Dealing with Job Loss: Joining a Career Club Can Help You Boost Confidence During Job Search

Thursday, February 18, 2010 9:31

By Ellen Brown

I work with a client named “Sarah,”* whose friend thinks she’s “crazy” for joining a job club. “Why would you want to hang out with a bunch of unemployed people?” she asked Sarah one day. “Isn’t it depressing?”

“Actually, the people in my group are great,” Sarah told her friend. “They encourage me and support me. And I always feel better afterwards.”  Unlike her friend, who obviously has some “issues” with people who are unemployed!

I was so glad to hear that Sarah was benefitting from her new job club. I’m a big fan of these clubs for all the reasons that she described.

In case you’re not familiar with career clubs, they’re venues where you can let down your hair and share your job-hunting experiences and encourage one another along the journey. Some are held at libraries or churches or synagogues, while others are less formal and meet in participants’ homes.

Research has shown that job clubs can help people:

  • Feel less alone
  • Boost their confidence
  • Accelerate their job search
  • Talk about their feelings so they don’t bottle them up
  • Share strategies for finding a job that’s a good fit
  • Discuss the ups and downs of their search
  • Fine tune their resumes and interviewing skills
  • Celebrate their successes
  • Stay on track
  • Be accountable when it comes to networking and applying for jobs

If you’re interested in joining a job club, here are some suggestions for finding one that’s a good fit for you:

  • Check your local newspaper for listings in the business section
  • Visit your local library, which may offer job clubs as well as workshops on resume writing and interviewing
  • Look for notices in your community newspaper’s calendar of events
  • Check out Waggleforce.com, an organization dedicated to helping people get back to work, through the power of career clubs: http://www.waggleforce.com/
  • Google “job clubs” and add the city in which you reside
  • Get in touch with outplacement firms, which may sponsor job clubs or be able to refer you to groups in your area

How has a job club been helpful, or not so helpful as you’ve looked for a new position?

What limiting beliefs do you have that might prevent you from joining a career club?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with a challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/yc7meqo to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

* The name of my client was changed to protect her identity.

You CAN Transcend Anything!

Monday, February 8, 2010 11:08

By Ellen Brown

Although the conversation took place more than a decade ago, I remember it like it happened yesterday. I was slumped on the sofa in my therapist’s office, telling her about my latest and most horrifying memory of child sexual abuse that had bubbled up. And suddenly I couldn’t stop sobbing. I mean, I literally couldn’t catch my breath, because I was crying so hard.

The message that kept looping through my mind was “I can’t deal with this. I’m never going to get over this.” This new memory of abuse, which I won’t describe here, had been the goriest by far, and I truly couldn’t see a way through the pain to the other side. I felt like a caged tiger. Unable to escape the pain.

After sobbing my way through several tissues, I took a deep breath and glanced over at my therapist, Susan, who was inching her chair closer to mine. When she was so close that our knees were almost touching, she said to me, in the most lovingly powerful way, “You WILL heal. You WILL get through this.”

“How do you know?” I demanded. “You can’t know that for sure?”

“I can feel it in the depths of me,” she said, holding my gaze. “I can feel it in my bones. I can see it happening.”

Maybe I was desperate. Maybe I was naïve. Maybe I simply needed to hear what she was saying. But I believed her. Immediately and whole-heartedly.

Susan was right. I did find a way through my pain to the other side. I DID heal and transcend the abuse.

Sometimes, when we are thrashing around in deep water, we can’t imagine how we will possibly make it to the shore. And we need to be in the presence of someone who can believe in us until we can believe in ourselves.  Susan was that person for me, through some of my darkest times.

Today, as a life transitions coach, I am honored to be that someone for MY clients. I truly believe that with the right support and the right tools, we CAN transcend anything we’re facing!

Are you a survivor in the advanced stages of healing who like to thrive rather than just survive? Or could you use some support as you are navigating another difficult life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website to learn more about my coaching services or to sign up for a coaching package that’s right for you: http://www.wellnessjourneys.com/blog/life-transitions-coaching/

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach in Cleveland, Ohio who works with clients, by phone, all over the country, to help them overcome their challenges with courage, hope and optimism.

Meditation: It Can Carry You Through Life’s Toughest Transitions

Monday, January 25, 2010 11:46

By Ellen Brown

As I often tell clients and friends (and anyone else who will listen), meditation can help us weather some of life’s toughest storms. While it’s hardly a magic bullet, meditation can help us feel more relaxed and peaceful, and medical studies have suggested that such practices may lessen anxiety, depression, and insomnia, which many of us experience during difficult times.

I, personally, don’t know where I’d be without meditation. It’s one of those practices I’ve been committed to for years, and I can’t imagine giving it up.

A few months ago, my meditation practice was a God send, when I was watching my beloved father-in-law, John, who had Alzheimer’s disease and terminal cancer, slip away a little bit more each day. Every day when my husband and I returned from visiting John at the nursing home, it was so comforting to pull up my meditation cushion and just sit, watching my thoughts drift by like clouds in the sky.

On some days, my experience wasn’t quite that serene. But I did my best to accept what was happening and allowed myself to be with whatever feelings emerged … And while my meditations didn’t change the fact that John was dying or in pain sometimes, my daily practice helped ease MY pain.

If you’re interested in meditation but believe it’s too time consuming or difficult, not to worry. Meditation doesn’t have to be about sitting on a cushion for hours on end. You can decide how much time to devote to the practice, whether that’s five minutes or an hour. And you can even sit in a chair, if you find it more comfortable than a cushion.

Meditation can take many forms, including:

  • Auditory meditations, involving music or guided meditation
  • Visual meditations, which may involve the creation of mandalas or other works of art
  • Traditional forms that involve sitting still with your eyes closed and following your breath or observing your thoughts, without judgment, as they pass through your mind
  • Moving meditations such as yoga, dance or walking

One of my favorite books on the topic of meditation is Kat Tansey’s Choosing to Be. This beautifully written book revolves around a wise Maine Coon cat, his kitten muse, and author Kat Tansey, who take the reader on a challenging and often times amusing journey from the disorienting haze of depression to the freedom and clarity of Buddha mind. I often recommend the book to my coaching clients who are dealing with difficult life transitions, because it’s inspiring and lightened with humor and reminds us that we have the power and strength to transcend whatever we’re facing.

So, how has meditation helped YOU, as you’ve dealt with a difficult life transition, or how do you think it COULD help?

What kind of beliefs do you have about meditation that may be preventing you from giving it a try?

What are your favorite books (or audio resources) on meditation?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with a challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/yc7meqo to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

Dealing with Job Loss, Divorce, Child Sexual Abuse, or Loss of a Loved One? Seek Out Inspiring People and Resources

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 17:13

By Ellen Brown

Years, ago, when I was healing from child sexual abuse, I found it SO important to be around people (and books and movies) who could inspire me, as I traveled the journey from victim to survivor (ultimately becoming a thriver). Because navigating that transition could be grueling, and sometimes, I’d wonder whether I’d make it through the darkness and into the light. But when I met other survivors and read books about people who had traveled similar paths, I felt hopeful that I, too, would heal.

Back then, one of the people who inspired me the most was my therapist, Susan, who became a counselor, after transcending her own abuse. While she never talked about what had happened to her (thank goodness!), it gave me great strength to know that she had healed and been able to help other survivors like me. She had made it through the storm, and that gave me great hope. Because if she made it through the storm, then maybe I could too!

During that time, I also read a number of inspirational books by survivors who had overcome abuse, as well as the proverbial bible for survivors of child sexual abuse: The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. That book, which was an emblem of hope and healing for me, offered a plethora of healing exercises, as well as numerous examples of people who had overcome their abuse. The authors, themselves, who are both survivors, were also a great source of inspiration. Though I never met them, I felt inexplicably connected with them, as I made my way through their 600-page tome. Sometimes, it seemed as though they were right there beside me, cheering me on, saying “you can do it, girlfriend: keep going. Don’t let anyone stop you.”

At that time, there were only a couple of websites you could visit to commiserate with other survivors, but today there are tons of online resources for people dealing with abuse and any other transition imaginable.

Today, as a coach, I encourage my clients to seek out an extra dose of inspiration, whether they are healing from child sexual abuse, dealing with the loss of a loved one, or navigating any other challenging life transition. While I certainly provide them with plenty of encouragement, as their coach, I believe there’s no such thing as too much inspiration!

Below is a short list of inspirational resources (listed by transitions) I often recommend to clients who are dealing with difficult transitions. But please don’t be limited by this list.  Explore the Internet and your local library and bookstores to find some resources that resonate with you.

Inspirational Resources

Transcending Childhood Abuse

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, By Laura Davis and Ellen Bass. (See description above).

I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Featuring a number of moving testimonies by survivors of child sexual abuse—edited  by Ellen Bass, co-author of The Courage to Heal.

Freedom’s Just Another Word, By Dan L. Hays – An inspiring memoir, set in Houston, Texas in 1987, about healing, hope, and forgiveness in the wake of hismemories of childhood abuse.

Minute to Freedom: http://www.radiokevin.com/minutetofreedom.htm – One minute audio segments by author and speaker Dan L. Hays that help people transcend their difficult childhoods, one minute at a time.

Dealing with Illness and Healing

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, By Matthew Sanford – An inspiring story about hope and healing that chronicles the journey of Matthew  Sanford — from when he awakens in the intensive care unit of a hospital after a car accident that killed his father and sister —  to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization.

Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master, By Kat Tansey – A wonderfully inspiring book that revolves around a wise Maine Coon cat named Poohbear Degoonacoon, his kitten muse Catzenbear, and author Kat Tansey, as they take the reader on a challenging and oft times amusing journey from the disorienting haze of depression to the freedom and clarity of Buddha mind.

Insomnia Relief Recipes, By Kat Tansey http://www.insomniareliefrecipes.com/

This unique sleep program, created by Kat Tansey, is the result of the author’s personal quest to overcome insomnia. After spending many months researching the roots of insomnia and the nature of sleep, she was able to create her own unique recipe for regaining her confidence and learning how to get the restful, restorative sleep she needed, no matter what the circumstances. After realizing how pervasive insomnia truly is, she decided to develop Insomnia Relief Recipes to help others get a good night’s sleep. She used everything she learned from her research to put together a comprehensive program, complete with audios and videos, that will help you create your own, customized Insomnia Relief Recipe.

ShareWIK: http://www.sharewik.com –- A warm and inspiring online community in which experts dispense information about health and healing, regular columnists share their experience and knowledge, and people on the path to wellness gather to share what they know.

Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One

From Heartbreak to Happiness, By Aurora Winter – An intimate diary that reveals a single mother’s journey of tragedy and triumph after the sudden death of her 33-year-old husband.

The Year of Magical Thinking, By Joan Didion –  Author Joan Didion chronicles the year following the death of her beloved husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, from a massive heart attack in 2003, while the couple’s only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. While some may find this book less than inspiring, because of its rawness, I found it particularly inspiring and cathartic.

The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death Divorce, and Other Losses, By John W. James and Russell Friedman – A wonderful guidebook to help you navigate your loss and make you realize that time does NOT heal all wounds, but that healing is possible, if you take the necessary action. The book was inspired by the authors’ personal losses.

General Inspiration

Inspiremetoday.com, By Gail Goodwin: http://www.inspiremetoday.com - – Free daily inspiration, designed to remind you that you have the power to create anything in your life you desire. A great way to start your day.

E-couragement,– Daily encouragement delivered to your email inbox by Thomas Waterhouse, a counselor in Tampa Bay, Florida, who believes that “Hearts filled with courage can rise to any challenge.” Sign up here: http://www.simpleencouragement.com/eCouragements

SO who or what inspires you the most?

What are your favorite inspirational books, movies or websites, and why?

Are you dealing with a challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/yc7meqo to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH.

Note: This was the second in a series of posts on inspiration. In my first post, I talked about the importance of surrounding yourself with inspiring, positive messages during difficult life transitions. And today, as promised, I discussed some other types of inspiration, designed to provide you with hope as you travel this new life passage.

The Power of Inspirational Quotes: Positive Messages to Carry you Through your Challenging Life Transitions

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 8:37
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen Brown

When I’m dealing with a life challenge, whether it’s transitioning into a new career or dealing with a loved one who has a serious illness, it’s so important for me to surround myself with great sources of inspiration. And I guess I’m not alone, because many of my clients say they reach for a little inspiration, to lift them up out of the muck, when they’re facing tough times.

While there are many different sources of inspiration (I’ll discuss some others in my next post), to choose from, I’m a big believer in inspirational quotes, because they offer us comfort and hope. Many of my clients say they like to hang inspirational quotes around their homes during difficult times, because the sayings fuel them with positive, rather than negative, energy.

One of my favorite quotes is simply this: “this too shall pass.” Why? Because so often, when we’re dealing with a tough situation, we feel sad or depressed. And sometimes our depression or hopelessness is exacerbated by negative thinking. We may tell ourselves that what we’re facing will never get better. But that simply isn’t true, because change is inevitable, and nothing stays the same forever, whether that’s our health or our relationships or our jobs or our feelings.

So, if you’re dealing with job loss or the loss of a loved one or a parent who has Alzheimer’s Disease, or any type of life challenge, consider searching out some inspirational quotes. While they’re hardly a panacea, they may just provide you with the boost you need.

Listed below are some inspirational quotes that I find helpful when dealing with adversity, as well as some websites that feature inspirational quotes on a variety of topics. Try posting your inspirational quotes in conspicuous places around your home. And see if they don’t offer you a little lift when you’re feeling down.

Some of My Favorite Inspirational Quotes

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” –- Moliere

Happiness doesn’t depend on what we have, but it does depend on how we feel toward what we have.” — William Dempster Hoard

All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune. — Henry David Thoreau

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. –Rabindranath Tagore

Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart. — Myla Kabat-Zinn

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. — Kenji Miyazawa

The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it. — Rona Barrett

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. –- Rilke

God brings men into deep waters, not to drown them, but to cleanse them. –John Aughey

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” — Confucius

Possible Sources for Inspirational Quotes

The Quote Garden

http://www.quotegarden.com/

Inspiration for Change

http://www.heartsandminds.org/quotes/quotes.htm

The Quotations Page

http://www.quotationspage.com/subjects/

Thinkexist.com

http://en.thinkexist.com/topics/

So what are YOUR favorite inspirational quotes?

How have inspirational quotes helped you as you’ve moved through difficult life challenges?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones (scroll down to the bottom of the post).

Are you dealing with a challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/yc7meqo to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Note: in my next blog post, I will look at other sources of inspiration that can help propel you forward on your life journey.

Dealing with Divorce? Transitioning into a New Career? What Will You Let Go of This Year to Create a New Beginning?

Friday, January 1, 2010 12:10

By Ellen Brown

I’ve always loved New Year’s Day because it feels like anything is possible because we’re wiping the slate clean or re-setting the big clock, so to speak. Sure, it’s purely psychological, but if it works, who cares?

Still, if we’re dealing with a life transition and want to create a new beginning this year, we always need to let go of something. This is true, whether we lost a loved one or a job, or whether we are transitioning into a new career.

The good news is that the New Year is a perfect time for us to let go of whatever it is that’s no longer serving us, because we’re often more motivated to change.

So the question is this: on this first day of the New Year, what do you need to let go of in order to make that transition?

Not to worry. There is no “right answer.” But here are some examples of what I’m talking about. If you’re transitioning into a new career, for example, you may have to let go of your old identity as an attorney, if your goal, instead, is to become a fulltime writer. Or if you’re going through a divorce, you’ll have to explore who you are in the world, as a single person.

Letting go of that special something isn’t always easy. But I know you can transcend whatever you’re dealing with, with the right support and tools! As a life transitions coach, I’ve seen clients do so time and time again — shedding old beliefs and identities that no longer serve them, so they can create new beginnings.

So, what do YOU need to let go of this year so you can create a new beginning?

And what’s the toughest thing about letting go?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones (scroll down to the bottom of the post).

Are you dealing with a challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/yc7meqo to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Accelerate Your Recovery from Loss: Healing Doesn’t Have to Take As Much Time As You Think

Monday, December 28, 2009 13:01
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen Brown

If you’ve ever lost a loved one or even a job, someone has probably told you, with the best of intentions, to “just give it time.”

The only problem is that that statement simply isn’t true. “It’s one of those falsehoods that’s been passed down from generation to generation by ill-informed people,” say John W. James and Frank Cherry, authors of  The Grief Recovery Handbook: A Step-by-Step Program for Moving Beyond Loss.

The truth is time alone doesn’t heal anything. I mean, think about it. When you break your leg, does your doctor say “Just go home and give it time. Time heals all wounds.” I certainly hope not, and if so, I’d advise you to run, I mean hobble, to another doctor, who will actually mend your broken limb.

One of the reasons we often tell people who are dealing with loss that “it will just take time” or “time heals all wounds” is that we don’t know what else to say or what other options to offer. As a result, some people wait around for years, hoping one day they’ll magically feel better.

In The Grief Recovery Handbook, James and Cherry say they sometimes ask participants at their seminars whether anyone is still feeling the pain caused by the death of a loved one 20 or more years ago, and many people say they still are, in fact, adversely affected by their loss.

While you may be inclined to dismiss those reports as purely anecdotal, studies have shown that people typically suffer from their loss for many years. Through his extensive research, psychologist Edward Diener found that it often takes widows between five and eight years to regain their previous sense of wellbeing. Similarly, those who lose their jobs often suffer the effects of their loss long after they return to the working world, according to Dr. Diener, the Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois.

I don’t know about you, but 20 years, or even five to eight years, sounds like a long time to wait. When we tell people to “just give it time,” we’re actually inviting them to wait for a day may never come.

The good news is that there IS, in fact, something you can do to deal with your loss and accelerate your healing. And it doesn’t have to take 20 years or even half a decade. Though everyone is different, it can take as little as several months (depending on your circumstances) to move through your loss, if you are actively working the process with a life transitions coach.

As a life transitions coach, I help clients:

  • Express their feelings, so they can grieve their losses
  • Explore the ups and downs of their relationship with the person or job they lost so they can see their circumstances more objectively
  • Look at the unfinished business they had with the person who passed away (or a colleague who fired them)
  • Find a way to bring closure to the situation, even if they can no longer speak with that person
  • Look at the lessons they learned from the relationship or job and how the lessons caused them to grow
  • Explore what they DO have to be grateful for in their current lives
  • Consider how they can use the lessons they learned in the next chapter of their life
  • Transform their lives, so they are thriving, rather than “surviving”
  • Move beyond their loss to a new beginning

When I help clients work through these steps (not that it’s a linear process), it accelerates the healing process, because instead of waiting for time to pass, they are taking action designed to promote their healing. This process helps people move into the next phase of their lives in a way that is more hopeful and less fearful, allowing them to open to life’s limitless possibilities instead of bracing against the danger of being hurt again.

So what are your thoughts about the phrase “just give it time?”

In the past, how long has it taken you to move through a difficult loss?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment here on Stepping Stones (scroll down to the bottom of the post).

Are you dealing with a recent loss? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/yc7meqo to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Why in the World I Transitioned into Coaching

Monday, December 21, 2009 8:10
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen H. Brown

Note: People often ask me why I decided to become a life transitions coach, after working as a writer for more than 25 years, so I decided to share the story behind my transition with you in today’s post.

Several years ago, when I decided to become a life transitions coach, many people wondered what in the world I was doing, and I suppose, their confusion was understandable. After all, I had worked as a writer for my entire life and was running a successful business, as a writer, specializing in health and wellness.

So what was up with becoming a coach, they wondered. Or, as one of my writer friends so lovingly put it, “Did you just wake up one day and decide you wanted to be a life coach, or what?”

Uh, not exactly.  My journey actually unfolded over the course of more than a decade, and was anything but a passing fancy.

My Journey Into the Dark and Murky Underworld

It all began about 11 years ago, when I was working as a home-based writer, and memories of sexual abuse and rape suddenly began flooding my consciousness. It was a good thing I was self employed, at the time,because what happened over the course of the next few years sent me spiraling out of control.

In the beginning, I experienced intense flashbacks and body memories, which forced me to re-live the abuse that occurred when I was young. At times, I was blind-sided  by waves of physical and emotional pain.

At first, I couldn’t believe what was happening to me, and I wondered how I could have forgotten these brutal acts and why I hadn’t remembered them before.

For awhile, I hoped and prayed I was inventing these horrifying images. That the physical pain I was feeling was fake. That I was creating a fantasy.  Because that was more comforting than believing that the people I trusted had betrayed me. But the more I resisted, the more the memories persisted. On and on, like a never-ending nightmare.

The good news is that when I finally allowed myself to believe the memories were true, the flashbacks and body memories tapered off and eventually stopped.  But there was still plenty to overcome. Over the course of the next several years, I did a great deal of healing, in therapy and support groups and with the help of my wonderfully loving husband, Jeff and some supportive survivor friends.

Dealing with Abuse Takes Time, But How Much Time?

They say that dealing with child abuse or any difficult loss takes time, and that’s true. But in my opinion, it doesn’t need to take THAT much time, and sometimes, if you’re not careful, it can take a lifetime to move beyond the pain. One day, I realized that my life was slipping away, and I had allowed my entire identity to become tied up in being a “survivor.”

At that point, I realized I had a choice. I could continue to wear my “survivor label” like a badge of honor and blame others for what I didn’t like about my life. Or I could take responsibility for my life, and realize that my past didn’t have to define me. Yes, I was a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, but I was so much MORE than that. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to THRIVE!

It was probably no coincidence that I began exploring my spirituality at this same time. I had never been religious, (and I’m still not) but suddenly I wanted to believe that all these memories had bubbled up for a reason, that there WAS, in fact, some divine plan. That something good would come of these heart-wrenching revelations.

Transcending My Past and Helping Others Thrive

Over the next couple years, I traveled on a spiritual journey of faith and forgiveness that transformed my life. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, the abuse I experienced taught me an important lesson: that I possess an amazing strength and compassion that can never be broken, a powerful spirit that can never be extinguished. Painful though they were, those experiences shaped me into the strong, compassionate woman I am today.

My spiritual journey ultimately led me to the realization that I could make a difference in the lives of people who have faced adversity, including survivors of abuse. Though it took me awhile to decide what form that might take, I finally decided to become a coach, because I wanted to help people move forward rather than taking them back to the past to explore their wounds.

After graduating from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland’s 18-month-long Gestalt Training Program and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, (an ICF-accredited program) I became a certified professional coach.

Today, as a life transitions coach, I am honored to help clients navigate challenging life transitions such as job loss and the loss of a loved one (and the transition from survivor to thriver) with courage, hope and optimism, so they can create the lives they truly desire.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dealing with Loss: Helping people express their feeling so they don't explode

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:53
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen H. Brown

If you have a friend or colleague who recently lost their job or is dealing with the loss of a loved one, do you listen when they talk about their feelings? Or do you quickly change the subject? I ask you this because in our culture, grief makes many people feel uncomfortable. And many of us don’t know what to say when people express their sadness or anger.

Recently, one of my clients told me an all too common story about the way people deal with sadness. While she was having lunch with one of her closest friends and telling her how hard it was to celebrate the holidays without her Dad, who had died a couple months earlier, her friend — instead of listening — abruptly changed the subject. My client felt angry and confused, and wanted to say something to her friend about how she felt, but didn’t want to “sound like a crybaby.”

My intent is not to judge people for the way they react to grief, but to encourage us to explore new options that allow our loved ones to feel heard and understood, by allowing them to express their feelings rather than shutting them down.

If you’re wondering why it’s important to express your feelings, here’s what the authors of the Grief Recovery Handbook have to say on the subject:  “When we bottle up feelings caused by loss, it is the same as starting the timer of a time bomb. In the beginning the bomb ticks softly. The ticks represent problems, which are experienced by grievers who don’t know how to successfully grieve. It’s as if each one of these signs of trouble are ticks of the bomb progressively getting closer to exploding.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m in favor of dismantling the “bomb” by helping people release their feelings, rather than waiting for the bomb to explode.

So, what can we say that allows people to open up rather than closing down? Here are some possible words to consider using, if someone is dealing with a recent loss:

  • How are you doing since (fill in the name of the loved one) died or since you lost your job?
  • If you want to talk, I’m interested in listening.
  • I can’t imagine what you must be going through.
  • I know this has been a difficult time for you (only say this if you know that that’s the case).
  • I’m here for you, if you want to talk about it.

Sometimes, when a friend tells you she’s having a hard time dealing with her loss, simply saying “I’m so sorry” can give her the space to talk about what she’s experiencing. But the trick is to give her the space and listen, without saying something that presumes you DO know how she’s feeling, or how she should feel. While I know that many of us are trying to make the person who is grieving feel better, by saying things like “you should feel grateful because he’s in a better place,” these phrases often shut the person down, making him believe that his feelings are wrong, or worse yet, that it isn’t okay for him to talk about his feelings.

Since many of us have trouble dealing with death or any kind of loss, and have misguided beliefs about grieving and how long it should take, we can’t expect ourselves to become experts at supporting people overnight. But if we are willing to sit with our own uncomfortable feelings when we witness deep emotion in our loved ones, we have a better chance of helping them heal.

How do you respond when people start discussing a recent loss in their life?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment (by scrolling down) here on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with a recent loss or struggling with another life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/npmube to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Losing a Loved One: Taking the Time You Need to Grieve and Remember

Monday, November 30, 2009 9:19
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen H. Brown

When someone you love dies, do you take the time you need to grieve? In our crazy, busy culture, which encourages us to  quickly “move on” after we lose someone, it can be challenging to take the time to grieve our losses.

But I’m grateful that I took the time I needed to heal when my beloved father-in-law, John, passed away, a few weeks ago. While his death was no surprise since he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a number of years, it still hit me hard.

John was like a Dad to me, which was no small thing since I’d lost my own Dad 24 years ago to Lymphoma. When Jeff and I got married, I felt blessed to have John in my life. He was one of the most loving, giving, unpretentious people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. And my love and respect for him only grew over the 16 years he graced my life. Though I’m glad he’s finally at peace, after all the suffering he’d endured over the past few years, there is still that void, that emptiness …

A couple weeks ago, in the middle of teary period, I caught myself saying to myself “you shouldn’t feel this way. He was JUST your father-in-law.” But my husband reminded me of how close John and I had become and how deeply we cared for one another, and how it made perfect sense that I was so sad.

Instead of trying to paste a smile on my face and pretending everything was okay, I decided to honor my feelings. I called my clients, explained my situation and cleared away some time to “be” with my feelings and prepare for John’s memorial.

Over the next five days, we looked through a lifetime of photos and memorabilia of John to feature in a slideshow and a display table for the memorial, put together some music to accompany the slideshow, and got together with relatives from the East and West Coasts, who we hadn’t seen in ages.

Though the activities, themselves, were nothing out of the ordinary, the process was extraordinarily healing. There is something about paging through almost 86 years worth of memories and cradling your loved one’s baby shoes in your hands, that puts things in perspective. There is something healing about watching a person’s life advance and recede, like the rhythms of nature, the changing of seasons we witness every year, from spring to summer to autumn and winter, a pattern that makes natural sense.

Participating in these healing rituals made me remember other times in my life when I hadn’t taken the time to grieve for important people in my life like my own Dad. When he passed away, after a five year battle with cancer, I took the three allowed “bereavement days” and returned to work. I’ll never forget those first days back at the office. Feeling empty and raw. I was “there” in body, but certainly not in mind and spirit.

Then one of my co-workers had the gall to say to me, “I’ll never understand why people have to take a full three days off when someone dies.”  His caustic words epitomize our culture’s disdain for grieving and sadness and red-rimmed eyes.

I hope one day we will, as a culture, provide us with the time and space we need to grieve our losses and honor the memories of the loved ones we’ve lost. Because when we honor our feelings and let them flow through us instead of erecting an emotional dam, we truly allow ourselves to heal and move on.

If you’ve experienced any sort of loss in your life – whether you were laid off from a job, diagnosed with a serious illness or got divorced, I encourage you to take the time you need to grieve your losses.

When you’ve lost someone you love, have you taken the time to grieve your loss?

What sorts of rituals have helped you move beyond your loss?

What stops you from taking the time you need to heal?

What do you think you miss out on when you “move on” too quickly?

Has there ever been a time in your life when you got stuck in the grief after you lost a loved one? What kept you stuck?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment (by scrolling down) here on Stepping Stones.

Are you dealing with a serious illness or the death of a loved one? Or are you struggling with another life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at http://tinyurl.com/npmube to sign up for an introductory session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, Ohio.