Favorite Sermon Add to Playlist
Photo of Daniel Binus

Powerful Tools for Healthy Grieving

Daniel Binus
Audio Only


In this episode, Dr. Daniel Binus is joined by grief coach and author Karen Nicola to discuss how to deal with grief in a healthy way.


Daniel Binus

Clinical Director of Beautiful Minds Medical


  • August 9, 2021
    5:00 PM
Logo of Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 (US)

Free sharing permitted under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 (US) license.

The ideas in this recording are those of its contributors and may not necessarily reflect the views of AudioVerse.


Video Downloads

Audio Downloads

This transcript may be automatically generated

Hi, I'm dr. Daniel binary. I'm amanda. I'm jonathan and I'm dr. Katie elson. And together we are a group of real practicing mental health profession podcast is a one stop shop for all The to be depression and anxiety, one episode at a time. Are you ready? Let me go. Welcome to the brain people podcast. I'm your hostess, dr. Daniel bonus, and I'm a psychiatrist here in beautiful auburn, california. And I'm really excited about the guests that we have today. And our guest today is Karen nicholas and karen has been doing grief work and grief education and coaching for about 15 years now. And she's really an expert in our field and she's actually written a book called comfort for the day that I've really appreciated myself. And I've often recommended to patients who have gleaned a lot of good material out of that. And not only that, karen is an amazing person, and I really appreciated it getting to know her over the last couple of years as we've been able to work together. So welcome, karen. Thank you dr. Bias. I am so blessed to be that agent, to take people from suffering and pain into wholehearted hopeful living again, watching that transformation take place, being a participant of that is, it's just such a blessing in my life. It's my why I get up every day is knowing that something that we can do to bring good education about grief and it's support people through their grief. It's just, it's such a blessing. I hear you and that's really what gets me out of bed every morning to is is even though my focus is not grief, but just being a conduit of love into people's lives and watching someone go from despair and hopelessness and sadness to seen the light start to come back in their lives. And so really that's what we want to talk about today is, is what are some of the things that we can actually do in our lives if we're in that place. You know, if we're in that dark place, if we're grieving, if we're suffering because of a huge loss there we, that we, that we've had in our lives. What are some of the things that we can actually do, practically speaking, to move out of that, that pit? And so let's just start from there here. And while the question is great, what can we do? Can we do something? Is probably what some despairing grievers are even unaware that they can do something that the pit is so dark and it is so hopeless. And it is so lonely that the thought of can I even do something is almost beyond them. So if that's who you are out there listening to us, please stay with us because we want to encourage you that Yes, by just making one little choice at a time. Your, your dark pet can let some light in and it's a good thing. But I want to 1st just give a very broad umbrella view of grief. Were talking about grief that comes from loss. And that loss can be from the burning down of your home or your neighborhood, your community, like we have so many of them here in California. That's a, that's a devastating traumatic loss. It can be the loss of one's health. Physically or emotionally. It can be the loss of relationships between parent and Children. It can be the loss of relationships and spouses. It can be the loss of a job. It can be loss of finances, whatever these relationships or entities that are important in our life go awry or end. It creates a change for us. And that change for us means we have to adjust. And some of us adjust more easily. And some of us adjust with much more difficulty. So I just kinda wanted to make that a clarity. Absolutely, and I'm thinking about my life too, and I've had different losses. And it's interesting how you respond differently to, to, to different losses. Sometimes ways that you don't even completely understand yourself or you, you think I would never respond that way to, to this sort of loss and, you know, I'm even thinking about I, when I was a child, I had a, a shetland pony pony. And I probably would, it was about 9 years old and, and that, and that pony me had some kind of disease where it was infecting the foot or something like that. I didn't really understand it, of course, at the time. But I understood is that this pony needed to be put down. And I remember watching the that and my dad lead this pony away. And, and lady up into the, the woods where they were going to put be put, putting it down. And this tremendous grief that came up in my heart, i had never experienced them in my whole life up to that point. Now, I don't know if I've ever had that heart wrenching of grief since then. And people might say, well, that was just, you know, as a pony, it was, it was an animal. But you know, it's interesting how it doesn't always, it's not always the death of a person. It seems like other things can be just as heart wrenching sometimes for, for certain individuals. Absolutely. In sir, dr. Bonus, who supported you through that gut wrenching, did you create life commands about that pain in your life? That said, I guess I have to deal with this by myself. Oh, I probably shouldn't let anybody know how that I feel or did you have an environment that you could run to somebody and weep in their arms and be held and supported and, and be guided through honey. This does hurt you love that pony. And I know you did, and I'm here with you in this and understanding you, you know, I am very grateful to say that my mother was right there with her hands on my shoulder and for a warm hug. But I can only imagine if someone doesn't have that, how that must feel to bottle that up and to just feel like, oh, I don't, I need to just shut up and put up, you know, just move on with life and be strong. And in our previous podcasts, we are talking about how and hope you that is. And so yeah, we're, especially if we've kind of had this mindset or people have told us in, in one way or another. They essentially, you just need to get on with it. But we're not ready to get on with it. The pain is still so intense that it's affecting our lives and, and really driving us into despair or other negative emotions. What can we do, practically speaking? What are some of the dues of healthy grieving? While I really want to share the dues of healthy grieving? But I also want to acknowledge what is a very common, socially acceptable cultural lee modeled way to deal with the pain in our lives. And that is to nominate drug it, distract it, medicaid it. And so in our lives we than that dark pip that we might be and even now is even as it were, like we are chained there because what we go to are go to, to remedy the pain, keeps us there. So what we want to be able to consider is there a possibility that I could do a different go to and get a different resolved? So what would be one of the very best ways to and chain us from the addictive power of things that we have utilized to assuage our pain? Well, some of that might mean going 1st to a recovery rehab kind of situation so that we can set ourselves free from that vicious cycle of darkness. So if that is your next step, then take that next step. By all means, I really appreciate that because I think none of us like pain. You know, it just, it's uncomfortable and we naturally, even when we touch a hot stove, our hand immediately jerks back. And I think no, because grief is, is painful. It is natural to try to find some way or another to escape in that. Often i've seen it in my own life and in other people's lives where it's so easy then to escape into unhealthy coping mechanisms and often times that can lead to addiction. And then that, like you said, often requires some help and getting help from the outside to break that pattern of addiction. Definitely. And interestingly enough, in my experience, there are 12 steps that are used in the a program are perfect applicable steps for our grieving hearts. So they, they, they do a dual purpose. They, they address the pain of addiction. They also address the deeper pains that might have driven us into addiction. So that application works really wonderfully. I guess the, the, the, the top item of understanding grief is that it is not a disorder, a disease or even a sign of weakness. But instead, grief is an emotional and physical and spiritual necessity. It is the price we pay for love. And it's the only cure for grief is to grieve. Now those are not my wise words, though their words from rabbi earl groman and the, his definition is working definition of grief for me, includes the whole person, you know, emotional, physical and spiritual. And I know beautiful minds is all about attending to the whole person. And I think that's the healthiest way for us to engage with our grief. So self care physically is the one area that we probably have the most direct control over when we are grieving At those are simple little can do things like I can drink more water to day. I worked with the coaching client who just I get kind their physical background and know what they do for themselves in a healthy way, who just didn't drink water. And so I said, so your assignment in our grief coaching agreement here is to drink no less than 5 glasses of water. I mean, I wasn't going to read the whole amount that should drink, but at least get 5 in least 5, right? So by the next week when she called me, I said, so how, how is the water drinking? She goes, he went fantastic and I feel so good. Am I'm sleeping all night. Well, to wonderful things that her grieving body body needed was a good night sleep. And hide ration. So these natural simple things that we can do for our own self care are not too hard for us. You know, really makes him stop and think about how sometimes when you know someone has died or there's another type of difficult boss. It's almost like we feel like I don't deserve to take care of myself because that person died or because you know this other bad thing happened this other last that I experience. It's almost like we punish ourselves in a way. And so maybe it's not always that reason, but I definitely resonate with what, what you're saying about the importance of self care and really attending to our physical needs and how easily that can be ignored in the process of grief. Well then you, you bring up a really important point, how we believe about ourselves, what, who we see when we look in the mirror. Is that someone that we love? Or is that someone we despise? If our own self image and our own capacity to nurture and love ourselves is at a very low point, then even this simple self care might be a huge step. And so if that is your case of a listener, i would so recommend getting connected to a professional person who can help rearrange that view. You have of yourself. Because if we are self deprecating, if we feel in some way I don't deserve happiness or healing or hopefulness, then that's, that's a pretty dark pit that does need again, some outside assistance. Absolutely. I really agree with that because a lot of times when we're stuck in that mode of thinking that I don't have value and somehow i'm less than that it really be. It can often become the self perpetuating cycle because then we treat ourselves that way. And then, and then we reaffirm like, look you, you can't even get out of bed and, but, well, why? Because maybe we're not like you like the lady that wasn't even drinking water a, we're not attending to some of these basic things and not treating ourselves as valuable. And therefore, you know, we're going to be even less and less functional. And that just reinforces this negative thought and picture that we have about ourselves. And I want to affirm, you know what, what you're saying here, karen, because, and to our listeners, each of you, all of us have infinite amazing value. And God has created us and it doesn't matter how dark of a place, what difficult of a place, how horrible we look in the mirror. We have amazing value and nothing can take that away from us. And the very fact that you feel the pain over the loss of some thing or some one that was important to you is, is another reason to consider a healthy option, A healthy choice because that honors what was lost, what you now don't have. Whereas the that the cycle of you know, self loathing or I'm not caring for one self really is a dis honor for that relationship or that person or that experience that you now don't have so near. So right, daniel barry, we are completely and absolutely valued by our creator by our savior. And if our listeners haven't considered that as an option, just drink that one in any one of the things that you're that you brought up in my mind too. Sometimes I asked my patience is the person that died recently. Maybe it was your husband or your wife or someone else. How would they, why you to be taking care of yourself right now? Would they want you to just be in bed all day? Would they want you to not be eating healthy? Would they or how would they want? And I think sometimes that starts to click a little bit for people like know, you know, I, they were and self as they loved me. They wanted me to be happy. And I think that that is absolutely the case. And so I like you said, you know, I think it actually honors the person that we've, we've lost her with that has died in, in that we are willing to take care of ourselves now when so that's kind of the physical aspect of the dues of healthy grieving, but you also mentioned emotional and spiritual elements as well. Any thoughts that you can share with us on these? While the emotional journey of grief is like a rollercoaster, i mean, you just have no idea what's going to come next. The highs and lows, or as one teenager who once told me after the suicidal death of her older brother. She said, it feels like I am in a forever tunnel That I can't even see the light at the other end because there's too many curves in the tunnel and all my heart just felt for her emotionally. You know that she, she can't, she's traveling through this tunnel of darkness with so many curves. And what do you do with all of that? I like to liken it to Its toxin that needs to be expressed. We need to release these emotions that are building up. They create, oh, kinds of chemical warfare in our body yet that were, that when they just gets swallowed down. Well another, another very wise person once said the sorrow which has no vent in tears may make of their organs weep. Wow, that's henry mogley wrote that way back in 18. 50 was a pioneer in psychology in england. He said that way before to day science is saying, you know what, you absorb emotionally and mentally and psychologically your body responds to that. Yeah. So tears are certainly a welcome and necessary how he lean activity for emotional grief. But again, the culture says don't cry. Yeah, that's an interesting thing. I was just thinking about how some, some other cultures are actually really promote that in a way. And I really see how they encourage wailing or, you know, going through these very expressive forms of grief. And it sounds like from what you're saying, that's, that can actually be a really good thing. Absolutely. In fact, there are body toxins that are released in tears of grief. So let's cry, wow, you have our permission to cry, make it happen. But the other place that can really be an intentional activity to release those emotions has also to do with our physiology. We need to release them out of our body. So if this is anger, go take what I call an anger, stop, walk, or an anger run and just beat it into the ground as you run. If there are emotions that are just whirling around and you can't find the start at the end of them, just start putting them on paper. Now I tell my clients now, please don't write police down journal. What you're going to do on paper is not either of those 2 things because writing and journaling has to do with organisation precision grammar. Ah, it has to do with punctuation. It has to do with paragraph in it has to do with academics. But what you need to do, I need to do, we all need to do is to release those emotions on paper, out through our hand, using a pen or pencil because that's the physical distance it takes to get from the mind and heart out to the paper is the healing that comes behind there and I call it tie sop, put your stuff on paper, p y S O P pi sop, put your stuff on paper. I love that, don't journal, don't write because that's academic. This is therapeutic. Just put your stuff on paper and I'll just comment right. Dary. Karen came, you came and did a workshop for us. And I remember you asked us to do some of that writing and it was very amazing to me because as I was, as I start to write and I start to use that python principle instead of trying to think about grammar or thinking about writing correctly or anything like that, and I just wrote from my heart, i was actually surprised at what came out on paper. I didn't even realize in such a short time. Right? Yeah, it was amazing. I mean I, I didn't realize what, what was in there. I think I was writing about the death of my grandmother and I said, wow, this, I didn't even realize I was there. So there's a connection there. Seems like when you just allow the pen to go, so to speak and thinking too much in your writing from the heart in your writing from the heart and you're writing from your core and it should reflect what your core is. And that can be disorganized massey, random. You know, it's not something that's neat and tidy. It's something that might jump all over the place. But it's now outside of you. And by that release, your body doesn't have to hold onto it any longer. And healthy healing, grieving can continue its course for you, you see, because earl groman said it is necessary for us to grieve if a necessity. I couldn't agree more with that. And I even think about with people that have p S D post traumatic stress disorder. And how, in my experience and working with a lot of these people, a lot of the issues seems that there has not been resolution of trauma. And really when we think about grief when we think about death, it's traumatic. And so we need to somehow process that we need to somehow have some resolution. It doesn't mean there. Oh, now I'm over it. But a working through as so that our mind can start to kind of wrap itself around what just happened. Even if we don't understand every detail that there's an element maybe of acceptance, that does start to creep in. And there's a way that we can say OK, this isn't high as overwhelming as maybe it was before there's there's, there's progress through that. I refer to it as completing the pain. And so when that pain can be completed in a healthy healing way, do we still have the emotion of sadness and sorrow and uncomfortableness? Yes, but it is no longer the driving force that keeps us stuck in that patch. It's no longer the thing that keeps us in fear from entering into new relationships that's been completed. And I really appreciate that too, because it seems like then it's, it's not like we're just saying ok over and done with. But at the same time it's not consuming us the way that it was before. And we're actually able to start. I don't like the term moving on, but move forward with our lives app where we are, we still respect the grief, the loss that that we've just had. But we're able to really not stay stuck while I'm sure there's so many other things that we could talk about. I, I know, I feel like I could talk all day with, with karen about grieving and, and I know we're going to look forward to having you back many times in the future on our podcast because I really think there's so many important lessons for all of us and even me as a psychiatrist, i am still learning about this too, and it's really a wonderful thing to learn. So to summarize today, we've really been able to delve into some of the dues of healthy grieving. And we've also touched on some of the don't as well, and we definitely don't want to just stuff it. Absolutely not. And I say I heard that loud and clear and we don't want to get into that addiction and escape mode. But the dues of healthy grieving to me are really exciting because there is Hope, there are things that we can do. And one of the most important things is that we can be intentional. We need to be intentional with actually addressing it the going to toward the pain. Instead of running away from it. We need to of course, address any addictions, things that we might be using as unhealthy escapes. And we need to address the whole person. And that includes our physical health needs, our emotional help needs. I'm going to remember the python and that's really inspired me actually even in my own writing, just to be more free and it's been extremely helpful. And. And then we also want to attend to our spiritual needs as well and connecting with god and realizing that he is there too. And we didn't get a chance to really be the next party. I think that might be a really good next topic. And, and, you know, one other thing that was coming to mind as well as we were talking about, this is just the idea that we don't need to do all this alone. Of course we do have god and he wants to help be with us and guide us through the process. But god also puts people in our lives as well. And sometimes we're so blinded, we don't see those. But oftentimes there's people there that want to help. If we, if we will allow them to you. So in closing, if you only take one thing away from today, so remember that if mental illness is a whole person problem, then that must have a full person solution. I'm dr. Daniel binder. And I'm karen nicholas and you've been listening to the rain on time. I use thanks for listening to hear more episodes, find us on social media or support is financially visit the brain. People podcast dot com.


Embed Code

Short URL