Grieving and Facing the Holidays

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and memories, and they always have been for Eleen and me. But the 2008 holiday is the first Christmas we are facing after our son Colin died and the third after our son Richard died. We both admit to apprehensiveness as the holidays gets closer.

There is no doubt the holidays can cause stress for the bereaved, and can often take the joy out of the season. The following article, “Important Tips for Managing the Holidays for the Bereaved,” was written by Gloria Lintermans and Marilyn Stolzman. They sent it to me just after Richard died two years ago and gave me permission to republish here. Their article gives useful tips on learning how to enjoy the holidays again. Thank you Gloria and Marilyn.

On a personal note, this year we are combining Tip 1, CREATE A NEW HOLIDAY RITUAL, with Tip 8, FAMILY AND FRIENDS: our son Ian from Ontario will be spending Christmas with us. It will be his first visit to the West.

I wish you all a holiday time filled with love and light.

Dr. Neill Neill

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What Is Energy Healing Psychology?

healing handAlternative medicine is very popular right now. In the world of psychology there is also an alternative medicine. This is using energy healing called Energy Psychology.  

Energy psychology, simply put, is a broad spectrum of psychological approaches involving the human energy system in healing.
You are already familiar with the human energy system:
  • Someone enters your space and you sense their presence. They have penetrated your bio-field, your aura.
  • You have a persistent craving and your doctor recommends acupuncture. The acupuncturist inserts tiny needles in certain places to unblock the “flow” of energy in your body. He or she has addressed the meridian system of subtle energy in your body.
  • You place your hand in the middle of your chest as you offer condolences to a friend who has lost a love one. You are instinctively using one of your body’s energy centres or hotspots. They are part of the body’s chakra system.
 The range of techniques within the field of energy psychology continues to grow. There are Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT), Healing from the Body Level Up (HBLU) and Be Set Free Fast (BSFF). I have had the privilege of training with all but one of the originators of these methods.
An energy psychologist is someone who is already proficient in helping clients deal with emotional problems, but has added skills in energy psychology to his or her toolbox.
Unlike talk therapy alone, energy psychology addresses the client’s subtle energy system. Unlike other energy practices such as Qigong or Reiki, energy psychology can help treat a specific problem with laser-like precision.
What this means in practice is that if someone comes in with, for example,  an anxiety problem, the probability of successful treatment is much higher when energy psychology is incorporated into treatment. In 15 years of treating Post Traumatic Stress, I have found nothing better. I use it in treating clients with addictions. Some have overcome chronic unhappiness.
Furthermore, it is not only emotional problems that energy psychology can help with, but also marital problems, job performance and spiritual healing.
Eight years ago, there was little hard scientific evidence of its effectiveness. As the research evidence has accumulated, the field is attracting more attention.
Although not yet considered mainstream, energy psychology is now practiced worldwide. Groups of psychologists are working with the American Psychological Association (APA) towards establishing energy psychology as a Division of APA. That will be the turning point.
I view energy psychology as a cutting edge movement within the field, because its methods tend to require fewer sessions, cause less distress, allow a broader scope of application, are less intrusive, and best of all, can be learned as self-help tools. 

Energy psychology has proven to be the best of both worlds for my clients and me.

Alcohol as Self Medication following PTSD

traumatized widow

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that many people have suffered from at one time or another. If untreated,  PTSD can lead people to indulging in addictive behaviors.  For example, someone who was once a casual drinker may now have increased his alcohol consumption.

We hear all the time about soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Exposed to the horror of actual or threatened death or serious injury, they re-experience the trauma through not being able to stop thinking about it, flashbacks, nightmares or intense body reactions to certain situations. They report feeling numb, not interested in anything, depressed and having no sense of future. Symptoms may include difficulty sleeping, irritability and always being on guard. Many military and ex-military self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs and become addicted.

Recent research at McMaster University on trauma among Canadian civilians has confirmed what I and many other practitioners have known all along, that many people in the civilian population also suffer from post-traumatic stress. It is not just the veterans who get PTSD.

The researchers found that almost one in ten Canadians suffers post-traumatic stress some time in their lives. The researchers further estimate that 2.4 percent of us are suffering post-traumatic stress at any given time.

More that three quarters of the people who participated in the study reported experiencing at least one event that could cause PTSD; for example, sudden death of someone close, sexual assault or witnessing someone killed or badly injured.

Most people develop symptoms when traumatized, but for many people the trauma resolves and the symptoms disappear. For about nine percent of people, however, the symptoms they get after a traumatic experience continue. The trauma does not resolve by itself. They may require trauma-clearing therapy from an appropriate professional.

I was one of the many who self-medicated my trauma with alcohol.

People often increase their alcohol consumption to dull the symptoms of PTSD and eventually they become addicted. That was my route after I was separated from my children many years ago. Some go on disability for depression and anxiety. Some commit suicide. Marriages disintegrate.

Trauma is very common in life, and a number of factors increase the risk of the symptoms developing into full-blown PTSD. The severity of the trauma is a factor. For example, the death of your child would be more severe than the death of your cousin. Having previous trauma increases the risk of PTSD. Having good social supports reduces the risk.

Critical incident stress debriefing within a few days of a traumatic incident greatly reduces the risk of the symptoms growing into PTSD.

In my home province, Work Safe BC has a program of offering critical incident assessment and intervention free of charge to any BC business in which someone has been seriously injured or killed on the job, or put at risk of either.

I have personally taken part in a number of such interventions in the workplace. They work. Both individual and group debriefings reduce the risk of PTSD developing.

A bank is robbed. Six months later a loyal employee decides they made a poor career choice and quits. Some variety of this has happened so often that now the major banks have their own teams that automatically do an intervention after a robbery. It helps in heading off those potential losses of good employees.

I wonder how many more marriages would have survived the loss of a child, if families, family doctors, ministers and friends had engaged the parents in talking about the events of the death and their reactions. I wonder how many suicides might never have happened.  I wonder how many fewer functioning alcoholics there would be among us.