Episode 25: A World of Grief – In Conversation with Dr. Aoife Earls

Many of us are in a state of grieving right now for: the life that we once knew; the loss of a loved one; the loss of a job; a lack of social connection; the end to a relationship; unrequited love… the list goes on and on. Today’s episode will open your eyes up to: the purpose of grieving; different types of grief; how to practice self-compassion; and how to embrace your own, individual grieving process. Dr. Aoife also shares some valuable tips on how to work through your grief using; rituals, physical movement, mementos, and by allowing yourself to find joy and new meaning during the process.

Dr. Toni talks all about grief with Dr. Aoife Earls, a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Oakville, Ontario. Dr. Aoife has gone through her own, personal grieving process and has extensive undergraduate training in psychology and biology and postgraduate training in psychoneuroimmunology. 

In this episode, we cover:

  • Why you grieve to help your brain feel safe when you lose someone or something you feel attached to
  • Different types of grief you might be experiencing right now
    • Bereavement – death of a loved one
    • Collective – understanding of how we think the world should work
    • Ambiguous – leaving without saying goodbye or closure, for example with divorce, natural disasters like pandemic, losing relationships with co-workers after being laid off
    • Anticipatory – when a loved one is seriously or terminally ill
  • How your mind processes emotions in a non-linear way and grief can show up in different ways years after a loss
  • The difference between people who get stuck in their grieving process and people who move on with health (hint: it’s self-compassion, which includes self-love and self-care)
  • Different ways people experience grief, including
    • Feeling numb, anger, rage, sorrow, fear, despair
    • Needing connection vs. needing space
  • Rituals you can use to integrate grief and loss to: release, say goodbye, honour yourself and create a new story about yourself. Some rituals include:
    • Journaling and destroying your writing by ripping it up and flushing it down the toilet or burning it with fire
    • Meditation
    • Washing your hands
    • Taking a shower
    • Connecting with others online or outside with physical distancing during the pandemic
  • How grief acts like a stressor or fearful problem in the amygdala of your brain that creates physical symptoms
    • During the first 6 months of grief, there is a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone, resulting in:
      • The need to pull back to nurture
      • An Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
      • A heightened risk of heart attacks or other cardiovascularproblems
      • A weakened immune system
      • Digestive issues such as nausea and IBS
      • Headaches and body pain
      • Changes to your sleep, energy, mood and memory
  • How suppressed emotions from trauma and grief can get stuck in your physical body and that you may need to process and release them, physically (see the work of Peter Levine)
  • How connecting to genuine joy and finding a new meaning after loss is a step in the right direction and not something you need to feel guilty about
  • How experiencing joy and laughter shuts down sadness and activates the nervous system to rest and rejuvenate, creating more resilience and opportunity for healing
  • Why using mementos can help to: heal your brain; integrate the old you with the new you; and support a continued connection to your loved one or past life
  • How cortisol can impact your other hormones resulting in:
    • Sudden hormonal changes, such as triggering perimenopause or menopause
    • Night sweats and hot flashes
    • Shorter menstrual cycles and wonky periods
    • Weight gain

“Grief is like a door. Once you go through it, you can’t go back”

Get in touch with Dr. Aoife on her website and on Instagram at @draoifend and Facebook @DrAoife ND 

You can find more about Dr. Aoife’s work with grief at http://www.adaptableu.life/

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Toni recommends Dr. Kristin Neff’s online self-compassion guided meditations and exercises.

Thank you for joining us today! 

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