Understanding the challenges of expatriation for children

Looking at expat child, one may easily only look at the exciting lifestyles they are privileged to enjoy, jet setting around the world. However, we should not neglect the many difficulties that they could experience as a young person going through major developmental growth while experiencing important transitions. For a child, major changes in life could be overwhelming. 

Expat children have to navigate change as well as cultural integration whereby they have the first culture of their parents’ home country and the second or multiple cultures that they grew up in. One of the challenges they may face is that they are constantly adjusting their norms and social behaviour to adapt and maneuver around the new environment they live in. Expat children spend part of their identity formation years in a unique manner that is different from monoculture children. They may go through the important developmental stages navigating between cultures as they travel back and forth between their home country and that of the society they currently reside in. These children could be spending those important years feeling displaced in the new culture while attempting to construct their own identity. They require constant support and processing to successfully negotiate their way through these developmental stages and emotional stressors. 

One of the biggest challenges for these children comes in the forms of identity formation while dealing with the constant change that occurs in their lives during their developmental years.  This is especially troubling during the schooling years of age when peers start to become more important and the search for identity becomes central to their developmental growth. Moving across different cultures and living in an environment where one is faced with a change of cultures constantly, e.g. moving between cultures a few times a year as one travel back to forth to their home country to visit family during vacations as well as having friends who come and go, may makes it harder for the children to gain a stable sense of self or feel secured with the friends around them. Another area of challenge could be the issue of unresolved grief. In the life of expat children, they may encounter an unnaturally high amount of mobility compared to other children, either through their own transition or the coming and going of the people in their lives, especially that of friends within the international school circuit. With each act of leaving, either that of the child or of a friend, the child experiences multiple losses. When the child first leaves his or her home country, they experience the loss of the familiarity of their home which includes the neighbourhood they are used to, their favourite playground, the shops they go to all the time etc. In addition, they may also go through the loss of the people they had been close to outside of their immediate family; possibly grandparents, friends, nannies, babysitters, teachers and friends. If this grief is unresolved and ignored, the child may exhibit behaviour issues, being in denial or withdrawal or anger or rebellion; or in others, depression, vicarious grief or delayed grief.

Understanding the challenges and issues that expat children could face, it is important to look at how we could better support them. These support should be multi-facet and holistic involving the family and school. In some cases, help through a therapist or support group may facilitate the healing process.

A strong familial support is crucial. It is important for parents to understand the stressors that children would face in an international move and therefore be prepared to help their children work through these potential challenges. A strong and cohesive parental relationship as well as an empathetic parent-and-child relationship is essential. The child’s ability to manage the distress could be aided by a parent who is sensitive to meeting the child’s needs. Providing a stable and nurturing home environment provides for a sense of belonging to the child especially during the transitions. In addition, being present with the child, providing an empathetic listening ear as well as providing a healthy closure for losses would be helpful. Another important support should come from the school. In many cases, expat children would attend international schools in the country of expatriation. Educators and school counsellors could play an important role in helping the child process the loss as well as provide skills on emotion regulation through this high stressor experiences. Teachers could help notice change in behaviour such as a decline in grades, withdrawal from activities and friendships, increased absentism etc and provide timely support.

In some cases, parents may feel helpless to support their children when they themselves are overwhelmed with the relocation and are having difficulties settling down. In such cases, seeing a therapist may help the children work through the identity integration and resolution of grief, or help with emotion awareness, regulation and transformation. 

Written by:
Sandra Tan Lastennet
SACAC Counselling

Preparing for Parenthood: Why Counselling for Expectant Parents Matters

Being pregnant can be an exciting but also kind of scary time for couples. Nowadays, we have a lot of information available about pregnancy and parenting, but it can still be overwhelming. Amidst the excitement and anxiety, counselling for expectant parents emerges as a crucial resource, offering couples the opportunity to delve into their emotional odyssey, foster deeper connections, and understand how to be supportive partners in the marriage and family life journey. 

Here’s what you can expect from counselling for expectant parents: 

Understanding the Changes: Pregnancy brings both physical and emotional changes. Counselling helps you make sense of these changes, like how hormones can affect mom’s mood. This awareness helps couples navigate the emotional landscape with empathy and understanding.

Changing Roles: Parenthood often entails a shift in roles and responsibilities within a relationship. Counselling provides a platform to discuss and adapt to these changes. It encourages couples to redefine their roles as partners and parents, ensuring a harmonious balance. 

Family Backgrounds: Your own upbringing influences how you’ll parent. Counselling helps you to reflect on your distinct family backgrounds, recognizing how these influences might impact your parenting expectations and approaches. Open dialogue about these differences can lead to a harmonious parenting strategy. 

Getting Support: Raising a child is a team effort. Counselling helps you identify who’s on your team – like family, friends, or community resources. This support network can make the early days of parenthood a lot easier. 

Strengthening Your Relationship: A strong relationship is key to dealing with the challenges of parenthood. Counselling for expectant parents gives you tools to improve your connection. It helps you talk to each other, ask for help, and handle disagreements in a positive way. 

In today’s world, where there’s so much information and high expectations, counselling is like a guide. It helps you feel more ready for pregnancy and parenthood. By taking part in this process, you’re not only preparing for your new baby but also growing as a couple. It’s a way to boost your confidence and set the stage for a happy family life ahead.

Written by:
Elizabeth Pan
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
SACAC Counselling

Gratitude – Your Own Sunshine

Gratitude is strongly and resolutely associated with higher happiness. When we are grateful for the positive aspects of our lives we are less likely to focus on the areas wherein we may not be living up to our full potential. Gratitude encourages individuals to experience more positive emotions, enjoy good experiences, improve their health, cope with adversity and engage to build strong relationships. Benefits of practicing gratitude are in plenty, some them of them are listed below.

Emotional benefits

Expressing gratitude relieves stress, lessens anxiety, improves sleep, supports heart health. Gratitude helps individuals to regulate their emotions of fear, anger, disgust, guilt, loneliness, helplessness to name a few. Complaining and negative thoughts are mental habits. These habits involve ruminating over worries which get amplified by lamenting in discouraging thoughts. Individuals get stuck in the negativity and experience strong sense of hopelessness. It is helpful to try gratitude instead to break out of the cycle of complaining and negative thoughts. Gratitude can help individuals to control their reaction to negative thoughts. Adopting a daily gratitude practice is helpful. Individuals can improve their mood and there by boost positive emotions. Expressing gratitude helps us to target on positive attitudes which are uplifting. Grieving with gratitude helps individuals overcome remorse, unhappiness or sadness. Experiencing grief is distressing but by considering gratitude, individuals can see memories in positive light. We learn to appreciate what we have. 

Several studies have highlighted adopting gratitude as a daily practice enhances happiness. Research has shown individuals who feel grateful tend to display more positive feelings. Gratitude can help readjust your emotions and elevate your mindset.

Social benefits

Practicing gratitude helps improve relationships within family, with friends and at work. It can help you feel more connected with others.  According to a study, the receiver of gratitude projects “relational growth” with the other person expressing gratitude (Algoe et al., 2013, pp.605-609). It has been observed that the quality of relationships gets enhanced. Individuals within family, friends or colleagues’ bond better and picture others positively. Resolution of possible tricky issues can be initiated using gratitude as a springboard. Gratitude can make us feel more connected. Individuals can maintain strong bonds and help reduce feelings of loneliness. Individuals find it easy to reach out for social support and scale down emotions of disconnectedness. 

Few tips to adopt gratitude in our daily practice

Maintain a gratitude journal. Simply jotting down what you feel thankful for works wonderfully to uplift our spirit. Be in the present to notice and acknowledge joy. Practice kindness. Gratitude is a tool to use to help us to manage our emotions. The goal is to tap into ourselves to find our very own sunshine. 

Written by:
Vrushali Paradkar
SACAC Counselling

Managing Attention

In Psychology, attention refers to one’s ability to select and focus on relevant stimuli. Attention can be an element of concern for parents, when it comes to their children’s school performances, or for grown-up individuals, when they realize that they tend to be more distracted and unfocused than other people. When a diagnosis of a specific Attention Disorder is provided, the individual may benefit from the prescription of ad-hoc medications and/or from applying specific strategies.

However, if we consider ourselves ‘neurotypical’, we tend to underestimate how important attention is and how we can make an effective use of our focus in our everyday life. We often forget that – like any complex brain activity – attention consumes a considerable amount of mental resources, is finite, is influenced by mood and needs to be restored with time.

Often, to maximize our productivity, we may resort to ‘time management’, a series of strategies that can help direct our attention to the tasks that need to be done. However, we may discover that it is not enough to allocate time to each task in order to have things done properly. Sometimes we actually do not have the necessary focus to go through the whole list of tasks we planned so accurately. Some authors suggest that we should also look into what can be called ‘Attention Management’ (Thomas, 2019). This means that we need to understand better what attention is and how we can make a better use of this essential resource.

There are different types of attention and each of them serve different purposes. Selective Attention happens when we focus on a specific stimulus, like, when at the restaurant, we listen to our guest and ignore the background noise. Sustained Attention implies concentrating on a certain task for prolonged time. We do this whenever we watch a movie till the end. Alternate Attention is the ability of switching focus from one task to another. It happens when we listen to a lecture and we take notes at the same time.

In addition, some experts suggest that we can be in different mind dispositions or ‘modes’ in relation to how we pay attention to our environment. For example, we can be intentionally distracted – when we open our office computer and see what pops up from the various windows and applications; or we can be vaguely unfocused but ready to react – like the nonchalant security officer at the gate. We can be immersed ‘in the flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998) – like a pianist rehearsing his concert part. Or we can reach an enhanced state of mindfulness where we are fully present and in control of our focus – a doctor examining a patient, for example.

There is not much applied research about how to effectively manage attention, however, some basic strategies can be extremely helpful. 

To free our work environment from distractions is a golden rule. There are external distractions (things happening around us) and internal  distractions (our inner dialogue, thoughts about things happening in our life) (Goleman, 2015). It is important to learn how to keep at bay our hi-tech devices when we need heighted focus. Similarly, we can learn strategies to keep under control intrusive thoughts, ruminating habits, self-judgmental internal dialogue.

Taking breaks and breaking down tasks into smaller chunks help us get the most from our attention span and give time to our brain to recharge.  Sleep restores the brain energy and maintains its functionality. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve attention performances. 

We should avoid falling in the trap of multitasking. Multitasking, as we often intend it, is a myth and it is just an overuse of alternating attention. It impedes flow and sustained focus, and burns-out mental energy (Comer, 2022). 

At a more advanced level, we can commit to developing our mindfulness skills. Regular mindful exercises can considerably boost our focus and our ability to be present here and now when we most need it.


Brown, K.W. & Ryan, R.M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848. 

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1998). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life. Basic Books.

Comer , J. (2022) The fallacy of multitasking, Psychology Today

Dzubak, C. (2008) Multitasking: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown. The Online Journal of the Association for the Tutoring Profession, 1.

Goleman, D. (2015) Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. New York: Harper.

Rassovsky, Y. and Alfassi, T. (2019) ‘Attention improves during physical exercise in individuals with ADHD’, Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02747.

Schumann, F. et al. (2022) ‘Restoration of attention by rest in a multitasking world: Theory, methodology, and empirical evidence’, Frontiers in Psychology, 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.867978.

Thomas, M.N. (2019) Attention management: How to create success and gain productivity–every day. Naperville, IL: Simple Truths, an imprint of Sourcebooks. 

Written By:
Claudio Moroni
SACAC Counselling

Hardwired for Connection

Attachment science has found that the longing for a felt sense of connection is a primary need, especially when threatened. Isolation is inherently traumatizing. Many people experienced this during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Just as losing connection with loved ones is traumatizing, disconnection with ourselves is so too. 

Our survival-oriented response may kick in and when it does our higher brain functioning is no longer “online”. When it does, we often start reacting in ways that are familiar to us and provide relief in the short run. However, in the long run we become more disconnected from ourselves and our ability to give direction to our lives. 

“A felt sense of safe haven connection calms the nervous system and primes emotional balance” (Johnson & Campbell, 2022). From this secure base, one can actively explore and learn. The more securely attached a person is, the more autonomous one can be. Securely attached people tend to be more emotionally healthy and resourceful.  

Separation distress is what comes up when connection is lost. As a result, there may be protesting (in the form of anger), or clinging behaviour. And if an attachment figure does not engage, depression, despair and detachment may come up.

Key questions in love relationships are “Are you there for me?, Can I count on you?, and Do you feel for and with me?” When these needs are not met, a person can develop an insecure attachment strategy, of which there are three: anxious, avoidant or dismissing and fearful-avoidant. 

Our past experiences tend to shape how we experience the world and ourselves in it. Insecure attachment leads to mental health issues. We can continue to react in an automated way based on emotional experiences of the past. And continue to reshape the future on our model of the past. Or we can decide to free ourselves from the bonds of the past.

Through corrective emotional experiences a person can become securely attached and have lasting change. One can become more open, responsive and engaging with self and others. This will enable a person to better deal with existential life issues and feel more alive. 

The process of becoming more psychologically flexible means that one becomes less reactive to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. This enables a person to focus on what is more important and build a more rich and meaningful life. It entails that we become present thoughts and feelings that are alienated, frightening and acceptable within us, find rationality and order in it, not pathologize it. This process creates connections within a person that dissolves blocks and lets organic growth happen.

From that more secure base a person will experience the world with a greater sense of ease as the fight/flight response is not triggered. There is more resilience and sense of agency to give direction to one’s life. 


Johnson, S. M., & Campbell, T. L. (2022). A primer for emotionally focused individual therapy (EFIT): Cultivating Fitness and growth in every client. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/A-Primer-for-Emotionally-Focused-Individual-Therapy-EFIT-Cultivating/Johnson-Campbell/p/book/9780367548254

Written By:
Allard Mueller
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Can you rebuild trust in your relationship after cheating?

There are two answers to this question, the short answer is ‘yes’ and the long one is ‘it depends’.
Infidelity can leave the betrayed partner feeling more than just hurt. It can create the kind of uncertainty and anger that makes them wonder if the relationship is even worth saving.

The good news for couples who want to rebuild their relationship is that it’s still possible. The work involved won’t look the same for both partners. As the one whose actions broke the trust, the unfaithful partners will have to take responsibility for their behavior now and in the future. The betrayed partner has a lot to consider. Ultimately, the decision to repair a relationship will be left to them, but the unfaithful partner needs to want it too, as only they know what they feel about being cheated on and if they think there is room to grow together and rebuild a very different relationship.

Rebuilding trust after cheating is a long and difficult process that requires work from both partners. Even if it’s tough work, there are healthy ways to do it. Couples counseling exists precisely for those who want to save their relationships. That includes recovering from an affair. It has to be spelled out loud that without ending the affair, there’s no way to regain trust. Unfaithful partners need to be proactive so that the affair doesn’t cloud the relationship they’re trying to save. Remember that the discomfort they feel is likely amplified for the person on the receiving end.

The journey to rebuilding trust starts in how conversations on infidelity are handled and the sincerity the unfaithful partner brings. There’s no way around it – accountability for the unfaithful partner’s actions has to be taken. When spouses cheat, there’s often a temptation to blame their behavior on issues in the marriage, real or otherwise. The problem here isn’t that one felt neglected, unappreciated, or unloved. Those can be real issues, but the actions one decides to take as a result are still their own only.

Without taking responsibility, there’s no room to grow, change, or do better. It can be one of the hardest steps, but it’s always the first one partners need to take. Apologize without invalidating your partner’s feelings and concerns and pair your words with actions. It creates the space needed to have the tough conversations in a safe, open, and healthy environment. The focus has to be on transparency, and the cheated on partner may ask a lot of difficult questions during these conversations. Infidelity happens in secret by nature. It’s only possible when the other partner is kept in the dark. Rebuilding trust means illuminating the shadows

Healing from an affair isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to consume your relationship. Part of rebuilding trust means doing the things that bring you closer together. Spending time with each other outside of heavy conversations is a good thing. It helps you focus on what you still love about each other, and the things that brought you together in the first place. Dr. John Gottman focuses on actions rather than words because trust is more than believing your partner. Trust has to be proven in ways that feel concrete.

Couple counseling can help as betrayal isn’t easy to process. Learning to trust is exactly that: learning. It’s a slow and challenging process, but it is possible. Professional help can guide you on the best ways to do it, and give you the tools to heal.

Written By:
Laura Spalvieri
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Caregiver Stress – What is it and what can you do to help?

Taking care of an ageing parent, spouse, a sick relative or child is a responsibility many of us face during life. It can be incredibly rewarding and help us bond with our loved ones as we support them through their challenges. But the stress of caregiving for a loved one is very real, whether that person lives with you, elsewhere in the same country or lives overseas. The physical, mental and emotional impact can be significant and have a huge impact on your life. 

Learning to recognize signs and symptoms of caregiver stress is important  as you can take action to prevent things from worsening and start improving the situation for you and your loved one. Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress are

  • Anxiety, depression and irritability
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Feeling resentful
  • Cutting back on your own leisure activities

If you live in a different country to the person you care for, the emotional burden can be very high, with worry and potentially guilt about the situation. Financial concerns about providing quality care and keeping your loved one safe may also be a consideration.

If you notice things are becoming more difficult for you it is important to seek help and support for yourself to not feel alone. Talking to a trusted friend or therapist can give you an outlet for your feelings and concerns. Connecting to other caregivers through support groups or charitable organizations specific to your loved ones condition can reduce feelings of isolation and provide practical support and resources. Self care can be hard to prioritize but is incredibly important, we need to keep ourselves strong to be able to offer support to others. Prioritizing regular time for activities you enjoy and time for small treats can keep you resilient to the challenges that inevitably come. Attending to your own physical health needs is important too, having your own health check ups, exercise and eating well help to keep your body strong so you can continue to care for your loved one.

The emotional impact of caregiving can be significant and can magnify any difficulties that may exist in the relationship we have with our loved one. We can experience grief over the loss of a loved one even whilst they are still alive, conditions like dementia can involve the loss of the person as we know them, with changes in personality, loss of memories, and changes in what they can do and how they communicate. We can mourn the loss of our previous relationship with them and mourn the loss of our life before the caregiving responsibilities. This grief can be more complex if we already have a complex relationship with our loved one. Seeking support is important to help work through and process these emotions and our responses to them. 

Written by:
Jennie Bhangu
Occupational Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Traumatic Stress

Traumatic stress can be triggered by a variety of events, such as traffic accidents, plane crashes, violent crimes, terrorist attacks, global pandemics, and natural disasters. You may be overwhelmed by conflicting emotions such as shock, confusion, or fear at the same time. These emotions are not unique to those who have experienced an event.

Traumatic stress can harm your mental and physical health if the trauma was manmade, such as a shooting or act of terrorism. Physically and emotionally drained, overcome with grief, unable to sleep, unable to concentrate, or unable to control your temper may be some of the symptoms you experience. These types of responses can result from having to deal with abnormal events.

Symptoms of trauma include headaches, nausea, and irritability, which gradually subside as life gradually returns to normal after a catastrophic event. However, you can do many things to support your recovery and cope effectively with your trauma. You can calm yourself and regain your emotional balance, regardless of whether you were the victim, a witness, or a first responder.

Traumatic stress is associated with the following emotional symptoms:

Overwhelming shock and disbelief. Feeling numb and disconnected from your feelings, or having trouble accepting the truth of what happened.

Fear. Worrying about the same thing happening again, or losing control, makes you feel like you’re going to break down.

A feeling of sadness or grief, especially if you know someone who has passed away or suffered a life-altering event.

Feeling of helplessness. 

When a violent crime, an accident, a pandemic, or a natural disaster strikes unexpectedly, you may feel vulnerable and helpless.

A sense of guilt for surviving when others have died, or the feeling of regret for not doing more.

Feelings of anger. Your anger may be directed at God, government officials, or others you believe to be responsible, or you may be susceptible to emotional outbursts.

Shame occurs when you are unable to control your feelings or fears.

Feeling relieved. You might be relieved that it’s over, hoping life will return to normal, or wondering if it is.

The process of dealing with painful emotions 

If you have suffered any losses, allow yourself to grieve and heal.     

Healing and recovery takes time, so don’t rush it. Don’t be surprised if your emotions are volatile and difficult. Embrace your feelings without judgement or guilt. Be able to connect with uncomfortable emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.

When you are traumatized, how do you feel grounded?

Try this simple exercise if you are feeling overwhelmed by traumatic stress:

Place your feet on the ground and your back is supported by a chair. Choose six objects around you that are red or blue. By doing this, you should be able to feel grounded, engaged and more in your body. Observe how your breath becomes deeper and calmer.

Another alternative is to go outside and sit on the grass and just let the ground support you.


Sansbury, Brittany S, Kelly Graves, and Wendy Scott. “Managing Traumatic Stress Responses among Clinicians: Individual and Organizational Tools for Self Care.” Trauma 17, no. 2 (April 1, 2015): 114–22.

Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Association.

1.Perkonigg, A., R. C. Kessler, S. Storz, and H-U. Wittchen. “Traumatic Events and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Community: Prevalence,Risk Factors and Comorbidity.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 101, no. 1 (2000): 46–59. 

2.Copeland, William E., Gordon Keeler, Adrian Angold, and E. Jane Costello. “Traumatic Events and Posttraumatic Stress in Childhood.” Archives of General Psychiatry 64, no. 5 (May 1, 2007): 577–84.

Written by:
Leah Selakovic
SACAC Counselling

How can I support my child with emotional regulation?

As a children’s therapist, I often work with parents to help them with understanding their child and supporting emotional regulation skills. Here are some tips regarding how you can assist them when they are feeling dysregulated.

  1. Validate their feelings- when a child is experiencing heightened emotions, acknowledge and validate their feelings. This is done by showing empathy and understanding, and letting them know that the emotions they are experience are typical and acceptable

  2. Directly teach coping mechanisms- you can help your child learn healthy coping mechanisms that work for them whilst they are experiencing these emotions. Examples of these are belly breathing, deep and slow breaths and breathing exercises, journaling, drawing or physical activities such as going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music, or squeezing a stress play or playdough

  3. Set clear boundaries- while it is important to validate a child’s feelings, it is also important to set boundaries around behaviour. You can assist your child with understanding that it is okay to feel angry and upset, it is not okay to demonstrate behaviours that may hurt themselves or others

  4. Encourage self-regulation- helping your child to develop self-awareness around their emotions is an important part of emotional regulation. You can encourage your child to reflect on their emotions and explore and label what triggers them, as well as which coping mechanisms work best for them to use

  5. Modelling- model healthy emotional regulation around your child. By modelling healthy and safe emotional regulation in front of your child, you can directly show and teach them through demonstration. This can be by showing your own coping mechanisms and managing your own emotions in an effective and constructive way. Children learn by example, so modeling these healthy and useful behaviours is a very powerful way to support your child’s development in this area

    Written by:
    Renee Butler
    SACAC Counselling

Working Through Grief And Suffering

Suffering is universal and comes in different forms. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or all together at one time. Grief is complex and unique in every case. It can alter one’s lifestyle, behavior, and personality as well as affect the people around him. One of my clients told me, “I was sixty-five years old when my husband died. What I am saying is that I had lived long enough to have suffered some awful pains, and done my share of grieving. But with my husband gone, I just could not seem to snap out of it.”

The prolonged grief in her resulted in depression. She became isolated and withdrew from all social functions. You might be one of those who have lost someone you loved or known someone who has lost somebody close to them, or you may be suffering because of a terminal sickness; or because of financial difficulties as a result of a job loss, a marital problem or a loved one suffering mental illness.

Grief and suffering are difficult to handle. How does one cope with them? How does one work through the difficult days, weeks, months, and possibly years? There is no right or wrong formula or a way to handle them. How one grieves depends on many factors. It depends on his or her personality and coping styles, his life experiences and faith, as well as the nature of the pain and suffering. The healing process is always gradual. It cannot be forced or hurried. Thus, there is no timetable for grieving. What one experiences is different but the process will take time. Therefore, it is important to be patient and to allow the process to unfold itself organically in its due time. It can be short for some, and lengthy for others.

The Five Stages Of Grief

Grief is not something one can just try to get over it needs to run its course. The loss of someone or the encounter with something tragic can be extremely hard and painful. A person can experience all kinds of unending and difficult feelings from pain and suffering. It is the normality of life. In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross introduced in her book “On Death and Dying” what has become known as the “Five Stages of Grief.” They help us to understand what a person goes through during such times. The five stages of grief are based on her studies of the feelings of patients who were faced with a terminal illness. Many have generalized them to other types of negative effects from the changes and losses in life.

The first stage is denial where one rejects what has happened or is happening to him or her. The second stage is where anger creeps in to complicate the sadness or pain one is experiencing. The third stage is to bargain by making promises to God, to ourselves, or to others in the hope to be well again. If it does, one will fulfill their part of the bargain. The fourth stage is where depression sets in where a person experiences a sense of helplessness and even hopelessness. The fifth stage is where one begins to accept as he or she recognizes that this is it, and there is really nothing he or she can do to change the situation or circumstances.

Grieving or suffering is unique and personal to each individual person. The five stages do not necessarily take place chronologically, nor does everyone goes through the same stages. In fact, some people resolve it without going through any of these stages while others go through every single stage with its full implications. While it can be a roller coaster ride as it can become rough, bumpy, and lengthy for some. No matter how many or what stages one goes through, it usually becomes less intense and shorter as time passes. Thus, time is needed to iron out the pain of suffering.

  1. Acceptance – No matter what causes grief or suffering like the death of a loved one, physical illness, unemployment, fear, or uncertainty of the future, do not deny it but accept it.
  2. Acknowledgment – Do not try to suppress or bury any pain or grief. But acknowledge them as the more you try to avoid the feelings of sadness, the longer the grieving process will be prolonged. Any unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anger, anxiety, and other health problems.
  3. Release and Rest – Any feelings of loss and helplessness that sweep over us, do not try to hold back the tears. Tears are therapeutic. They release the tension of sadness and grief from our hearts which can be hard to express with words. Tears also exhaust the body and force us to rest as the pain of suffering can prevent a hurting person from doing so.
  4. Express – Talk to a trusted friend or a relative who will listen to you. Share with them your pains and burdens. Do not harbor them in your hearts or try to carry the load yourself. You can also use art to express your feelings. You can also write a letter to the deceased to say the things you never got the chance to speak. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life. Have a picnic at the grave site with surviving family members.
  5. Journal – Write down your feelings and pains and the things that are affecting your life. Writing your thoughts and feelings on paper will help to clarify and sort through your feeling. Sometimes you can even find the answers or way out for yourself through writing.
  6. Stay Active – Find something to do especially when you are overwhelmed by sadness or negative thoughts and feelings. Go for a walk, clean the house, run errands, visit a friend, sing, or paint. Do something you enjoy and bring fulfillment to yourself or to others.
  7. Stay Healthy – The mind, soul, and spirit are connected. Therefore, when you are feeling depressed, you will neglect your physical, and emotional needs. Thus, you must take care of your physical needs. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating well, and doing exercises. Do not use substances to numb the pain or to try and change your moods.
  8. Watch for triggers” of grief – Birthdays, anniversaries, or special holidays can trigger memories and feelings of sadness. This is normal but be prepared for how it can affect you. Be kind and patient to yourself and to others at such times.
  9. Faith – If you have faith, put it in the divine being you believe in. Feelings of hopelessness can consume all your energy in a destructive way. Faith will enable you to embrace pain positively together with the right perspective, it will be easier to make any necessary changes in your life and manage the pain of suffering better.
  10. Support – Good friends or support groups can be helpful to us. Communicate and express clearly what and how you like others to help and support you during the darkest hours.

    If you have been impacted by any grief and loss, please do not hesitate to call SACAC as we have a group of professional therapists and psychologists who can help you.

    Written By:
    Joyce Ng
    Clinical Psychologist
    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    SACAC Counselling