss of a life partner to a debilitating disease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.  Loss of a marriage in which we have placed all our hopes…

Is there any way home?  We wonder if we can feel in any sense good or “at home” ever again.  Is there a course through grief, a path?

How Can I Deal with Grief?

The experience of grief can seem so overwhelming, and so permanent.  It is not unusual for people to ask themselves, or others, “Will this ever end, or at least get better?”  Sometimes the experience can be so intense, people can even find themselves asking, “Am I going crazy?”

Clearly, anyone who has a grief reaction of this kind of intensity is never going to forget the loved one, in any emotional sense.  The yearning for their presence is always going to be a part of the bereaved person’s life.  That is the nature of love.  But over time, and under the right conditions, the loved one comes to occupy a different place within us, a place that allows us to at least begin to return some of our energy to life, as the loved one would wish for us.  To find a way to remember the loved one, while simultaneously letting life flow… this is also a part of our individual journey as humans.  To find a place of security and acceptance to process these feelings: that is often part of the journey of psychotherapy.

I wish you every good thing on your personal journey to wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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PHOTO CREDIT:     © Wilm Ihlenfeld |

© 2011 Brian Collinson

Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)