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CBT Techniques (1)

Labelling emotions and thoughts can help; try putting words to what you're feeling and thinking.

During the first months and years you are facing a catastrophic loss; an event that has shaken the very foundations and core of your world.

CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is a way of helping us make sense of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and how these all interact with one another.

You will be experiencing many possible emotions underlying the initial shock, and these will be seeping into your conscious and unconscious awareness. You may find that you alternate between shock and numbness, feeling quite cut-off from everything, and a raw, excruciating grief that assaults your mind and body, leaving you spent and exhausted at the bottom of the black hole. This is part of what is called the Dual Process Model of Grief

developed by Stroebe and Schut in 1999, which suggests that during grief it is absolutely normal and healthy to oscillate between these two states, which they call Loss Orientation and Restoration Orientation.

Realising this really helped me, because it gave me some understanding of what was happening to me in a way that made rational sense. Before I heard of this process I was afraid that I was somehow not "grieving normally" (whatever that means) and therefore I would not cope (whatever that means). Like most bereaved parents at some point, I was absolutely terrified that I was going to lose the plot, go mad, lose my mind. Knowing that it was normal, even to be expected that I could be apparently normal one minute and sucked into a raging tsunami the next, gave me reassurance and comfort.

Other people have been here before me; I am not alone; its a recognised phenomenon.

When you've survived one of the raw grief onslaughts, if you feel able, try to put some names to what you feel/felt, and some words to all the stuff that's going through your mind. Naming our emotions and cognitions can help reduce their intensity and rob them of some of their power, maybe even help us to feel a tiny bit more in control.

For example, some of the emotions I identified early on were:

Labelling the emotional pain of loss

And some of my earliest thoughts were:

Describing thoughts in the pain of loss

What emotions and thoughts can you identify at this time?

Try writing them down, then come back to them a little later. Have they changed at all? Which are the ones that dominate for you?

Going through a traumatic event can mean that our minds and bodies keep re-experiencing what has happened to us, particularly during the first months. Putting words to what we are feeling can help us to assimilate and eventually accommodate our experience.

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